Kristof Vandewalle (Trek) confirmed that he is getting closer to the best time triallists in the world when he narrowly beat Adriano Malori (Movistar) in the final time trial of the Tour de Pologne. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) did the time trial of his life to finish 13th and hold off Ion Izagirre (Movistar) by just 8 seconds in the battle for the overall win in the WorldTour race.
Going into the final time trial of the Tour de Pologne, most expected Adriano Malori (Movistar) to deliver another dominant win as he has done in several TTs this year. However, Kristof Vandewalle upset the big favourite by claiming the biggest victory of his career in a thrilling battle between the two TT specialists.
Malori seemed to live up to the lofty expectation when he crossed the line in a time of 29.21 for the 25km flat out-and-back course in Krakow, beating previous leader Mateusz Taciak (CCC) by more than 30 seconds. As no one had been even close to his mark, the Italian seemed to be on his way to his second win in a WorldTour time trial in 2014.
Having started just a few minutes later, however, Vandewalle confirmed the great form he showed a few weeks ago when he won a very similar time trial in the Tour of Austria. The Belgian powered around the course in a time that was 3 seconds faster than Malori’s, almost going down in the final corner that led onto the short finishing straight. Stephen Cummings (BMC) finished just 7 seconds off Malori’s mark, completing the podium on the day.
With all the specialists having finished their ride, the attention turned to the battle for the overall victory which was what the local crowd had been waiting for. Going into the stage with a 22-second lead over Ion Izagirre (Movistar), Rafal Majka found himself in a difficult position as the Basque is usually a lot better time triallist than the local hero.
However, Majka produced the time trial of his life to finish the stage in 13th and this was enough for him to take his fifth professional victory and his first ever overall win in a professional stage race. As expected, Izagirre did better but as he only gained 14 seconds, he had to settle for second behind the Tinkoff-Saxo leader, losing the race by just 8 seconds.
Izagirre’s teammate Benat Intxausti also did a great time trial to finish 15th which saw him drop to third in the overall standings but Movistar completed a great race by putting two riders on the final podium. Chirstophe Riblon (Ag2r) did his best to get onto the podium and took 9th on the stage but missed 12 seconds to make it into the top 3. Andrey Amador made the Movistar dominance total as his time trial moved him from 15th to 6th in the overall standings.
Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r) won the points competition and Maciej Paterski (CCC) completed an aggressive race by taking the mountains jersey. Matthias Krizek (Cannondale) won the sprints competition while Movistar’s great time trial solidified their position at the top of the teams classification.
With the Tour de Pologne done and dusted, the WorldTour travels to Belgium and the Netherlands for its next race, the Eneco Tour, which starts on Monday. Several riders from the Polish race will be back at the start for the Benelux race.
A flat course
After two days in the mountains, the Tour de Pologne was decided in a 25km time trial in the streets of Krakow. The stage took place on an out-and-back course that was completely flat and had veru few technical challenges, making it one for the real TT specialists.
After two rainy days, the riders got the chance to end the Tour de Pologne in perfect conditions as there was bright sunshine and virtually no wind for the TT in Krakow. Four riders didn’t take the start as Manuele Mori (Lampre), Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEDGE), Evgeny Petrov and Rory Sutherland (both Tinkoff-Saxo) all returning home prematurely.
Best time for Taciak
The first rider down the ramp was Jack Bobridge (Belkin) whose great TT skills made him one of the outsiders for the stage. The Australian crossed the line in a time of 31.10 to set the first mark of the day.
Bobridge was by his teammate Rick Flens who was another outsider for today and posted a time of 30.16. However, he was knocked out of the hot seat by the home favourite for today. Being one of Poland’s best time triallists, Mateusz Taciak (CCC) lowered the mark by 12 seconds.
Good ride by Vorobyev
One of the favourites for today, former U23 world champion Anton Vorobyev (Katusha) could only make it into second. Lasse Norman Hansen (Garmin-Sharp) was only slightly off the Russian’s mark and posted the third best time but was knocked off the provisional podium by Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE) who set a time of 30.12.
Another local rider, Kamil Gradek (Poland) set a time of 30.27 to move into 5th behind Taciak, Vorobyev, Meyer and Norman Hansen but it was sprinter Nikias Arndt (Giant-Shimano) whose performance gained some attention. The German did a surprisingly good ride to slot into second while Hugo Houle (Ag2r) was the next rider to make it into the top 10.
Best time for Malori
Malori was now on the course and as expected, he crushed the opposition by going 36 seconds faster than Taciak. He now faced a nervous wait as several specialists were already on the course.
Bob Jungels (Trek) moved into second but his time was more than 30 seconds off the mark. Malori got a scare when Cummings approached the finish but the Brit was 7 seconds too slow and had to settle for a provisional second.
Vandewalle lowers the mark
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) did a great time trial and moved into fourth before Thomas De Gendt (OPQS) became the next rider to crack the top 10. Artem Ovechkin (Rusvelo) posted the 7th best time but the focus was now on Vandewalle who was expected to be Malori’s biggest challenger.
The Belgian champions stopped the clock in 29.18 to take the lead. He enjoyed a pleasant first time in the hot seat as no one seemed to be able challenge his time before Dario Cataldo (Sky) slotted into fourth.
Amador moves up
Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant) had a disappointing ride to finish outside the top 10 while Steve Morabito (BMC) did surprisingly well by moving into fourth. Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) made another big surprise when he posted the fifth best time.
The GC battle had now started but as very few GC riders were noted time triallists, it took a long time for anyone to get close to the best. Dominik Nerz (Ag2r) made it into the top 20 but it was Andrey Amador (Movistar) who did best among the first starters by setting a time of 30.14.
Majka takes the win.
Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre) did a solid ride that allowed him to take fifth in the overall standings. Robert Gesink (Belkin) failed to live up to expectations but the focus was now on Izagirre.
Crossing the line in 6th place, the Basque seemed to have done enough to win the race and as Intxausti could only manage 14th, he passed his teammates in the standings. Riblon did well to finish 9th and now all eyes were on Majka as the final rider on the course. The local hero stopped the clock in a time of 29.57 and that was enough for him to secure the overall win.
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