Unlike on the flat stages previously, it was not easy for the breakaway to go clear and it took over ten kilometers for Gradek to pull away alongside Szymon Rekita (Polish National Team). Shortly after, another duo bridged across to establish the four-man leading group which worked hard to open up a four-minute lead before, the peloton, not keen to let the gap increase anymore, brought it down to two minutes with 100 kilometers to go.
All three categorized climbs were located in the second part of the stage and the first two were won by Gradek, who earned 10 points in the KOM classification. However, there was still the category one climb to Przegibek left and this is where the peloton decided to push the pace and close in on the breakaway. As a result, Gradek’s group was caught just before the summit and Rodrigo Contreras (Astana Pro Team) was the first one to go over the top, taking over the lead in the Mountains classification.
As the race was approaching the finishing circuit in Bielsko—Biała, new attacks were launched off the front of the bunch and Geschke was one of the riders who tried his luck in the finale, going away with Matej Mohoric (Bahrain- Merida) and Tsgabu Grmay (Mitchelton-Scott) and gaining a 30-second advantage with 15 kilometers remaining.
It was a gutsy move but, in the end, the trio was caught at the beginning of the final lap and the stage came down to a bunch finish. It was not a typical sprint, however, with a kick up to the line and a mix of sprinters and punchy climbers battling for the win, taken by Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) while, Serge Pauwels was CCC Team’s first rider across the line.
Quotes from the Finish Line:
“The plan for today was for Paweł Bernas or me to get into the breakaway and fight for the King of the Mountains jersey. The plan was almost successful since I was able to go clear and win the first two KOMs. In the end, however, we were just one kilometer short of reaching the top of the final categorized climb where I needed only one point to secure the lead after the stage. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t step onto the podium today but, that’s cycling. I need to continue to fight and the legs are good. It’s a pity but, we are not giving up.”
“I followed my intuition. Mohoric was in front and he is a very strong rider in those late attacks so as I felt alright, I decided to give it go. A bit of a selection was made earlier in the stage so, I was hoping that there was a chance. In the end, we had a headwind which was not really in our favor plus there was only three of us in the group so, it was very difficult. In the end, the sprinters’ teams were organized enough to bring us back. It was definitely a good test of legs. I don’t feel great after the Tour de France but, I wanted to try and see what I could do. Unfortunately we didn’t make it further but, it was still a good attempt.”
Tour de Pologne
Stage 5: Wieliczka – Bielsko-Biała (153,8km)
Top 3: 1. Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) 2. Eduard Prades (Movistar Team) 3. Ben Swift (Team INEOS)
CCC Team Top 3: 29. Serge Pauwels 56. Łukasz Owsian 59. Paweł Bernas