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Tour de Polgone stage 4 & 5: Sagan’s power gives his rivals double vision

Marcel Kittel‘s three-day tenure of the yellow jersey was ended as Peter Sagan took charge of the Tour of Poland with a pair of commanding victories at the end of tricky hilly stages in which he proved to be the most powerful finisher on the uphill sprints.

The Slovakian Liquigas-Cannondale rider now leads by 15 seconds, with defending champion Daniel Martin fourth at 20 seconds ahead of tomorrow’s (Friday) key stage, the only summit finish in this year’s race.

Stage 4: Oświęcim to Cieszyn, 176.9km

Liquigas’s Peter Sagan powered clear of the field in the final 600 metres of an uphill, cobbled finish in Cieszyn to take a dominant victory which moved him into the overall leader’s yellow jersey. Defending champion Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervélo) was a strong second, signalling his intention not to give up his crown without a fight.

As usual, the day’s breakaway featured representatives of the two Polish teams. Bartłomiej Matysiak (CCC Polsat-Polkowice) and Kamil Gradik (Reprezentacja Polski) were joined by the obligatory De Rosa-Ceramica Flaminia rider – here it was the turn of Federico Rocchetti – and BMC’s Chad Beyer.

With the peloton closing to within striking distance inside the last 60km, Beyer soloed away from his companions on the third ascent of the first category Kubalonka climb. Moldovan champion Alexandr Pliuschin (Katuasha) bridged across to him from the peloton and the pair worked together until Pliuschin eventually went clear just before the concluding three 6.3km loops of Cieszyn.

Sagan showed his strength with an impressive late burst (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Astana’s Simon Clarke eventually attacked off the front of the peloton, catching and passing Pliuschin to build a 26-second lead with two laps left. However, with the peloton pounding out a hard tempo and several riders keen to launch attacks of their own, the Australian was easily caught at the start of the final circuit.

Saxo Bank-Sungard’s Jarosław Marycz was the next to have a go, but Liquigas-Cannondale quickly pulled him back in, setting up an uphill attack by Vincenzo Nibali inside the final 5km as part of a plan to put stress on Sagan’s rivals. The rest of the peloton upped their pace to reel him in, but at the cost of stringing them out into a long and tiring line entering the final kilometre.

On the leg-sapping, bone-jarring cobbled climb to the finish, Sagan kicked hard off the front of the bunch at about 600 metres and immediately pulled out a stage-winning advantage. With everyone else reduced to racing for second, 2010 winner Dan Martin proved to be the best of the rest, leading Vacansoleil’s Marco Marcato and Rabobank’s Peter Martens across the line three seconds behind Sagan.

Sagan said afterwards that the uphill finish – which was similar to the two stages he won at June’s Tour de Suisse – suited his powerful style well:

This finish was suited to my skills. I’m in good shape so this morning in the team we decided to race for me and to try to win. I have to thank my team mates and especially Nibali; they all did an extraordinary job to make the cut in the final circuit.

I’m happy with this victory; it’s a result that boosts my confidence as I look ahead to the Vuelta a España, where I’m counting on doing well. Now I’m going to try to defend this yellow jersey, even if there are still two very difficult stages. Let’s see how it goes tomorrow. It will not be easy, particularly as the day after tomorrow is a stage for real climbers, but I will try to defend.

Victory moved Sagan into the yellow jersey which Skil-Shimano sprinter Marcel Kittel had worn for three days. However, with Martin just seven seconds behind and nearly 40 others – several of them climbers – within 20 seconds, Sagan will be hard pressed to defend his lead all the way to Saturday’s closing stage.

Stage 4 result:

1. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) 4:21:15

2. Daniel Martin (Garmin-Cervélo) +0:03

3. Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) same time

4. Paul Martens (Rabobank) s/t

5. Fabian Wegmann (Leopard-Trek) s/t

Stage 5: Zakopane, 201.5km

The kick-up at the finish was not as steep as yesterday’s stage but the result was the same. Peter Sagan again proved too strong for his rivals, using Romain Feillu‘s long-range sprint as a sighter for his own effort on a day when the race unfolded perfectly for him.

The day’s 202km route consisted of five laps of a circuit starting and finishing in Zakopane, with each lap containing a first followed by a second category climb. The day’s key break comprised Miguel Minguez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Vasil Kiryienka (Movistar), Ruslan Pidgornyy (Vacansoleil-DCM), Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano) and Mateusz Taciak (CCC Polsat-Polkowice). The five men pulled out an advantage of close to six minutes but eventually began to break apart until only Pidgornyy remained out in front at 50km to go with a lead of 1:40.

Lampre-ISD moved to the front to set up a counter-attack by two of their riders, Simon Špilak and Diego Ulissi. The pair were joined by Katusha’s Giampaolo Caruso, making the junction to the Ukrainian leader and forming a new group of four which was allowed to maintain an advantage of around 40 seconds for a while.

About a third of the way around the final 40km lap, Vacansoleil’s Wouter Poels attacked off the front of the bunch, catching the leaders and continuing straight over the top. He was reeled in within a few kilometres, only for CCC Polsat’s Marek Rutkiewicz to break free on the descent from the first category Głodówka climb. He too was pulled back just inside 10km as Liquigas sent their train to the front to protect the position of the yellow jersey Sagan.

A handful of speculative attacks in the final 6km broke up the rhythm and organisation of the bunch, but under the 1km banner Sky took control of the pace trying to set up Peter Kennaugh. Feillu then took his flyer at around 500 metres, catching everyone by surprise as he opened up what looked like being a decisive gap. But the distance was too great and the final gradient a little too taxing. Sagan kicked hard, passing the fading Frenchman as if he was standing still and leading Michael Matthews (Rabobank) across the line by a good four lengths.

The ten-second bonus extended Sagan’s overall lead to 15 seconds on a day on which he benefitted from a lack of hard, coordinated attacks on the climbs and was able to set up for the finish at the front of the bunch. He will find the going more difficult on tomorrow’s stage from Bukovina, the hardest in this year’s race featuring 11 first-category climbs before a summit finish at Bukowina Tatrzańska, as he himself acknowledged after winning his second stage in as many days:

Tomorrow’s stage is really hard, there are more than 4,000 metres of altitude change. I’m definitely not a climber but I’m going to try and hang in there. Then I’m going to give it my all at the finish and we’ll see how it goes.

I have to try. I can’t miss this chance.

However, given the unremitting vertical nature of tomorrow’s parcours and a tough concluding climb to the finish, we are likely to see the yellow jersey change hands again. Whoever wears it tomorrow evening will be heavily favoured to defend it on Saturday’s flat final stage.

Stage 5 result:

1. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) 4:52:26

2. Michael Matthews (Rabobank) same time

3. Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo) s/t

4. Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t

5. Peter Kennaugh (Sky) s/t

General classification:

1. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) 18:08:51

2. Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) +0:15

3. Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM) +0:17

4. Daniel Martin (Garmin-Cervélo) +0:20

5. Luca Paolini (Katusha) +0:23

Points classification:

1. Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM) 77 pts

2. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) 75

3. Marcel Kittel (Skil-Shimano) 60

Mountains classification:

1. Ruslan Pidgornyy (Vacansoleil-DCM) 45pts

2. Bartłomiej Matysiak (CCC Polsat-Polkowice) 33

3. Mateusz Taciak (CCC Polsat-Polkowice) 28

Links: Official website

Tour de Pologne recaps

Stages 1-3: Kittel dominates with sprint hat-trick

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

One Response to Tour de Polgone stage 4 & 5: Sagan’s power gives his rivals double vision

  1. Pingback: Tour de Polgone stage 6 & 7: Four for Kittel as Sagan sneaks overall victory « The armchair sports fan

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