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Having been on the attack all day, Wellens gradually dropped his companions before soloing across the line to win stage 5 and take the lead at the Tour de Pologne; Formolo was second and Benoot made it two Lotto riders on the podium











16.07.2016 @ 18:56 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Like he did in the 2014 and 2015 Eneco Tour, Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) completed a marvelous solo performance to win the brutal, rainy fifth stage of the Tour de Pologne. Having joined an 18-rider break early in the race, the Belgian gradually dropped his companions and ultimately rode solo for 45km before crossing the line with a 3.48 advantage over Davide Formolo (Cannondale) and 4.37 over his teammate Tiesj Benoot. The Belgian also took over the leader’s jersey with a huge margin.


It’s no longer a secret that Tim Wellens loves the rain. Last year he won the GP Montreal in the toughest conditions Canada can offer. It is no secret either that the Belgian always gets into excellent form a few weeks after a grand tour. In both 2014 and 2015 he crushed the opposition in the Eneco Tour queen stages after he had done either the Giro or the Tour.


With that kind of history, it was evident that Wellens would be a contender for this year’s Tour de Pologne. He showed his intentions by picking up a bonus second in an intermediate sprint yesterday’s stage but otherwise he stayed quiet while the sprinters battled for the victories. His motivation must have been increased even further when rain was announced for today’s first big GC stage in the race and he was fully motivated when the riders rolled out for 225 epic kilometres around Zakopane.


Cold and rain made it a brutal and very selective affair where lots of riders abandoned and riders arrived in ones or twos. However, Wellens was apparently unaffected as he was on the attack as soon as an elite 18-rider group was formed after a fast start. From there, he gradually dropped all his companions and finally rode solo for 45km to take both the stage win and virtually secure himself the overall victory even if the two most important stages are still to come.


After four stages for the sprinters, it was time for the big GC day on stage 5 which brought the riders over 225km from Wieliczka to Zakopane. After a relatively flat start, the riders hit the 50km circuit which had three category 1 climbs. Having tackled one of the climbs, the riders crossed the line for the first time and then did two laps of the circuit. The final summit was located just 8.7km from the finish and from there a descent led to the final 3km which were uphill at 2-3%.


After three days in sunny conditions, it was rainy and cold with a temperature of 14 degrees when the riders gathered for the start. Michael Woods (Cannondale) was the only non-starter as the 185-rider field rolled out through the neutral zone.


The hilly course was an invitation to aggressive racing and that made it dangerous on the slippery roads. Already in the first kilometre, there was a big crash which forced Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r) and Dariusz Batek (Poland) to abandon. Later Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) also had to throw in the towel.


The crash didn’t stop the aggression but it was impossible to get clear. No one had escaped after 20km of racing and it took more than 50km before 13 riders could finally get clear. The group swelled to 18 riders before the peloton slowed down and allowed the gap to go out to 3.30.


It was a very strong group with several GC riders. Jonathan Castroviejo, Ruben Fernandez, Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep), Alberto Bettiol, Michael Woods (Cannondale), Nicolas Roche (Sky), Philippe Gilbert, Alessandro De Marchi, Loic Vliegen (BMC), Sander Armee, Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Ignatas Konovalovas (FDJ), Maciej Paterski (CCC), Dion Smith (ONE), Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), Fabio Felline (Trek) and Huge Houle (Ag2r) made up the group and they couldn’t be allowed too much leeway. Hence, the peloton kept them under control and had reduced the gap to 2.40 at the 100km mark.


Fifteen kilometres later, the front group had increased the advantage to 3.30 and as soon as they hit the circuit, the hard terrain took its tool. Vliegen and Armee were the first to get dropped and picked up byt the peloton and another two riders also lost contact before Paterski beat Castroviejo, Visconti, Fernandez and Jungels in the first KOM sprint. The peloton reached the top 2.55 later.


It was a mass exodus in the cold conditions as lots of riders abandoned, including Simon Spilak (Katusha), Andrey Amador (Movistar) and Ryder Hesjedal (Trek). Meanwhile, the peloton accelerated hard and reduced the gap to just 20 seconds. That forced the escapees to increase the pace and that was too much for Paterski who fell behind.


The peloton managed to push the gap out to 45 seconds before Visconti and Wellens attacked and quickly put one minute into their chasers. Roche bridged the gap while Castroviejo, Fernandez, Bettiol, Felline, De Marchi, Gilbert and Roglic gave chase. They reduced the gap to 15 seconds while the peloton was 50 seconds behind the leaders.


Wellens dropped his companions and then Visconti also distanced Roche. The peloton caught the chase group and reduced the gap to just 40 seconds. Instead, a new group with Andrey Amador, Fernandez (Movistar), Bettiol, Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange), Benoot, Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal), Nico Denz (Ag2r) and Pawel Cieslik (VERVA) was forced.


Visconti, Roche and the new chase group were also brought back by the very small peloton. Wellens pressed on but on a climb with 60km to go, he was joined by first Bettiol (Cannondale) and then Pawel Cieslik (Verva) who surged ahead to win the KOM sprint, with Bettiol in second and Wellens in third. Nico Denz(Ag2r) and Leopold König (Sky) took off in pursuit.


With 55km to go, the front trio was 30 seconds ahead of the chasers and 1.40 ahead of the peloton. Denz slid out on the descent and instead König was joined by Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal). When Wellens led the group across the line to start the final lap of the circuit, the gaps were 30 seconds and 2.50 respectively Denz was still in lone pursuit in between the two chasers and the peloton and Mirco Maestri (Bardiani) had attacked out of the peloton to cross the line with an advantage of a few seconds.


BMC led the chase with De Marchi in a bunch that had been whittled down to less than 20 riders but they didn’t get much closer. Nonetheless, Wellens decided to press on alone with 45km to go where Denz had made it back to the chasers. Moments later, Maestri was brought back.


De Marchi was only getting a bit of help from Matvey Mamykin (Katusha) who briefly got a small gap and then eased off again. Hence, the gap grew massively. With 38 seconds, it was 1.05 to the chasers and 3.15 to the peloton which soon caught the König group.


Bettiol dropped Cieslik but he continued to lose time to the impressive Wellens. When he reached the top of the first climb, the Belgian led the Italian by 1.40 while Cieslik was already 3.10 behind. The peloton had lost more than 5 minutes and there was still no help for De Marchi.


With 20km to go, Wellens won the first intermediate sprint and Bettiol was second 2.20 later. Cieslik crossed the line with a loss of more than five minutes and the peloton was even further adrift.


After he had brought Cieslik back, De Marchi led the peloton onto the penultimate climb but soon swung off and left it to Ben Hermans to continue the pace-setting. Still they didn’t make up any ground. Wellens crested the summit and entered the final 15km of the stage with and advantage of 3.20 over Bettiol while the peloton was still 5.10 behind.


The climb did a lot of damage on the peloton where a big selection took place. Roche and Gelix Grosschartner (CCC) were the first to get dropped and only 10 riders were left as they approached the summit. Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky), Gilbert and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) were nowhere to be seen when Benoot accelerated close to the summit. Andrey Zeits (Astana), Jesper Hansen (Tinkoff), Matvey Mamykin (Katusha), Fabio Felline (Trek), Larry Warbasse (IAM) and Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) followed him and after the descent, a few more riders including Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal), Dario Cataldo (Astana) and Davide Formolo (Cannondale) made it back.


Formolo attacked on the descent and quickly got a big advantage. As they hit the final climb, the peloton was whittled further down. Benoot, Fernandez, Felline, Hansen and Zeits distanced their rivals while Warbasse De Clercq and Mamykin gathered to form a chase group a little further back. Benoot and Felline were most active in driving the pace but they didn’t get any closer to Wellens.


Warbasse and Mamykin found new energy and made it back to the main group before the Italian launched a strong attack, passing his fading teammate Bettiol He reached the top in second position, 3.39 behind the Belgian leader.


Close to the top, Benoot accelerated again and this time only Felline could follow. The pair reached the top with a time loss of 4.58.


Wellens stayed safe on the descent and then dug deep on the final rise to the finish and he had plenty of time to celebrate another big solo victory. Formolo did well to take second with a time loss of around 3.40 while his teammate Bettiol was passed by Felline and Benoot. The Italian set the pace for most of the final kilometre and then had no response when the Belgian came around to take third, 4.35 behind his winning teammate. Bettiol completed the top 5 a few seconds later.


The rest of the peloton rolled to the finish in one or twos. Warbasse and Zeits were next followed by Fernandez, Mamykin, Davide Villella (Cannondale), Cataldo, Hansen and De Clercq.


With the win, Wellens moves into the yellow jersey with a big advantage of 4.05 over Formolo. He faces an even harder stage tomorrow when the riders will tackle the traditional queen stage in Bukowina Tatrzanska. It is made up of five laps of a 38.9km circuit that includes two category 1 climbs, one category 2 climb and an uncategorized climb to the finish. The climbs are short and very steep and the finish is a tough one. The final 4km are all uphill and has an 11.5% section with 2km to go before it levels out with a gradient of 2-3%.



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