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With a dominant sprint on the slightly uphill finishing sprint, Enger took his first pro win in the first stage of the Tour of Austria, holding off Simion and Ciolek; Ciolek takes the lead by fractions of a second

Photo: IAM Cycling

GERALD CIOLEK

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IAM CYCLING

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SONDRE HOLST ENGER

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TOUR OF AUSTRIA 

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05.07.2015 @ 14:49 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After a difficult start to his professional career, Sondre Holst Enger (IAM) finally opened his account when he won the bunch sprint in the first stage of the Tour of Austria. On the uphill finishing straight, the neo-pro held off Paolo Simion (Bardiani) and Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) while the latter took the overall lead by the tiniest of margins.

 

For several years, Sondre Holst Enger has been described as the next big Norwegian rider. With his fast speed, he has shown himself both at the U23 level and in big races like the Tour of Norway and Tour des Fjords where he has challenged the best riders in the world in bunch sprints and sprints from reduced groups. In 2013, he was third in the Tour of Norway and third at the U23 Worlds and last year he was fifth in the Tour des Fjords and fifth in the Worlds road race.

 

Those results earned him a contract with IAM but his first six months as a professional have been hard. Illness and other health issues have set him back and he has been far from confirming his lofty potential.

 

Today he finally managed to prove his talent when he beat the pros in the uphill finishing straight at the end of the long 206.6km first stage of the Tour of Austria. In a finale that was tailor-made for him, he was in a class of his own and easily distanced Paolo Simion and Gerald Ciolek.

 

Already yesterday the young IAM team had proved that they were ones to watch as they finished a surprising fifth in the team prologue and today they animated the stage. When the early break was about to get caught with 20km to go, David Tanner launched a strong attack and even though it was impossible to stay away, his acceleration helped split the team and make the finale hard. That suited Enger perfectly and he finished it off in the perfect fashion by winning the sprint.

 

Race leader Rudiger Selig could only manage 8th but as he won the final intermediate sprint and picked up three bonus seconds, he is now equal on time with Ciolek. Due to the exact times from the opening team time trial, Ciolek takes the leader's jersey.

 

He will try to defend his position in tomorrow's second stage which should be another one for the sprinters. There are two category 3 and one catgeoyr 4 climb on the menu but the final 40km are flat.

 

One for the sprinters

After the team prologue, the sprinters were expected to shine in the first road stage which brought the riders over 206.6km from Mörbisch to Scheibbs. The course was flat until the riders tackled a category 3 and a category 4 climb in the finale. However, the final 20km were again flat, setting the scene for a bunch sprint.

 

It was a sunny and hot day in Austria when the riders took a very early start. They got it off to a fast start with lots of attacks before the breakaway was formed.

 

A big gap

Yoann Paillot (Marseille), Daniel Lehner (Vorarlberg), Dejan Bajt (Amplatz), Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r) and Lukas Pöstlberger (Tirol) managed to get clear after the opening skirmishes and they were allowed to build a massive advantage that reached a maximum of more than 9 minutes. That allowed the escapees to contest the first KOM sprint where Bajt came out on top.

 

Katusha gradually upped the pace in the peloton as Vladimir Isaychev and Gatis Smukulis hit the front. They brought the gap down to around 5 minutes where they kept it stable for most of the day.

 

The chase gets organized

The gap was still 5 minutes at the midpoint of the stage and now it was time for Isaychev to up the pace. He got some assistance from Jay Thomson from MTN-Qhubeka and this had an impact on the gap. Meanwhile, Lehner beat Paillot in the first intermediate sprint.

 

With 80km to go, the gap was still 4 minutes. Surprisingly, Smukulis and Thomson suddenly got a gap while working to bring the break back but Cofidis quickly brought them back.

 

Tanner gives it a go

Lehner won the second KOM sprint after Bajt had been dropped on the climb, leaving just four riders in the break. Katusha and MTN-Qhubeka had gone back to work with Songezo Jim and Isaychev and IAM were also lending a hand.

 

With 40km to go, the gap was 2.20 but the escapees rode strongly to maintain a 2.30 gap as they went up the category 3 climb where the peloton split. This opened the door for attacks and it was David Tanner (IAM) who gave it a go.

 

Bonus seconds for Selig

With 20km to go, it was over for Lehner, Paillot and Bonnafond while Tanner joined forces with Pöstlberger. However, they were brought back before the riders contested the second intermediate sprint at the first passage of the finish line and here Selig picked up a few bonus seconds.

 

In the finale, there were a few attacks and several splits occurred. Tinkoff-Saxo took control but in the end it came down to the expected bunch sprint where Enger came out on top

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