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Showing his excellent puncheur skills, Enger powered to victory in the uphill sprint on the final stage of the Tour of Croatia, holding off Theus and Dupont; Kvasini took the overall victory with Hansen in second and De La Parte in third

Photo: IAM Cycling












24.04.2016 @ 18:48 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Sondre Holst Enger (IAM) again proved that he is one of the biggest puncheur talents by claiming an impressive victory in the final stage of the Tour of Croatia. The Norwegian made a powerful acceleration on the short final climb to come around Edward Theuns (Trek) and take his second win for the IAM team. Matija Kvasina (Synergy Baku) finished safely in the bunch to secure overall victory with Jesper Hansen (Tinkoff) in second and David De La Parte (CCC) in third.


When he turned professional with the IAM team, Sondre Holst Enger was regarded as the next big Norwegian rider after he had had several top results on the U23 scene and finished third overall in the Tour of Norway when he was just 19-year-old. However, a number of health issues made him disappear from the radar and even though he won a stage at the Tour of Austria in 2015, his star had clearly waned.


However, the Norwegian is now back to full health and as he slowly builds his condition, he is starting to prove his potential again. He first showed himself when he finished third in the first stage of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe a few weeks ago and after working for Matteo Pelucchi in the first stages, he has been on fire in this week’s Tour of Croatia.


Two days ago Enger showed that his form is great when he attacked in unusual terrain, surging clear from the peloton halfway up the final climb in the queen stage. That move was ultimately futile but it proved that he was one to watch in today’s final stage which finished with two laps of a difficult finishing circuit that was tailor-made for his puncheur qualities. Today Enger proved his class as he took his second victory with a powerful display in the finale.


After yesterday’s team time trial, the riders tackled a 177.5km stage that brought them from Cilj to Zagreb. The terrain was mostly flat as there were only two smaller climbs along the way but things got difficult in the finale where the riders did two laps of a 5.4km circuit. It included several turns inside the final 2km and had a short, steep climb after the flamme rouge that led to the final few hundred metres of flat roads.


Alessandro Vanotti (Astana), Chris Butler (Cycling Academy), Uros Repse (Meridiana Kamen) and the Felbermayr pair of Stephan Rabitsch and Andreas Walzel were absent as the peloton left Cilj under a cloudy sky. As in the first stages, it was a very fast start with lots of attacks and it took some time for an early break to get formed. A small group was formed and it was Mirco Maestri (Bardiani) who beat Bruno Maltar (Radenska) and Andrew Tennant (WIGGINS) in the first intermediate sprint at the 26.5km mark but it was soon back together.


Finally, six riders escaped and they were still ahead when they reached the first KOM sprint at the 65km mark. Here Nicola Boem (Bardiani) was first across the line, followed by Edward Theuns (Trek) and Artem Ovechkin (Gazprom).


The front group never got much of an advantage as a strong crosswind made the peloton very nervous. As the bunch suddenly split into four groups, the gap melted away and the escapees were caught already at the midpoint of the stage.


Things calmed down a bit and when a regrouping took place, five riders managed to escape. Sander Cordeel, Stef Van Zummeren (Verandas Willems), Adam Stachowiak (Verva), Robert De Greef (De Rijke) and Daniel Schorn (Felbermayr) started to build an advantage while the peloton took a small breather. De Greef was first at the top of the second climb, leading Cordeel and Stachowiak across the line.


When Cordeel beat Schorn and Stachowiak in the final intermediate sprint with 30km to go, the gap was 1.45 but now the chase was getting organized. After Synergy Baku had controlled things for race leader Matija Kvasina, Trek and Dimension Data were now chasing hard with Riccardo Zoidl and Jay Thomason.


There was some nervous due to the crosswind which meant that Dimension Data took complete control and with 24km to go, Tinkoff surged ahead with Nikolay Trusov. However, the chase soon got organized again and as Zoidl and Thomas again started to trade pulls, the gap came down to 1 minute with 18km to go.


More teams came to the fore as Gazprom-Rusvelo and Bardiani took over and there were only 30 seconds left of the advantage when they entered the final 12km. As they went up the cobbled climb on the circuit for the first time, it was Bernhard Eisel on the front for Dimension Data and he quickly neutralized some attacks while splitting the dield to pieves.


With the peloton breathing down his neck, Cordeel attacked from the front group and he crossed the line for the first time as the lone leader. Stachowiak and Schorn gave chase while Eisel and the rest of the small peloton quickly swallowed Van Zummeren and De Greef up.


Stachowiak and Schorn rejoined Cordeel and the trio still had a 30-second advantage as they tackled the circuit for the first time. However, Dimension Data were still chasing hard and when they went up the climb for the second time, it was no less of a figure than Mark Cavendish who set the pace, crossing the line 16 seconds behind the leaders and working hard for teammate Reinardt van Rensburg.


Gregory Rast (Trek) was next to take control when Cavendish swung off and they quickly reduced the gap to less than 10 seconds with 2km to go. At this point, disaster struck for Dimension Data as van Rensburg was taken out of contention by a puncture.


The trio dug deep to try to stay clear but as Boy van Poppel was chasing hard for Trek, it seemed like it was mission impossible. They were still clear as they went under the flamme rouge but were losing ground quickly as Bardiani had now hit the front.


A Bardiani rider led Giacomo Nizzoloand the rest of the peloton back to the leaders just as they hit the late cobbled climb and even though Stachowiak and Cordeel tried to accelerate, it was all in vain. Nizzolo hit the front of the splintering group followed by Timothy Dupont and Enger but it was his teammate Edward Theusn who made a big sprint on the opposite site of the road.


Dupont reacted quickly and latched onto Theuns wheel, with the attentive Enger sitting in third. When the Dupont started to fade, the Norwegian launched his sprint and he managed to come around Theuns to claim the win, with Dupont holding on to third.


There were a few splits in the finale but race leader Matija Kvasina was attentive and crossed the line 21st. He lost 8 seconds to nearest rival Jesper Hansen but it was enough to take the overall victory with a 24-second advantage over the Dane. Victor de la Parte was 8 seconds further adrift in third as he was also dropped by Hansen in the finale.


After his two stage wins, Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) won the points competition while Riccardo Zoidl (Trek) won the mountains competition following his queen stage victory. Domen Novak (Adria Mobil) was the best young rider while Synergy Baku crowned a great race by winning the teams classification.


With the Tour of Croatia done and dusted, many of the biggest riders from the race will head to Italy for the Giro d’Italia. The next major event in the region is the Tour de Slovenie in late June.



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