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After an exciting duel with Belda on the famous Grossglockner, Hirt soloed to victory in the Tour of Austria queen stage; the Czech takes the race lead with an advantage of 1.17 over Martin who finished the stage in third

Photo: Sirotti










06.07.2016 @ 18:32 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jan Hirt (CCC) proved that he is a future top climber in the making when he claimed a marvelous solo victory in the Tour of Austria queen stage. In an exciting duel, he dropped David Belda (Roth) with an attack 1km from the top of the famous Grossglockner climb and distanced the Spaniard by 42 seconds to take both the win and the race lead. Guillaume Martin (Wanty) finished third and is 1.17 behind Hirt in second place on GC.


One year ago Jan Hirt delivered a hugely surprising performance in the Tour de Suisse queen stage where he rode with the best on the famous Rettenbachferner climb. A few weeks later, he confirmed his potential by finishing on the podium in the Tour of Austria.


This year is all about confirmation for Hirt and after a slow start to the season, he repeated last year’s performance by finishing in the top 10 on the Rettenbachferner at the Tour de Suisse. That turned him into the pre-race favourite for the Austrian national tour and today he fully lived up to that status by crushing the opposition in the queen stage after an exciting duel with Spanish veteran David Belda.


One day after the first small uphill finish, it was time for the queen stage. Stage 4 brought the riders over 183km from Rottenmann to Edelweissspitze and included the hardest mountaintop finish of the race. The total amount of climbing was 3910m but it almost all came at the end. The first part was completely flat and then the terrain gradually got a bit more undulating with two small category 3 climbs that served as a warm-up for the finale. The stage ended on the HC climb of the Edelweisspitze which is part of the famous Grossglockner climb. The final 14.2km averaged a massive 10.1%, making it one of the hardest climbs in Europe.


There were no non-starters when the peloton gathered for the hardest stage under a sunny sky. Like in the previous stages, there were lots of attacks right from the start and it wasn’t easy for anyone to get clear. Hrinkow were particularly aggressive and were part of a septet that escaped after 10km of racing. Meanwhile, a big crash split the field and Victor Manakov (Gazprom) was forced to abandon while Sylwester Janiszewski (Wibatech) and Bakthiyar Kozahatayev (Astana) were forced to have new bikes.


Matthias Krizek (Roth ) was also part of the chase group and worked hard to maintain the advantage but Felbermayr were not content with the situation. They brought the group back and also neutralized the next move from Krizek and Florian Bissinger (WSA).


The attacking and extremely fast pace continued for a while until Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani), Antwan Tolhoek (Roompot), Thierry Hupond (Delko), Max Kuren (Amplatz), David Per (Adria Mobil) and Krizek escaped. As the peloton took a breather, they built an advantage of 2.05 at the 28km mark. Per was soon dropped, leaving just five riders to press on.


At the 40km mark, the gap had gone out to 3.00 and it was Markus Eibegger’s Felbermayr team that took control. They kept the situation in check while the escapees battled for the first KOM points. Kuen beat Tolhoek and Krizek in the first sprint while the peloton reached the top a couple of minutes later.


Felbermay got some welcome assistance from Brendan Canty’s Drapac team but it was when Astana replaced the Australians the pace really increased. Nonetheless, the gap was still 3.30 at the 80km mark and as the escapes reacted well it was 3.00 fifteen kilometres later.


Krizek beat Tonelli and Tolhoek in the first intermediate sprint while they worked well together to maintain a 3-minute advantage. In the second sprint, the Austrian was again the fastest, holding off Tolhoek and Tonelli.


Knowing that his mountains jersey was in danger, Alessandro Vanotti (Astana) attacked from the peloton and while he started to close the gap, Kuen beat Hupond and Krizek in the second KOM sprint. Astana stopped their work in the peloton and so the gap went out to four minutes, with Felbermayr riding on the front.


Vanotti got to within 55 seconds of the leaders but then he started to lose ground. Meanwhile, Krizek beat Tonelli and Hupond in the final intermediate sprint with 25km to go.


As the fight for position for the final climb started, the gap came down and it was Gazprom-Rusvelo that took the initiative. They hit the climb 3.15 behind the leaders, with Vanotti sitting 1.25 behind the front group.


The front group split up and Tolhoek and Tonelli emerged as the strongest, quickly putting 30 seconds into Krizek who was the nearest chaser. In the peloton, Zylwester Szmyd (CCC) did a lot of damage, whittling the group down to just 22 riders and bringing Kuen and Hupond back. When Leszek Plucinski lent his teammate a hand, race leader Eibegger was clearly suffering.


With a little more than 8km to go, yesterday’s winner Canty had to surrender and it was still Szmyd and Plucinski riding on the front. They brought the front duo back and then Hirt made his first attack but he failed to get clear.


Hirt briefly let Wanty set the pace and then he hit the front himself. Moments later, he made his next attack and he got an immediate gap while David Belda, Guillaume Martin and Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis) gave chase.


Belda made it across to Hirt while Martin dangled a few metres behind. As they passed the 3km to go mark, Belda attacked but he failed to get rid of Hirt. Instead, the Czech rider dropped his rival with 1km to go and then increased his advantage rapidly. He reached the finish with a gap of 42 seconds to the Spanish veteran while Martin was 1.18 behind in third.


Race leader Eibegger could only manage 15th and so Hirt moved into the race lead with an advantage of 1.17 over Martin. Patrick Schelling (Vorarlberg) is 1.29 behind in third.


However, he will have no time to enjoy his lead as he faces the second big mountaintop finish on stage 5. The 147.3km between Millstatt and Dobratsch are actually some of the easiest of the entire race as they are almost completely flat. However, the stage still has 2286m of climbing and they almost all come in the end. The stage ends at the top of the category 1 Dobratsch climb which averages 5.7% over 21km. One shouldn’t be fooled by the numbers as the first part is pretty easy while there are several double-digit gradient sections in the second half.



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