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“It was hard today and at first look at the stage profile I didn’t think I could be present at the finish but coach Aike [Visbeek] and the team had confidence in me and looked after me all day so I have to thank them all."

Photo: Sirotti

LUKA MEZGEC

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TOUR DU HAUT VAR

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22.02.2015 @ 20:55 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Luka Mezgec has taken his first win of the season on the second and final stage of the Tour du Haut Var in France, taking the sprint from a select group of around 25 riders after another tough day of racing.

 

Mezgec had to dig extra deep after missing the first group on the final climb of the day after which he then bridged across to the select front group before the finish which also contained Chad Haga. From here, Haga helped Mezgec to recover before positioning him for the sprint, which Luka duly finished off in style.

 

The day started off with long fight to form the day’s escape, with Albert Timmer fighting hard to make the move that stuck. In doing so he picked up points at the day’s first intermediate sprint and won the first KOM, but when a nine rider move eventually broke clear, he wasn’t present.

 

The break came and went, with the front of the race coming back together in the final 15km after the lead group had splintered under the pressure of attacks. On the final climb of the day Haga climbed into the select front group of 15 riders up the steep slopes and went over the top in a good position. Despite a few digs, he couldn’t get away and sat in before seeing Mezgec coming across from behind.

 

Mezgec had gone over the top in the second group but after seeing that his group wouldn’t make the junction he jumped with two others and set about bridging across to the leaders. He made the junction with just three kilometres to go and had enough left in the tank to take an impressive win.

 

“It was hard today and at first look at the stage profile I didn’t think I could be present at the finish but coach Aike [Visbeek] and the team had confidence in me and looked after me all day so I have to thank them all,” explained Luka after his podium duties.

 

“We made a plan for me to save my legs right until the end where it would matter, and the confidence of the others really motivated me to be there. The guys got me into position at the bottom of the final climb, and at first I couldn’t follow the front group but I wasn’t giving up there.

 

“Together with two others I attacked from the second group and managed to jump across to the leaders where Chad was already present. It was a big effort but I managed to recover just before the sprint. Chad then got me into the right wheel and I could do a really good sprint.

 

"My teammate Chad Haga brought me to the flamme rouge. I tried to take the wheel of Philippe Gilbert (BMC). In the end, I was right next to him. At 300 meters to go, I decided to start my sprint to avoid getting boxed in up and it worked. 

 

"Yesterday I was dropped 5 km from the finish. Initially, I thought helping Chad Haga was our best card in the overall standings, knowing that the stage was even harder than the day before. My next races are Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Catalonia.

 

“I knew from feelings and the analysis of the numbers in training that I am at a higher level compared to last year but you always need a big result to confirm this for the confidence, so it’s good that I’ve got this win so early in the season.”

 

“Luka was on a really good level today and he never gave up, that was one of the key factors,” coach Aike Visbeek added. “We said that as a team we would protect him all day and he believed in it and saved his energy well.

 

“Chad did a strong ride to get into the front group on the final climb and this was perfect for Luka to jump across to so Chad was there to help at the finish.

 

“The team as a whole was great today, we made a few mistakes yesterday and learnt from these, and today we got it right. As Luka said it will be good for his confidence to get a win this early in the season and to confirm his strength.”

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