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Despite claiming to be out of form, Bos was clearly the fastest in the bunch sprint in the third stage of the Tour de Pologne and easily passed Mezgec and Matthews to take his second WorldTour win; Vakoc retained his lead

Photo: Belkin Pro Cycling Team

LUKA MEZGEC

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MICHAEL MATTHEWS

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SOUDAL - QUICK STEP

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TEAM VISMA | LEASE A BIKE

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TOUR DE POLOGNE

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05.08.2014 @ 19:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Despite his sports director claiming that he was out of form, Theo Bos (Belkin) proved his class when he took a convincing win in today’s third stage of the Tour de Pologne. Having had is team control most of the final 15km, the Dutchman negotiated the finale on his own before launching a powerful sprint that allowed him to pass Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) while Petr Vakoc (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) finished safely in the bunch to retain the yellow jersey.

 

Yesterday Belkin made it clear that their main focus in the Tour de Pologne is the GC with Robert Gesink as sprinter Theo Bos is not yet in a condition that allows him to get full team support. Maybe inspired by that assessment of his level, the Dutch sprinter bounced back in the most impressive way by taking a convincing victory in the third stage of the race.

 

After the many skirmishes in the two first stages, the sprint teams left nothing to chance in today’s flat stage and they easily controlled the early break. Hence, it all came down to the expected bunch sprint and this time there was nothing to prevent a big battle between the many fast finishers in the race.

 

Like yesterday Belkin played a dominant role in the finale, leading the peloton for most of the final 15km, but like yesterday the main purpose was to keep Gesink safe. Bos was allowed to freelance in the sprint, sitting at the back of the train and moving into position when his rival sprinters started to move forward.

 

In the finale, it was the Giant-Shimano team that proved their class as Nikias Arndt and Ramon Sinkeldam hit the front with a little more than 1km to go. However, their sprinter Luka Mezgec had lost his position and was a little further back while Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) showed great positioning skills by moving onto the back end of the Giant train.

 

Mezgec did great to get back into position just behind the Italian sprinter while Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE), Bos and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) occupied the next positions. Sinkeldam made his lead-out but it was Modolo who benefited the most as he could start his sprint from the perfect position.

 

However, the Italian was no match to Mezgec who easily passed his rival and seemed to be on his way to his first win of the race. However, Bos had now started his sprint and he showed amazing speed by passing Matthews, Modolo and Mezgec to take his first WorldTour vicory since the 2012 Eneco Tour. Mezgec finished a clear second while Matthews managed to pass Modolo to complete the podium.

 

For Petr Vakoc, it was a relatively easy first day in the leader’s jersey and he safely crossed the line with the peloton to defend his 27-second lead over Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r) whose 7th place was not enough to score any bonus seconds. He takes that lead into tomorrow’s final sprint stage of the race whose finishing circuit is a little more hilly than in the previous stages but should be another one for the fast finishers.

 

Another flat stages

After two long, flat stages, the Tour de Pologne continued with another stage for the sprinters but at just 174km, the third leg was significantly shorter than the two previous ones. After start in Kielce, the riders travelled along completely flat roads to the city of Rzeszow where the stage finished with two laps of a flat 6km finishing circuit.

 

For the first time in this year’s race, it wasn’t very hot at the start and most riders were probably pleased to get the race off under cloudy condition with a 24-degree temperature. After the early escape had taken off straight from the gun in the first two stages, it was no surprise to see that yesterday’s unexpected outcome inspired a few more riders to ride aggressively.

 

The break is formed

The first riders to attack were Pawel Franczak (Poland) and Mateusz Taciak (CCC) who fought hard to get a gap. They managed to build an advantage of 15 seconds while Yaroslav Popovych (Trek) took off in pursuit.

 

The peloton had no intention of letting this group stay clear and they worked hard to bring the group back. While Popovych was brought back, two riders managed to bridge the gap.

 

The gap grows

Puccio (Sky) and Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) joined the move but they definitely didn’t get a free ticket to ride clear. While Fabio Felline (Trek) tried to bridge the gap, the peloton chased hard and it took some time before the elastic snapped.

 

While Felline was brought back, the gap suddenly ballooned to 2 minutes just after the 10km mark and a little later it had reached 3.50. However, Omega Pharma-Quick Step were intent on defending Petr Vakoc’s overall lead and they went straight to the front to control the situation.

 

More teams start to chase

Since then the gap has been hovering around the 3-minute mark all day. At one point, it was down to just 2.25 but it went back up to 3.30.

 

When the riders reached the feed zone with 75km to go, the peloton started to accelerate as several sprint teams now started to chase. Thierry Hupond hit the front for Giant-Shimano while Cameron Meyer worked for Orica-GreenEDGE.

 

An organized chase

Together with Martin Velits (OPQS), they brought the gap down and with 50km to go, they had it down to just 1.50. The escapees responded well by keeping the gap stable for a little while but when Lampre-Merida put Matteo Bono on the front, they again started to lose time.

 

Gediminas Bagdonas started to chase for Ag2r while Thurau led Puccio and Franczak across the line in the intermediate sprint which they didn’t contest. The group worked well together but even though OPQS had stopped working in the peloton, their advantage was down to just a minute.

 

A battle for KOM points

With 25km to go, Lotto Belisol and Garmin-Sharp also started to chase but the chasing riders got swamped when the peloton hit a small section with crosswinds that made all the GC riders nervous. However, nothing happened and instead Meyer went back to the front for Orica-GreenEDGE.

 

With 18km to go, Taciak and Franczak sprinted for the only KOM points of the day, with the former emerging as the strongest. Puccio made an immediate counterattack but after Thurau had joined him, the group found back together.

 

Belkin hits the front

With 16km to go, Belkin hit the front, with Rick Flens and Lars Petter Nordhaug setting the early pace. When the escapees crossed the line for the first time with 12km to go, their advantage was just 10 seconds.

 

Moments later, Flens had brought it back together and he stayed on the front while the sprinters worked hard to position themselves. With 6km to go, Enrico Gasparotto took a short turn for Astana before David Tanner took over for Belkin.

 

Bewley launches surprise attack

As they started the final 6km lap, Sam Bewley launched a surprise attack for Orica-GreenEDGE but Nordhaud did well to bring him back after 1km of chasing. Garmin and Maciej Paterski (CCC) then took a short turn before Tanner again took over.

 

With 3km to go, Giant launched their train but got a bit swamped when Sebastian Lander (BMC) and Paul Martens (Belkin) both passed them. Oscar Gatto (Cannondale) and Pim Ligthart (Lotto) were the next to make a pull but again Giant timed everything perfectly.

 

Inside the final kilometre, Arndt hit the front with Sinkeldam on his wheel. A crash brought down Juan Jose LObato (Movistar) and Guillaume Boivin (Cannondale) while up ahead the surviving sprinters battled it out for the stage win, with Bos coming out on top.

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