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After Ewan had caused a big crash on the finishing straight, Pelucchi powered clear to take his second victory on the WorldTour in stage 2 of the Tour de Pologne; Kittel finished second and defended his lead

Photo: IAM Cycling












03.08.2015 @ 19:15 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) confirmed that he is one of the fastest sprinters in the world when he took the second victory on the WorldTour by coming out on top in the bunch sprint on the second stage of the Tour de Pologne. The Italian benefited from a big crash that brought down the likes of Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE), Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Tom Van Asbroeck (LottoNL-Jumbo) and slowed down race leader Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) to power clear of his rivals and hold off a late comeback by Kittel. The German finished second and extended his overall lead.


Yesterday the IAM team showed great confidence in their fast Italian Matteo Pelucchi as the team worked hard all day to set him up for the bunch sprint. Unfortunately, he crashed inside the final 20km and the incident took the sting out of his legs for the sprint.


However, his fortunate changed quickly as he was the one to benefit from a crash in today’s second stage of the Polish race and this allowed him to take his second victory on the WorldTour after he claimed the second stage of last year’s Tirreno-Adriatico. A big crash significantly slowed down pre-stage favourite and race leader Marcel Kittel but it didn’t take anything away from Pelucchi’s win as the Italian did really impressive sprint to take his first victory since February.


The short, flat stage was always destined to end in a bunch sprint and it was Giant-Alpecin and Orica-GreenEDGE that did most of the work to bring the early break back. They were caught with 19km to go and from there it was evident that it would all come down to a bunch sprint.


At the start of the final lap of the 10km finishing circuit, it was Andrea Guardini’s Astana team that had taken complete control. Andrey Zeits and Paolo Tiralongo led the Kazakh team across the line while the rest of the sprint teams fought for position further back.


GC rider Dario Cataldo even took a short turn before Zeits and Tiralongo made sure that the pace was kept high. As they swung off, it was even Fabio Aru who worked for his teammates as he took a huge turn before Borut Bozic took over.


Astana were a bit short on manpower as Guardini only had Bozic and Alexey Lutsenko left with 4km to go. Luckily Gatis Smukulis came through to take a turn for Katusha when the Slovenian swung off but they losy their control when Trek hit the front.


Eugenio Alafaci and Fumy Beppu both took turns to set up Giacomo Nizzolo for the sprint but it was the Orica-GreenEDGE train that proved to be the strongest. With 2km to go, Simon Clarke, Damien Howson, Mathew Hayman, Brett Lancaster, Mitchell Docker and Caleb Ewan hit the front and they did everything perfectly to lead the peloton under the flamme rouge.


Hayman took a huge turn before Lancaster took over and finally it was Docker who did the lead-out for Ewan. However, the Australian duo were passed by Niccolo Bonifazio and Sacha Modolo and this forced Ewan to try to move onto the latter’s wheel.


This proved to be a costly decision as a touch of wheel brought the Australian down and he caused a big crash that also involved the likes of Guardini and Tom Van Asbroeck. Meanwhile, Modolo and Bonifazio were sprinting towards the line while Nizzolo and Kittel had been forced to brake, with the latter being slowed down the most.


Pelucchi was lucky to be a little further back and he had a clear run to the line. While Nizzol, Bonifazio and Modolo sprinted at their maximum, he easily passed his three compatriots. Kittel made a great comeback but ran out of metres and had to settle for second.


Kittel was clearly frustrated by the incident but he still managed to defend his lead. He goes into the third stage with a 10-second advantage over Ewan while Bonifazio and Nizzolo are 2 seconds further back in third and fourth respectively.


Kittel will get a chance to make amends tomorrow when the riders will tackle another almost completely flat stage in Poland. The stage ends with a downhill finishing straight in Katowice which is traditionally one the scene of one of the fastest sprints of the season and thus the perfect venue for Kittel to prove his amazing speed.


A flat stage

After the opening sprint stage, the fast riders were again expected to shine in stage 2 which brought the riders over just 146k from Czestochowa to Dabrowa Gornicza. The first part of the stage was a bit undulating with some rolling hills and led to the midpoint where the riders tackled two small category 3 climbs. However, the main part of the stage was made up of 5 laps of a 10km circuit around the finishing city and with almost no elevation changes or technical challenges, it was expected to be a day for a bunch sprint.


With a temperature of 31 degrees, it was a hot day in Southern Poland when the riders gathered for the start of the second stage. All 150 riders who finished yesterday’s stage took the start as they headed out for their neutral ride.


A five-rider break

After a small delay to the real start caused by a technical problem for one of the riders, it was local rider Kamil Gradek (Poland) who kept his word of launching the first attack. He was quickly joined by mountains jersey holder Adrian Kurek (CCC), Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Sander Armee (Lotto Soudal) to form a five-rider group that already had an advantage of 1 minute after 5km of racing.


Unsurprisingly, it was Marcel Kittel’s Giant-Alpecin team that hit the front and they kept the situation firmly in check. At the 15km mark, the gap was only 1.25 and 14km later, it was still only 2.10.


Orica-GreenEDGE come to the fore

The riders covered 42km during the first hour during which Giant-Alpecin kept the gap around the 2-minute mark. Moments later, Gradek beat Kurek and Burghardt in the first intermediate sprint.


Giant-Alpecin were now getting assistance from Orica-GreenEDGE and they collaborated to keep the gap stable for a while. Tom Stamsnijder and Christian Meier were again given the task of setting the early pace and they made sure that the gap stayed between 1.30 and 2.00.


KOM points for Kurek

Kurek was allowed to accelerate and pick up maximum points in the first KOM sprint while Keizer and Armee rolled across the line in second and third respectively. At this point, the peloton had accelerated slightly and the gap had been reduced to just 1.15.


Kurek was again first across the line in the second KOM sprint but this time he didn’t have to accelerate as he just led the group all the way up the ascent. Keizer and Armee again rolled across the line in second and third respectively.


Burghardt sits up

Moments later, the escapees contested the final intermediate sprint and it was Bughardt and Keizer who sprinted for the points, with the German coming out on top. Armee suffered slightly but was able to make I back after Kurek had briefly launched a solo attack. However, Burghardt decided to sit up.


David de la Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep) went down in a solo crash that forced him to withdraw from the race while Stamsnijder and Meier continued to set the pace. At the first passage of the line, the gap was only 1.24.


The peloton slows down

Burghardt was brought back as the fight for position intensified and the faster speed had reduced the gap to 42 seconds at the end of the first lap. This prompted Meier to take a break and allow Stamsnijder to control the pace.


Meanwhile, the escapees were giving it one final go and they managed to extend their advantage to 1.10 with 35km to go. This was the signal for the peloton to get serious again and so Meier got back to work.


The break is caught

Trek and IAM also came to the fore as Jesse Sergent, Clement Chevrier and Jonathan Fumeaux started to trade pulls with Meier and Stamsnijder. Nonetheless, the gap was still 1.05 at the start of the third lap but during the next 10km, it came down rapidly.


Passing the line at the start of the penultimate lap, the escapees realized that they were getting nowhere so they decided to sit up. From there, Astana hit the front with Diego Rosa who traded pulss withSergent and Chevrier until the Kazakhs took complete control with 13km to go. Tiralongo and Zeits set the pace and moments later they crossed the line to start the final lap and set the scene for the dramatic finale.



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