A textbook lead-out of Etixx – Quick-Step helped Fernando Gaviria extend his lead at the top of the standings.
Fernando Gaviria is in scintillating form at the Tour de Pologne, where he proved to be the fastest rider of the peloton in the first four days, winning on two of them and taking his season tally to five successes. The most recent top result came on Friday, when he didn't give any chance to his opponents in the final meters of stage four, that covered 218 kilometers from Nowy Sacz to Rzeszow, the biggest city in southeastern Poland, which was hosting a finish for the fourth time in eight years.
Despite holding a gap which at one point exceeded seven minutes, the day's five attackers didn't stand a chance against the peloton, controlled mainly by Etixx – Quick-Step, whose riders were keen on delivering 21-year-old Fernando Gaviria at the finish. With 20 kilometers to go, the escapees were caught by the bunch and as soon as the pace slowed down a bit, former Czech champion Zdenek Stybar tried to test the water and see if a solo attack could stick.
Zdenek took ten seconds on the bunch, forcing other teams to come to the fore and bring him back. In Rzeszow, Etixx – Quick-Step hit the front once again, with three kilometers remaining, as Lukasz Wisniowski decided to put in the watts and make sure no one will take front stage. As soon as his job was finished, Luxembourg champion Bob Jungels stepped in, pushing a really hard tempo and stretching out the pack. Inside the final 700 meters, Davide Martinelli and Nikolas Maes where the ones who worked hard in order to leave Fernando in an excellent position, and the young Colombian neo-pro capitalized on the excellent job of the team and sprinted to his second victory of the week, ahead of Luka Mezgec (Orica-BikeExchange) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky).
"It was a difficult day for me, because I had to deal with neck pain after crashing yesterday and my legs weren't so smooth. The team worked really well, controlled the race from the beginning and that's why I said to myself that it's important to get the job done at the finish. In the last kilometers, the guys pulled a great number to bring me at the front, Nikolas gave me an excellent lead-out and I launched my sprint. For a second, I thought I will lose the race, because Mezgec was coming really strong from behind, but I found the power to change the gear and had the legs to keep on going and cross the line first. It was a victory of the head more than of the legs and at the same time a win of the entire team. I'm really proud of my teammates", a delighted Fernando explained at the finish, after the success which gives him a 19-second cushion over the next rider in the GC.
Getting the victory and donning the yellow jersey for a third consecutive day weren't the only things on Fernando's mind, who wanted to express his sympathy towards all the people saddened and affected by the terror attack which took place in Nice, on Bastille Day: "The only thing that makes me sad after this victory is what happened in France, on Thursday evening. It's impossible not to think of it and I want to send my thoughts and condolences to the families of the victims and to all those who are suffering and in pain. I really hope such things will come to an end, because it's really crazy that we can't live in a world of peace and understanding."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele