German sprints to second on the queen stage of the Tour of Slovakia.
Ten classified climbs crammed between Zilina and Banska Bystrica made for a very tough day at the Tour of Slovakia, a day with over 2500 vertical meters which Jannik Steimle started in the overall lead courtesy of his spectacular victory in Wednesday’s individual time trial. With the gaps in the general classification being quite minimal, Steimle was put under pressure soon after the start, but his Deceuninck – Quick-Step teammates rallied around him and kept him protected at the front, from where the German took valuable seconds at the intermediate sprint in Povazska Bystrica.
Over the first classified climbs, the race split, leaving just 50 riders in the front, including a large Deceuninck – Quick-Step contingent, but it eventually came back together before the third-category Mojtin ascent, where four riders slipped away. Pieter Serry and Mauri Vansevenant worked tirelessly and kept the gap in check, making sure it didn’t go north of four minutes. The front group disintegrated on Sturec, the penultimate difficulty of the day, but the fireworks came a bit later, on the short Sasova, where several riders bolted away.
The Wolfpack responded with ease, annihilating these moves and keeping the peloton as one before the finish in Banska Bystrica, where it came down to a reduced mass gallop. Jannik Steimle took second, behind Nico Denz (Sunweb), a result that helped the 24-year-old retain the lead in the general classification thanks to the bonification seconds that came with this result. Shane Archbold made it two Deceuninck – Quick-Step riders on the overall podium, after concluding this testing stage in the top 5.
“I have to say a big thank you to the team, they did an impressive job for me, they kept everything under control and chased down every attack. Our opponents made a hard race, attacking several times, but we were always there and for this I am grateful to the guys. In the sprint I did a mistake, as it was uphill and I started my effort a bit too early, which allowed Denz to pass me with 25 meters to go. On the other hand, the yellow jersey rests on my shoulder and I hope it will be here also after Friday’s stage”, said Jannik, the fourth different Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider since 2018 to lead the Tour of Slovakia.
Photo credit: ©Jan Melicher