An action-packed penultimate day of racing at the Tour of Poland saw another battle of the General Classification contenders with Dylan Teuns crossing the line in a select chasing group behind the eventual winner, Jack Haig (ORICA-Scott) to move into the overall race lead.
With an early three-rider breakaway up the road, and all five of the day’s categorized climbs still to come, the peloton was happy to sit up and allow the gap to extend to more than 5’30” over the first half of the 189km course.
As the leaders swept up the first KOM points on offer with 83km to go, the main bunch, led by race leader at the start of the day, Peter Sagan’s Bora – hansgrohe teammates, began to pick up the pace and slowly pull the trio back.
From there, the road went one of two ways, either up or down, all the way to the line, and the gap soon began to tumble with the early breakaway being pulled to within one minute as the road rose towards Butorowy Wierch with 60km to go.
The peloton kept the leaders hanging off the front of the race, before Antwan Tolhoek (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) accelerated away from his early breakaway companions with 50km remaining while, mirroring the action up ahead, the attacks began in the peloton.
Rob Power (ORICA-Scott) was able to bridge across to the lone leader heading over the top of the third climb and into the final 40km of the day before attacking again to go solo. However, with another showdown expected on the final rise to the line, the peloton was keeping the leader on a tight string.
BMC Racing Team moved up to the front of the bunch to set the tempo and keep the race under control with Rohan Dennis and Tejay van Garderen driving the chase on the two short but steep rises that came before the penultimate category one climb of the day.
The pace being set by Dennis and van Garderen saw riders quickly dropping off the back of the bunch, including Sagan, as the race came back together with 30km to go. Soon after, with van Garderen continuing to set a relentless pace, the General Classification contenders were drawn out with only 14 riders left in the front group.
The stage was then set for a flurry of late attacks going over the top of the climb before a tricky descent saw Jack Haig (ORICA-Scott) extend a lead of over 30 seconds as he hit the early slopes of the brutal final 4km ascent which had an average gradient of 9.2%.
The chasing group, which still included Samuel Sánchez and Teuns, was working hard to pull the third lone leader of the stage back but with 10km to go, his lead had extended to 50 seconds which would ultimately prove to be enough to see him take the day’s honors.
Behind Haig, a stinging attack from Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain – Merida) with 9.5km to go saw the chasing group split with riders spread out across the road, however the group was able to come back together on the descent to the final 2.5km rise towards the line.
Teuns led the chasing group into the final 500 meters of the day before a sprint for the remaining bonus seconds on offer saw him finish with all of his General Classification rivals and move into the leader’s jersey heading into tomorrow’s final stage.
“It was really hard today,” Teuns said after the stage. “There was a lot of climbing, and it was a long stage, so I am feeling pretty tired right now as I am sure everyone is. The team did an amazing job just like we planned. When the guys hit the front and started riding for me, they were pushing really hard, and you could feel that the pace in the group was pretty high. A lot of guys were immediately dropped, and that was our goal. We wanted to start the final with as small a group as possible and also to make it hard for Peter Sagan and Bora – hansgrohe.”
“It’s always a good feeling to be in the leader’s jersey, but I can say after today that it was really hard to get the jersey. The level is so high here, and I had to give everything to take it.”
“The team showed a lot of confidence in me today, and that was amazing. Going into tomorrow’s final stage the top 10 is very close so, it will be another hard day. Both the team and I need to be ready to finish it off but after today, and how strong everyone was, I think we will be.”