Movistar’s Jon Izagirre took the biggest stage race victory of his career at the Tour of Poland, with the Basque rider delivering an excellent final time trial to gain a decisive chunk of time on the overnight leader, Sky’s Sergio Henao.
Rider of the race
It was a triumph of consistency for Jon Izagirre, who took the overall victory without going close to winning an individual stage. He cruised through the flat opening stages safely in the peloton, and managed to stick with the other contenders when things kicked up on stage five to Zakopane. He finished in the top ten on each of the last three days, with the final time trial into Krakow giving him a narrow overall winning margin.
While it wasn’t a victory of sparkling racing, it was an intelligent performance from Izagirre. He’s already finished second at the Tour of Poland twice, and wasn’t to be undone a third time. He maximised his chances by minimising the risk in his tactics: knowing he was well-suited to the undulations of the final 25km time trial, he was happy to bide his time and preserve his energy, as he explained after the race:
I like one-week tours – they’re the best for me, especially if they have a time trial. I can stay near the front on the climbs then in the time trial I can improve my general position, so the one-week tours are good for me. I can do jobs and good work in one-week tours.
For Izagirre personally, perhaps this win was most important in giving him a strong bargaining position with negotiations on a new contract set to begin imminently. It’s clear that he’s got both the nous and physique to win more of these week-long races, and if Movistar don’t offer him good terms, someone else surely will. He’s still only 26, and should have many more victories ahead of him.
Four things we noticed
1. Narrow gaps. Izagirre’s eventual winning margin was just a couple of seconds, with Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal) finishing second and Ben Hermans (BMC) a second further back in third. As is often the case in short stage races, the gaps were small enough that no team wanted to let anyone loose off the front of the peloton. It certainly made for an interesting final time trial, though both De Clercq and Hermans will be agonising over the final classification for a while yet.
2. Intriguing parcours. We’ve become accustomed to interesting parcours in Poland, and once again the undulating stages afforded the puncheurs a good opportunity to set the race alight. However, if we could make any change to the schedule, it would be to put the long time trial a day or two before the finish. While it has become traditional for stage races to end in a big city, a feast of aggressive, do-or-die cycling on one of the hilly stages would be spectacular. Determining the overall winner through a time trial just isn’t quite as exciting.
3. Close sprints. Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) and his perfect hair finished this race as sprint classification winner, though he didn’t have it all his own way. Indeed, after winning the opening stage he was out-sprinted by Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) on days two and three, as his rather disappointing season continues. Had Pelucchi and his quick compatriot Niccolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) not abandoned on the difficult penultimate stage, Kittel’s margin of victory in the sprint competition would’ve been much closer.
4. Few Poles. The Tour of Poland organisers would have been hoping to bill this race as a thrilling two-way battle between the two top Polish racers of the generation – world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step) and three-time Tour de France stage winner Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo). Unfortunately the former didn’t complete the race and the latter didn’t even show up, presumably leaving the home fans a little disappointed. Fortunately Marcin Bialoblocki (Polish national team) did fly the flag proudly, capping some brilliant breakaway riding with a victory in the final time trial.
1. Jon Izagirre (Movistar) 26:04:38
2. Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal) +0:12
3. Ben Hermans (BMC) +0:03
4. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) +0:14
5. Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:15
6. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) +0:19
7. Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale) +0:40
8. Sergio Henao (Sky) +0:54
9. Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Garmin) +1:23
10. Mikel Nieve (Sky) +1:32
Link: Official race website
Header image: Izagirre on the podium (Movistar/Twitter)