Tour de Pologne (final stage)
Basque allrounder claims first UCI WorldTour stagerace overall success after breathtaking time trial in Kraków, taking yellow only by 2" on De Clercq (LTS), 3" to Hermans (BMC). Movistar Team notches up 28th victory of 2015, with thirteen different riders
The rollercoaster that has been Ion Izagirre's 2015 season reached its cenit today with a long-desired, well-deserved victory. Following his GC podium finish in the Vuelta al País Vasco on home roads in April; a bitter Giro d'Italia, where he couldn't profit from a privileged role; and after coming incredibly close to a maiden win this season right next to his home in Ordizia, two weeks ago, the Basque conquered his first stagerace win in the Tour de Pologne. Izagirre, who had unsuccessfully pursued this victory in 2013 and 2014 -runner-up in both seasons-, worked silently, full of determination and courage for six days before the TT showdown, 25km in and around Kraków where he finally made the dream come true.
Ion, who started the day as 6th overall, 14" down on Sergio Henao (SKY), soon started to clock good intermediate references that contained the riders behind him in the overall standings -Zakarin (KAT), eventually 4th, was the most dangerous one- and approached him to the top, becoming the virtual leader halfway through the course (12.5km in) with only 3" over Ulissi (LAM) and 5" to De Clercq (LTS). In an absolutely breaktaking finale, the Ormaiztegi-born rider avoided the final comeback by Ben Hermans (BMC), 3rd at just 3", and won the battle against De Clercq, only two seconds behind at the end.
Other than the first stagerace success for the 2014 Spanish road race champion in Ponferrada, who succeeds José Luis Viejo (1972) as the only national winner of the Tour de Pologne, it's also the 28th win of the 2015 season for the Movistar Team, which has already triumphed with thirteen riders this year and claims its second WorldTour multi-day event -Quintana had already won in Tirreno-Adriatico-, reducing its gap to Team Sky in the UCI standings to just four points in the process.
REACTION / Ion Izagirre: “Winning any WorldTour race is extremely important and in my case, conquering a stagerace for the first time in my career is huge, even more here in Poland after two runner-up finishes – I'm just really, really happy to have made it onto the highest step of the podium at last.
"I relied on my legs after feeling quite well during the last few days; I worked really hard in the weeks prior, actually; I already came close to a victory in Ordizia and, in every single stage here, we always fought to ride at the front and not to lose any time. I knew that I would be able to do a good TT here, since I knew the parcours – I was really determined and willing to win this race. I didn't feel as good as as I did during last year's time trial, but the result changes everything. With all the energy we spent for it and the support by my team… It's incredible to win the Tour de Pologne!
"The first days were hard for me: always into flat roads, under stifling heat, having to keep attention everywhere – and it was a matter of suffering, suffering a lot as well in the mountains, with long stages like Zakopane's, as in this TT. I really feel for De Clercq and that two-second margin; I know how harsh it feels to lose a race by such a short gap, as it happened to me with Majka last year, and the happy side of it came to me this time.
"I really like one-week stageraces and this year, with my podium in Pais Vasco and this victory, I've shown I'm getting stronger in those and doing well in those with a TT, where I can improve my result. Coming up next? I don't know: for the time being, my schedule is mainly Tour de Limousin, then Hamburg and Plouay – but we still have to talk to Eusebio and see how we tackle the end of the season."