Lampre-Merida’s Diego Ulissi survived three tough climbs to win the final sprint in Stage One of the 2103 Tour de Pologne cycling race Saturday.
Ulissi’s Lampre team mates shepherded the sprinter over the big climbs, including the final Cat One ascent to Madonna di Campiglio, knowing that if they could deliver Ulissi to the top near the front, he stood a good chance on the flat final two-and-a-half kilometers.
Ulissi performed as expected, catching lone leader Peiter Weening of Orica-GreenEdge with a few hundred meters to go and sprinting to win the stage by several bike lengths over Colombia’s Darwin Atapuma and Saxo-Tinkoff’s Rafal Majka.
“I’m really happy to have centered the victory today, for me and for the whole Team,”Ulissi said on the Lampre website.
“I thank my team mates because they have really shown that we are a united group and that’s when everything runs perfectly, then despite the bad luck, we are there to fight with the best riders out there. Now the first step is done, so we must continue on this path and try to bring home more wins until the end”
Ulissi took over the race leader’s yellow jersey, though he will be unlikely to hold it; Stage Two features another bunch of mountains with a summit finish.
Now, From Italy: The Tour de Pologne!
The 2013 Tour de Pologne started in Italy with a pair of stages in the Dolomites, before a rest/transit day and the remaining five stages which will be in Poland.
The Tour de Pologne, an important stage race for riders who skipped the Tour de France and want to stay sharp for the World Championships or the Vuelta a España, attracted a couple of very big names this year: Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali of Astana entered, to face off against 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins of Sky. This was Wiggins’ first race since withdrawing from the Giro with a lung infection and knee pains in May.
The big guns stayed quiet through the first stage, 184.5 km from Rovereto to Madonna di Campiglio. Wiggins is likely taking things slowly to see how his knee has recovered, intent on building form for later campaigns, while Nibali is riding himself into form for the Worlds.
There were plenty of other riders willing to pump up the action. The stage started with a 13-rider breakaway, which later split into a large and small group after the day’s first climb, the Cat One Fai della Paganella.
The leading group shrank slowly until only two riders, Serge Pauwels of Omega Pharma-Quickstep and Bartosz Huzarski of NetApp-Endura, led after the descent of the Cat Two Passo del Durone with 15 km left in the stage.
Canondale came to the head of the peloton and raised the pace at the start of the final climb, presumably riding for Ivan Basso, intent on closing the 1:15 gap to the leaders.
Rafael Valls Ferri and Tomasz Marczynski (Vacansoleil,) and Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp were first to attack—Vacansoleil is losing its sponsorship and needs some good results. Marczynski couldn’t match the pace of the other two, then Peiter Weening of Orica-GreenEdge decided to take a shot.
Weening caught and passed the pair with six km left in the stage. For a while it looked like he might solo to the finish, but halfway there he was caught by the trio of Movistar’s Eros Kopechi, RadioShack’s Robert Kiserlovski, and Saxo-Tinkoff’s Chris Anker-Sorenson.
Darwin Atapuma of Colombia launched an attack in the final tweo kilometers, and a big bunch of riders followed him. They caught Kopechi, Kiserlovski, and Anker Sorension, but Weening found the strength to attack again. The Orica rider stayed ahead until the final few hundred meters, but on a flat road he was no match for the power of the peloton.
Once Weening was caught, the stage came down to a sprint, and Diego Ulissi was the only real sprinter of the group.
Stage Two, 206.5 km from Marilleva Val di Sole to Val di Fassa, features three Cat One climbs and a summit finish. The GC contenders might put in an appearance on the final climb.