George Bennett continues to hold third overall in the Tour de Pologne. The Kiwi finished 14th in a big group finish to stage 5 of the race; although rival Michal Kwiatkowski extended his lead over Bennett with a second consecutive stage win.
Stage 5 of the Tour de Pologne from Wieliczka to Bielsko-Biala continued to present challenges to the field remaining in the race, although not to the extent of the day before. Three categorised climbs – including one first category climb – before the 3 laps of a 7km circuit capped things off. The stage would end with another uphill drag to the line; but it was nowhere near as severe as yesterday’s ride to the line.
A breakaway group of seven riders escaped to build a lead of just over 2 minutes. In the group were the king of the mountains leader in Jan Tratnik of CCC Sprandi-Polkowice, Alexander Porsev of Gazprom-Rusvelo, Zhandos Bizhigitov of Astana, Matias Le Turnier of Cofidis, Kamil Zielinski of the Polish National Team, Mickael Delage of Groupama-FDJ and Jenthe Biermans of Katusha-Alpecin.
Team Sky resumed their position on the front of the peloton, now looking after the yellow jersey of Michal Kwiatkowski, and they were careful not to allow the break to gain any more of an advantage than around 2.17mins. With 45km to go and with the intermediate sprint and category 1 climb approaching the gap for the break still sat at 2 minutes; but there was a sense of the fragility of the advantage.
With EF Education-First Drapac, Bahrain-Merida and Trek-Segafredo all making their way forwards the gap to the break began to come down more rapidly, and then with 38km to go a change in the break saw Zielinski attack and then a counter attack get launched that dropped Porsev and Biermans. Tratnik drilled the leading group up to the summit of the climb and ensured maximum points in the KOM battle; but behind the group with Mitchelton-Scott on the front of the race the gap tumbled still further to under a minute with 31km left.
The break valiantly tried to hold on as long as possible but when four riders became three with Bizhigitov dropping back, the catch became only more imminent. At 21km to go the gap was just 24 seconds to the Mitchelton-Scott-led peloton. Next time through the finish line the catch was made to the break, but UAE Team Emirates decided to shake things up almost immediately with an attack of their own.
Mitchelton-Scott were persistent on the front, and though four riders looked to go clear Mitchelton-Scott were in control. Through the finish line for the final time the race was all together, but Bahrain-Merida, Team Sky and BORA-Hansgrohe were all trying to get involved in the finale. Michal Kwiatkowski was benefiting from a very strong team effort around him that saw him sit in second wheel with 2km remaining. It looked at one point that he might have gone too soon.
As with the day before George Bennett was quite a long way back going under the kilometre to go banner, but then an attack went up the road courtesy of Groupama-FDJ; which triggered a strong reaction from Michal Kwiatkowski. The overall leader had to strike from a long way out and was challenged by Pascal Ackermann of BORA-Hansgrohe, but the Polish rider was unstoppable once he opened up his sprint. Dylan Teuns was once again his strongest rival for BMC Racing, but the Team Sky rider had enough in the legs to see the Belgian off, with George Bennett’s teammate Enrico Battaglin coming home with a late charge for third.