Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) was imperious as foul weather and mountains conspired to decimate the field in the fifth stage of the Tour of Poland. Wellens won the stage by 3:48 over Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac), with Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) in third, 4:38 back. The win put Wellens into the race lead as well, 4:05 clear of Formolo in second, with Benoot in third, 4:50 off the race lead.
The 225 kilometre stage took riders over a very hilly course, and with the weather taking a turn for the worse with rain and plummeting temperatures it was bound to be a tough day for the peloton, with more than 40 riders abandoning the race by the end of the day.
It took a while for the break to establish, with crashes disrupting the rhythm of the race and ending the tour for a number of riders. It took some 90 kilometres for the break to establish, with 18 riders heading up the road. The break reduced as they hit the first of two 50 kilometre finishing circuits as the tough climbs took four of the riders back to the peloton, with pressure from the teams that had missed out on the break reducing the gap to just over one minute with one and a half laps still left to go.
However, that was as close as they were likely to get as the course, the pace, and the weather started to leave a mark on the peloton. The peloton was not the only group to suffer though, as the break split into numerous smaller groups as well. On the final lap, a group of three remained in the lead, with a chase group from the peloton sweeping up the remnants of the break as it closed to within a minute of the three leaders. Wellens proved the strongest of the leaders, leaving his two companions behind as he set off alone in pursuit of the stage win, while the rest of the field was left scattered all over the mountainside. The chase group could not capitalise on the work they had done to close down the gap, as Wellens extended his lead once again, eventually crossing the finish line solo, 3:48 clear of Formolo in second, with Benoot third in 4:37.
Dion Smith (ONE Pro Cycling) was the top Kiwi, finishing in 41st position, 26:29 off the stage winner. The stage finish order also determined the overall standings, with Wellens taking the race leader’s jersey, holding a 4:05 lead over Formolo, with Benoot a further 45 seconds back in third. Smith now sits in 38th place, 26:55 off the race lead, with the field now reduced to just 101 hardy souls.