Rain, cold temperatures and crashes made for a tough combination which led to six Etixx – Quick-Step riders retire from the race.
"The day is cold, and dark, and dreary/ It rains, and the wind is never weary" – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's opening verses of "The Rainy Day" poem can help everyone who missed Saturday's stage 5 of the Tour de Pologne (Wieliczka – Zakopane, 225 kilometers) get a better picture of the conditions which accompanied the peloton throughout the day, when also the course made up for a tough and long stage in the saddle, as no less than seven categorized climbs were sprinkled on the route leading out to the ski resort of Zakopane, better known from the Ski Jumping World Cup.
Sensing there was an opportunity for a long-range move to stick right until the very end, 18 riders booked a place in the breakaway, Bob Jungels and Zdenek Stybar being there for Etixx – Quick-Step. Both brought their contribution at the front as the large group established a 4-minute lead long before the intermediate sprint at the 102-km mark, where Bob went for the bonus seconds and took first place.
Unfortunately, the rain made the road more and more slippery, and many riders crashed, including Zdenek, who lost contact with the other escapees and was left stranded between the group and the pack. As the mercury continued to drop and the clouds to become more tumultuous, dark and ragged, other Etixx – Quick-Step riders hit the ground, including Luxembourg champion Bob Jungels, who crashed later in the race, on the circuit, and was forced to abandon from what proved to be the winning break.
"It's a real pity I had to call it a day, because I felt good and had strong legs. I was confident the break can go all the way and I can get a good result, but crashing on that downhill changed everything. Hopefully, I will make a fast recovery and be ready for the next races", Bob Jungels said after getting to the hotel with the rest of the team.
Besides him, the stage which was won by Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) from the escape witnessed five more riders of the team stop: double stage winner and overall leader Fernando Gaviria, Pieter Serry (both due to crashes), Nikolas Maes, stage 1 winner Davide Martinelli and Lukasz Wisniowski, after all three of them suffered because of the harsh and grim weather. Also neo-pro Laurens De Plus was involved in two pile-ups, but put on a brave ride to get to the finish, as did Zdenek Stybar. All riders will be examined tonight and a full extent of their injuries will be known tomorrow.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele