Deceuninck – Quick-Step wins also the best team classification.
Jannik Steimle clung to the overall lead on the fourth and final stage of the Tour of Slovakia and took home the honours after a day of full gas racing. Winner of the Zilina ITT, Steimle started the stage with the yellow jersey on his back, but Nico Denz (Sunweb) was lurking in second, the two being separated by the hundreds of a second recorded on Wednesday’s time trial. Denz made the first move of the day, snatching bonifications at the first intermediate sprint, just ahead of Jannik, but the Wolfpack were quick to react and show how determined they were to take the yellow jersey home.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step flawlessly controlled the race and shut down every breakaway attempt over the next 30 kilometers, before giving 24-year-old Steimle a perfect lead-out in Vrbove, where the roles reversed and the overall leader won the intermediate sprint ahead of his compatriot, moving back into the virtual lead. After that, the pace slowed down and a small group was allowed to go clear, but their gap was kept under control by our riders, who in the second part of the stage began chewing into the breakaway’s advantage.
The quintet fragmented on the slopes of the Jablonka climb, making it easier to be reeled in, the last man at the front being overhauled inside the final seven kilometers. The sprint was an uphill one on a short cobbled section, and Alvaro Hodeg got in the mix and came really close to victory, which in the end was claimed by Rudy Barbier (Israel Cycling Academy).
Steimle concluded in the top 10 and wrapped up the general classification at the 64th edition, in the process scoring Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s 34th win of the season. Our neo-pro was joined on the podium by New Zealand National Champion Shane Archbold – who moved up several places, into third, thanks to some bonus seconds – becoming the third different Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider in as many years to win the Tour of Slovakia, after Julian Alaphilippe and Yves Lampaert.
“Today was a real thriller. At the first intermediate sprint I conceded a second, but the team did an amazing job and delivered me in a perfect position at the next intermediate, where I took that second back. Then the guys just controlled the race, while I made sure Nico didn’t do any moves to surprise us, before the finish in Skalica, where I remained attentive and came over the line with the fast guys”, an elated Jannik said. “I am very happy, as this victory is such a beautiful reward for the hard work I put in during the enforced break, but I must say the real winner is this outstanding team, without whom I wouldn’t have made it. It’s great to win the jersey in the country of our sponsor Janom and it’s a victory I will never forget.”
Photo credit: ©Igor Stancik