WARSAW (AFP) — Belarussian champion Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r La Mondiale) won the first stage of the Tour of Poland on Sunday.
The AG2R rider edged out Roman Maikin (RusVelo) and Manuele Mori (Lampre-Merida) in a sprint finish to a crash-plagued 226km race from Gdansk to Bydgoszcz.
Favorites for the overall, including Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge) and Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano), finished in the pack.
A five-man breakaway had enjoyed a large lead over the peloton early on, but a hailstorm caused havoc in both the escape and the chase, with fallen branches and slippery roads causing crash after crash.
“The temperature at the start was very high … more than 35°C. Then, the wind really picked up and it started raining very hard,” said Hutarovich.
“The conditions were tough with a very slippery and dangerous final circuit. I fell once on the second crossing in the finish line, about 15 kilometers from the finish, but I was able to quickly recover.”
Maciej Paterski (CCC Polsat Polkowice) broke clear of his breakaway companions when the others went down on a slick corner. But he was pulled back in, and after Peter Velits (BMC Racing Team) tried a late escape only to be caught inside the final 200 meters it was Hutarovich who proved strongest in the dash to the line.
“In the last kilometers, I tried to hold my position at the front of the pack. Then, I did what I know how to do — I started to sprint 250 meters from the finish line and I managed to hold on to the very end!” said Hutarovich. “I’m very happy with this victory and tomorrow we will try to keep the yellow jersey.”