The Tour of Poland broke new ground this year with the opening two days of racing taking place in the Trentino region of Italy with a pair of mountain stages in the Dolomites. The WorldTour event's most taxing days of racing are front-loaded in the first two of seven stages and the climbing-heavy stages are the ideal terrain for Team Colombia, a Pro Continental squad which garnered a wild card invite, to make its mark.
While Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) sprinted to victory and the leader's jersey on the Madonna di Campiglio mountain finish at the conclusion of today's opening Tour of Poland stage, the second man to cross the finish line was Team Colombia's Darwin Atapuma, no stranger himself to success in the Dolomites. Last year Atapuma won the final stage of the Giro del Trentino when it finished on the Pordoi summit, and with the Tour of Poland's queen stage utilising that same finale tomorrow on stage 2 Atapuma has already garnered a confidence boost one day earlier.
"It is another close second, but I am very glad I was able to deliver a good result to reward the excellent work of my teammates, who were totally committed to support me since km 1," said Atapuma. "The sweltering weather made things really tough, but the guys were nothing short of super on a difficult day, in which I also had to negotiate with a crash at the halfway. The finale was very fast, and I was able to make a good sprint despite a weary effort in my first race in a month."
After finishing 18th overall at the Giro d'Italia in May, Atapuma's Grand Tour debut, the 25-year-old Colombian competed at the Tour of Slovenia, notching a sixth place finish, then spent a month recovering and training in his home nation.
Entering Sunday's queen stage, 206.5km from Marilleva Val di Sole to Passo Pordoi Val di Fassa, Atapuma is just four seconds behind Ulissi on general classification in third place overall.
"Tomorrow we finish on 'my' mountain...I can't deny to be thinking of it," continued Atapuma. "We will make our best to make the most of it. This team deserves a great win."
"We really wanted to do something big today, and we definitely delivered a great performance at the WorldTour level, showing our value ahead of some of the strongest riders around," added directeur sportif Valerio Tebaldi. "Atapuma looks really inspired by climbing. Days like this help you to find new energies and motivations: expect to see our black jersey at the front tomorrow, too."