Although he's had a string of top results over the past two seasons, including a near sweep of last year's Tour of Hainan, Belkin's Theo Bos has not won a WorldTour stage since the 2012 Eneco Tour. It took his team deciding to work for young sprinter Barry Markus for him to finally get out from under self-imposed pressure and find his winning form on stage 3 of the Tour de Pologne.
"I didn't think Theo looked very strong during the first days and so I decided that we would ride for Barry today," said Belkin directeur sportif Michiel Elijzen. "I knew Theo would be motivated and that he would have a good day, as he usually performs slightly better when the pressure is low. That he actually won, is pretty cool. Barry Markus, Paul Martens and Theo lost each other in the hectic final, after which Theo made a good decision to go for himself."
The 176km stage from Kielce to Rzeszów went largely to script for the sprinters' team. The breakaway was caught on the closing circuits, leaving the teams to try and assemble their lead-out trains on a sinuous, and sometimes narrow, loop.
Giant-Shimano seemed to have control coming into the final meters, but Luka Mezgec had hit out too soon, and once Bos turned on his power, he made the win look easy, and was pleased to get a little revenge on his Slovakian rival.
"I had to fight for the right wheel, as there were many corners," Bos said. "When I was in the front, I had an advantage because the others couldn't easily move up. I was able to maintain myself easily and in a decent position. I was able to narrowly beat Mezgec. This is a nice revenge for the Handzame Classic when he defeated me.
The win makes up for a poor showing in the Tour de Wallonie, where Bos was dropped on the hilly stage 5 route through the Ardennes and did not finish.
"I have worked hard for this. In Wallonia things didn't go my way, but last night, I felt that I was going to be good. Most of the time, I'm right when I feel that. I told the boys this morning about my good legs and during the race, everything fell into place. I would have liked to pull the sprint for Barry today, because he has done a lot for me this season, but things planned out differently."
His directeur sportif Elijzen could not have been happier with the stage result. "This is the big win he was waiting for," he said. "Theo and I work closely together throughout the season. If he's at his best, he's one of the best sprinters in the world. Theo and I both think that he didn't perform as well as he could have so far. Today he had that extra motivation that he needs at times and showed that he can bring a sprint to a good end even without a train. That was really nice to see, although I have to say that the team did a very strong lead-out."