Henao parlays strong Sky tactics to Tour de Pologne victory

Colombian returns to top form after injury, questions of blood values

It was a masterful team performance from Team Sky but Sergio Henao’s victory on the 'king' stage of the Tour de Pologne on Friday held particular individual significance.

It was the Colombian’s first win of the season and perhaps marks a significant point in his comeback from an annus horribilis in 2014. Temporarily suspended from Sky when doubts were raised over his blood values, he returned to racing at the Tour de Suisse only to be hit by another blow – a broken kneecap that would end his season and threaten his career.

He returned in March this year, and though this is his first win, it has been a strong comeback season with top-three GC placings at the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Tour of California.

“Last year was pretty tough for me,” said Henao. “My injury nearly forced me to give up cycling but, my faith, my girlfriend, my team, always supported me, believed in me, waited for me, helped me. Now what I’ve done this year, at País Vasco and California I was missing that little something to get the win, but I’m really happy with this success.”

Justifiably or not, Team Sky are hardly noted for their tactical acumen or versatility. Metronomic drilling on climbs from a string of men in black is the familiar sight and the British squad has been accused in the past of naivety when it came to the more uncontrollable situations, such as one-day racing.

Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas helped to alter that perception over the spring, and the team at the Tour de Pologne followed in their footsteps on the queen stage on Friday, where an astute and inventive game plan was executed to perfection.

Henao took stage honours and the leader’s yellow jersey with a late attack but it was Mikel Nieve who had attacked and softened the other main contenders as the race reached its crux and, in any case, the groundwork had been laid well before that.

“It was a really good team display and it followed from the plan that was not to be put in a situation where we had to work early on, then on the last lap to make it hard,” directuer sportif Dario Cioni explained to Cyclingnews.

“Ian [Boswell] was in that break and that was great for us because it meant we could stay on the wheels. He got caught, did a high tempo, Salvatore [Puccio] did a high tempo, then Philip [Deignan], and then we got to the final part with Mikel, who is also riding incredibly here. It has been really good to see them work together and execute the plan.”

Henao himself dedicated his victory to Nieve for all his hard work and took pride in a job well done.

“It was a really hard stage – we talked as a team about waiting for those final climbs to see how punishing they were. It was the plan that Mikel would be the first on the attack to weaken Astana, and it depended on how strong Aru was today. We knew he was going to attack and when he did I was on his wheel and had the strength to counter-attack and win,” the Colombian told reporters after the stage.

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