Modolo outpowers top favourites in Tour de Pologne downhill sprint

'I'm not just racing against Sagan,' says Italian sprinter

After winning stage 2 of the Tour de Pologne, one of the odder moments of Sacha Modolo's press conference came when several Polish journalists asked to look at his Garmin to see what maximum speed the UAE Team Emirates rider had reached in his final sprint.

The reason? Katowice's unusual 900-metre downhill finishing straight is one of the fastest finales in the WorldTour. So whenever the Tour de Pologne concludes here with a bunch sprint – which is pretty much every year – the question of the winner's top velocity is always a popular one.

As the UAE Team Emirates press officer Andrea Agostini showed the crowd of journalists leaning in to look at the photos on his phone, Modolo had reached a top speed of 74.74 km/h. Curiously that was notably slower than Marcel Kittel's 78 km/h en route to victory in 2015 in Katowice, and a long way short of Jonas Van Genechten's unofficial record of 80.8 km/h in 2014, but Sunday's headwind probably had a lot to do with that.

"I've never won a downhill finish before," said Modolo, now in his eighth year as a pro and with career sprint victories as far afield as Argentina and China as well as two in the 2015 Giro d'Italia. "It's certainly a very different kind of sprint to the ones I'm used to, I'm better off winning when there's a curve or a climb near the finish, not so much on descents where you need more pure power. I'm actually pretty surprised I won today." He also chose to use a 54 chainring, he said, "because a 55 or a 56 would have been too much on this."

"I did what you could call a 'classic' sprint," he said. "Roberto Ferrari left me exactly where I needed to be, but I find this is a complicated finish, I've done it three or four times and I've never really got it right before.

"I tend not to do well here, and yesterday [when he was 47th] my legs weren't feeling so great, I'd been away from racing for a month and a half and it didn't seem to work out. But today I felt a lot better right from the start, and this time, with a strong headwind, I waited for a long time before finally going for it, and I got it right."

Strangely, Modolo's steady run of victories over the years - this was his fourth of the season after two stages in Croatia and a win in the 1.HC-ranked GP Gippingen in Switzerland - rarely gets him labelled a pre-race favourite. That's perhaps because the bar was unintentionally raised so high in Modolo's first year in 2010, when he took fourth in Milano-Sanremo in his first ever Monument behind Oscar Freire. But as Modolo pointed out a shade wryly in Pologne, for all he flies under the radar for long spells, "occasionally I manage to net a good one."

Much was made, too, by one journalist, of the fact that Modolo had managed to beat Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) en route to his first World Tour victory of the season, with the reigning World Champion taking a low-key seventh at Katowice after he had blasted to an emphatic victory in Krakow on Saturday. But as Modolo pointed out, "the most important thing is to be the fastest against everybody. I'm not just racing against Peter Sagan."

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