Marcel Kittel ended a considerable drought on Sunday by taking victory on the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne, but Matteo Pelucchi ended one of his own on stage 2 on Monday. Though far less prolific than his German counterpart, Pelucchi had endured a difficult season since winning two stages at Challenge Mallorca in late January, early February.
A crash prevented a repeat of the stage win he claimed at Tirreno-Adriatico last year but, after taking some time to recover properly, the 26-year-old has bounced back to savour what is his second win at WorldTour level.
“For me it’s like a dream, because we worked a lot in the training camp for this race and it was the goal of the team to win a stage. I’m happy and I want to dedicate this win to Michel Thétaz and his company [IAM], because it’s the 20th anniversary of the company. This is a win for IAM,” he told reporters after the stage.
“I started my season really well with two victories in Palma, Mallorca, but after in Tirreno I crashed, it was not a good crash for me and it took a long time to recover. Then I went to the Giro and again on the fist stage I crashed. I got second place one stage but I was not in super condition. Then I decided to stop to recover well and came to Poland really motivated.”
Pelucchi may have tasted victory but he also felt the full force of Marcel Kittel’s ire. The German felt that Pelucchi had cut across him as the pair opened up their sprints and, after a spot of angry arm waving, words were exchanged. Whereas Kittel was forthright in expressing his feelings afterwards, Pelucchi was keen to play down any controversy.
“There is no problem,” he said. “It was a really dangerous sprint because we were all together and the speed was really high, but I was lucky not to crash in the final and I started a little bit earlier than Marcel and I managed to win the stage.
“It was not the road that was the problem – it was the level of the race. There are a lot of good sprinters, a lot of good teams, in a WorldTour race everyone wants to win, the level is so high and we push hard. The road was good, the organisation is perfect but the speed is so high.”
Tomorrow’s stage is another one for the sprinters but after that, Pelucchi will turn his attentions to the Veulta a España. The route this year has been tweaked to shift the balance back slightly from the climbers towards the sprinters, though Pelucchi is not attaching too much hope to a stage win – he’d simply be pleased to make it to Madrid and finish a Grand Tour at the third time of asking.
“After Poland, I go to the Vuelta but for me now the goal is to try to win, try to get another result and have more luck than in the first part of the season. The Vuelta is not the best race for me, especially because it’s hot and I don’t like the heat so much,” he said.
“But maybe it’s good for me and my career try to finish the Vuelta, not just for results but for finishing it. We go for this goal.”