German fastman Pascal Ackermann rolled back the years on Tuesday in the Tour de Pologne as the UAE Team Emirates sprinter defied the 3,000 metres of climbing on stage 4 to claim what he said later was just the second victory of his career in such difficult terrain.
“The last one was a stage of the 2018 Dauphiné,” the German recollected, after he added career win number 38 in the hilltop town of Sanok, “and I just remembered back to that stage this morning and thought, ‘OK, let’s try it again'. And I’m very glad I tried it!”
Back in 2018, Ackermann, then a second year pro, had fended off riders of the calibre of Edvald Boasson Hagen and Daryl Impey to net his second win of his career.
And four years on, if Ackermann timed his uphill charge to the finish to perfection on a bewilderingly-twisty and unpredictable final kilometre course, he said that positioning and team support were probably the most important elements of his win.
“Here was the first time I tried a sprint leadout with [Juan] Sebastian Molano for the Vuelta and he’s a really good sprinter with a very big engine, I just had to follow him today," Ackermann said.
“He took me through the curves perfectly and brought me to the perfect position to finish it all off. All I had to do was accelerate for the line.”
It has to be said that Pologne has always brought Ackemann some resounding success in the past. He’s twice won in the Krakow finish which will bring down the curtain on Pologne this Friday, and Tuesday’s win is his fifth in four years.
“It’s always a good race for me, I’ve always managed to have a good period of training beforehand, and this year and this result is great motivation for the Vuelta,” Ackermann added. “I just want to continue like this. I’m hoping I’ll be taking part in the Europeans, although the [German] selection hasn’t yet been made, now I’ll have a good chance. But the Vuelta is the really big goal of what’s left of the season.”
If there has been a lot of water under the bridge since Ackermann claimed his second career win in the Critérium du Dauphiné four years ago, including two stages and the points jersey in the Giro d’Italia and two wins in the Vuelta, Pologne also sees Ackermann regain momentum after a bad crash this spring.
“I had a really bad injury and I broke my coccyx,” Ackermann explained. “It took a while because I had to spend six weeks off the bike and it was hard to come back.
“But now with the training in the last few weeks, and now this win, let’s hope that my condition stays like this.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.