A drawn-out bunch sprint duel between Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) and Tour de Pologne race leader Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) finally went the Australian's way, netting Ewan his first victory since the Giro d'Italia in May.
Second in Krakow behind Sagan on stage 1 of the Tour de Pologne, the 23-year-old Ewan was able to turn the tables on the World Champion 72 hours later on a blisteringly hot day in Zabrze.
Close to the end of a 900-metre finishing straight in the shadow of the Gornik Zabrze football stadium, Ewan received a solidly delivered lead out from teammate Luka Mezgec. But with a headwind in the finale, it proved to be a lengthy sprint battle and as Ewan told reporters later, taking his first ever Tour de Pologne victory had pushed him close to the limit.
"I've done this race several times before and I've been close before with some podiums, but I've never been able to win, so I'm very happy I finally got it today," Ewan said.
"It was a really hard one, there was a bit of a headwind and I think everybody was tired with the length of the stage and the heat, too.
"I felt like I was starting to tire towards the end of it, but I was happy with how it worked out."
There was a brief side-bump between Ewan and Sagan as the two accelerated towards the line, but neither seemed particularly troubled by it afterwards. "We started sprinting on the same side, and it was all right I think, it didn't affect either of us, so that was fine."
He told Cyclingnews later that coordination between himself and Mezgec was even more crucial than usual, given Orica-Scott don't have a big lead out train in Pologne. "He followed me in those last few kilometres and then when I needed him, he came around me and I got on his wheel and he did a brilliant job in the end."
As he raced neck and neck against Sagan in the final metres, Ewan could see him "just on my side before I started sprinting."
What followed was a live lesson in sprint tactics, with Ewan coming out on top. "I sat there and waited for him to start going first, and then I kicked as well. I didn't want to be forced to go early, it's better if he goes first and then I match him because that way he's also in the wind. But if I go first then maybe he gets my slipstream and he comes around," Ewan explained.
"So I waited a little bit for him to go first, then I went and I held him on my hip. I didn't see Danny [Van Poppel (Sky) finally second - Ed] at all, once I got ahead, I really had my head down."
"It felt like a long sprint, but it was a strong one, and I'm just happy I held them off in the end."
The Australian was cautious about his chances on Wednesday's lumpy trek through south-east Poland. With 1,250 metres of climbing in 130 kilometres, stage 5 has a flat finale but is preceded by several climbs, the last one, a short, punchy ascent of Lany, is only 11 kilometres from the finish in the city of Rzeszow.
"I don't know. If it's controlled on the climb I should be able to get over it, but if they go full gas to try and attack on the climb, then it'll be difficult."
After the Tour de Pologne, Ewan goes on to the Hamburg Classic and then from there onto the Tour of Britain.
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