The 2013 Tour of Poland is serving as a test lab for two WorldTour initiatives which were rooted in sparking more dynamic, aggressive racing. Firstly, the team rosters have been reduced from eight to six riders in the hope that any one team wouldn't be able to dictate the tenor of racing and, more radically, a daily "attractivity" classification was instituted which provides time bonuses of 30 seconds, 20 seconds and 10 seconds to the top three points scorers each day (based on the daily accumulation of sprint and mountains points).
New Tour of Poland leader Jon Izaguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was a clear beneficiary of the attractivity classification in today's stage 5 as he earned enough points on the stage's final two KOMs, situated 28km and 3km from the finish, to earn third place on the daily ranking and nab the final 10-second bonus.
Having started the day in fifth overall, nine seconds behind overnight leader Rafa Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff), Izaguirre became the general classification leader by one second once the dust settled on the day's racing. As nobody else at the top of general classification gained any time bonuses of their own, and with all the GC favourites finishing together in the same time, the Euskaltel-Euskadi found himself in the leader's jersey of a stage race for the first time in his career.
Izaguirre was second over the penultimate climb, the category-1 rated Glodówka, and then placed first on the day's final KOM with 3km remaining in the stage, the category 2-rated Droga do Olczy. The 24-year-old Euskaltel-Euskadi rider knew once the early break was caught prior to the penultimate climb that he had a shot at picking up the 10-second bonus.
"Everyone is aware of the new scoring system being tested in this race and that the leadership for the day was at stake," said Izaguirre. "It was very aggressive, there were many attacks, and on the first climb [of the 40.5km finishing circuit] I was second. At that moment I knew that crossing the final climb first made me a leader, but there was much attacking and many interests at play."
A six-man break had formed after the Glodówka ascent, but the race played into Izaguirre's hands as the escapees were caught two kilometres from the stage's final KOM and it remained gruppo compatto in the approach to the Droga do Olczy summit.
"I struck out at 500 metres before the summit and I managed to cross it first," said Izaguirre.
With that result he now held third on the day's attractivity classification and as none of his GC rivals earned time bonuses at the finish for placing in the top three or gapped him in the finale, the leader's jersey now belonged to Izaguirre with two stages remaining. Sergio Henao (Sky), who started the day four seconds beind Majka, did make a concerted effort to earn time bonuses in the finishing sprint but ended up in sixth and out of the running.
Izaguirre faces a very difficult penultimate stage on Friday, replete with no fewer than 10 category 1-rated climbs on its 192km parcours. Following that stage, the Tour of Poland wraps up with a 37km individual time trial on Saturday. The top of the general classification is still very tight as 10 riders are within 21 seconds of Izaguirre.
"I'm happy with what we have achieved and I'm enjoying it, but I have many things on my mind for tomorrow's stage," said Izaguirre. "The sixth stage is the hardest day of the race and will be very difficult to control. We'll see how my legs respond as the race develops."
Izaguirre just recently finished the Tour de France and the post-Grand Tour boost to morale and fitness may be enough to hold steady in the lead.
"I finished the Tour in nice shape and the rhythm of racing in Poland has been good. If I was tired, I would not be now that I'm in yellow."