Tour de Pologne leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) inflicted another significant blow on his rivals on Wednesday when he took a second straight stage win and simultaneously stretched out his overall lead by another four seconds.
Four seconds might not seem much but in a race often decided by just a handful of seconds, the Polish star is clearly determined to take every chance he can to buttress his lead
At the same time, of course, Kwiatkowski's second stage win in 24 hours, in very different terrain to Tuesday's steep uphill finish, will help the Team Sky leader both maintain overall momentum and keep an upper hand psychologically on his rivals.
Stage five culminated with one of the stranger bunch sprints of the season with GC riders, all-rounders like Enrico Battaglin (LottoNL-Jumbo), Ardennes Classics racers like double Amstel winner Enrico Gasparotto (Bahrain-Merida) and out-and-out fast men like Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), the winner of stages 1 and 2, all in the mix.
After launching his sprint early - "it was one of the longest sprints of my life" - Kwiatkowski managed to fend off both a furious Teuns, hammering the handlebars as he crossed the line in second place for the second day, and Battaglin.
"This win was a bit unexpected for sure," Kwiatkowski told reporters afterwards. "We didn't really know the final would be like, we thought it would be tough for some of the sprinters but I never really thought I'd be able to win today."
"But on the last lap, I told the guys on the radio I would be all right to try for the sprint, because it was a tough climb but not too demanding in terms of sprinting. I did try to stay on the front because I was sure that the GC guys would do something and I ended up doing the longest sprint of my life!"
Kwiatkowski said that he had had to dig deeper than he might have liked to get the sprint win. "I'm even more tired than I was after yesterday [on the uphill finish in Szczyrk]," he pointed out.
"I maybe started too early but when you have to deal with a guy like Ackermann, who's a very aerodynamic guy, you have to give it everything and think pretty hard as well. There were a lot of guys on my wheel, but I was looking at the guys to see if they would pass me but at the same time I was looking at the line to see if I could get it."
The next two stages, Kwiatkowski said, would likely see Teuns on the hunt both for a stage win and to wrest the overall lead from him.
"For sure, he's going to want to do something, and he won't give up. I could see after he lost today how angry he was and he'll be even more motivated to try something tomorrow. But that's the Tour de Pologne, you have to fight right up to the end to be sure that you are going to win."
"I guess tomorrow [stage six] and the next will be a big fight and there's going to be a great race in the last few days."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 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. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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