In the closing metres of the Vuelta a España's sixth stage, it became clear a Polish rider would be claiming a debut Grand Tour victory. Having watched Bora-Hansgrohe teammate Maciej Bodnar claim victory in the Tour de France Marseille time trial, Pawel Poljanski was aiming for similar success in Sagunto only for Tomasz Marczynski to claim the win.
It was the second Polish one-two in a Grand Tour stage in just over a month after Bodnar held off Michael Kwiatkowski in the Tour time trial. In the three-up sprint for Vuelta stage win glory, Spaniard Enric Mas (QuickStep-Floors) was third and won the combativity prize. Of the trio, Poljanski was the only one to miss out on a visit to the podium post-stage.
The 27-year-old made his Grand Tour debut at the 2015 Vuelta with 12th his best result. Poljanski's second place finish is now his best result of his five Grand Tours and best personal result since the 2014 Tour of Austria. For a rider who has been crucial to Peter Sagan's victories since 2015, stage 6 offered the Pole an opportunity to ride for his own personal result.
"It feels so good to be up there again with the best, after suffering four days like hell with this stomach problems," Poljanski said. "CeCe (Benedetti) helped me a lot, it was easier with two of us in the big break, to control the situation. I felt strong on the last climb and decided to give it a go. In the last 20k we had to give it everything, as our gap was just 30 seconds."
When assessing what he could have better in the finale, Poljanski admitted that perhaps he did too much work but added a sprint is not his forte.
"Maybe I pulled a little too much, I don't know, anyway I am not really fast in sprints," he said. "I knew Marcynski was the one to watch, but I couldn't pass him after he launched the sprint. It's a great result, but we are here to get a win, so we will keep on trying."
While Bora missed the win, the result was a confidence boost for the team who lost Michael Kolar to illness and saw Rafal Majka's GC ambition end on stage 5.
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