Sivakov dedicates Tour de Pologne win to Bjorg Lambrecht
No Vuelta a Espana for young Team Ineos rider
Pavel Sivakov has captured the biggest victory of his career to date at the Tour de Pologne after he and his Team Ineos squad played a hugely successful defensive game on the final stage.
Second on stage 6 and second overall prior to Friday's short-but-intense trek through the foothills of Poland's Tatras mountains, Sivakov inherited the title of virtual race leader when yellow jersey holder Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) faded badly mid-stage and was dropped.
Sivakov's rivals – and with another 16 riders at 61 seconds or less on GC – tried hard, if sporadically, to test the young Russian. But they found Team Ineos in general and Sivakov and teammate Tao Geoghegan Hart in particular more than up to the task of defending Sivakov's newly assumed provisional race lead.
Although the stage win was long gone to Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida), Sivakov rode across the finish line in Bukowina with one arm raised in victory. Whilst Geoghegan Hart yelled Sivakov his congratulations as they rolled through the finish area, Sivakov himself was also visibly content at having held off rivals like Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) by a margin of just two seconds, with Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) third, 12 seconds back.
"First Jumbo-Visma controlled things, then we kept me and Tao in a good position all day. I think Tao was fantastic. He's in really amazing shape," Sivakov told reporters. "Maybe he was stronger than me, but tactics played out the way they did yesterday [on stage 6]. I'm really happy, because it's my biggest win so far."
Sivakov's GC options were certainly the best of the Team Ineos riders pre-stage, given he was second overall by just four seconds and had only been narrowly defeated by Vingegaard on the previous day – one so tough several riders, including Sivakov, said parts of it had been the hardest-toughest race of their careers.
But whilst Vingegaard finally slumped to 26th overall on Friday, losing more than 12 minutes to the favourites because of what team sources later told Cyclingnews was "general exhaustion," Sivakov was waiting in the wings to take over in the lead.
With 16 other riders at 61 seconds or less overall, Sivakov had plenty of potential challengers to his newly inherited lead. As it was, and with the sterling support of Geoghegan Hart and the rest of the Ineos team, the Russian proved more than up to the task of keeping them all at bay all the way to the finish.
"We could play with so many different racers at the end a bit looking for their own places on GC," Sivakov said.
"In the last climb you could see that they thought it would be hard to take the win, with all the bonus seconds were taken by the guys from the break ahead. With two kilometres to go I was pretty confident I could get it. It's really amazing, I wasn't expecting this when I was came here on this race, but it's good to keep in the win in the team."
Sivakov's victory makes it the second year in a row that Team Ineos, albeit as Team Sky last year, has won the Tour de Pologne, following Michal Kwiatkowski's triumph in 2018.
However, the entire race has been overshadowed by the death of Bjorg Lambrecht, and Sivakov had no second thoughts about dedicating his win to the Lotto Soudal rider.
"It's very clear whom this win is for," Sivakov, who the same age as Lambrecht, said afterwards, his voice trembling slightly as he remembered the young Belgian.
"It's been a special week for all the peloton, with what happened. Bjorg was somebody I raced a lot against since my junior years, we're from exactly the same generation. He was my biggest rival since I was 17, we were fighting for the victory for almost every race. It was a shock for me to hear what happened.
"I have been thinking a lot of the races we used to do together and how he used to make it so hard for me. Of course, I dedicate this win to him."
There has been speculation after his excellent ninth place overall in the Giro d'Italia this June that Sivakov might head to the Vuelta a España. But the young Russian said on Friday he was not going to be present at the Spanish Grand Tour's start line in Alicante on August 24.
"No Vuelta for me," he said. "I think one Grand Tour for the moment is enough.
"I'm only 22 years old. You don't need to rush things. OK, maybe I'd be at a good level there, but if I want a long career, then it's better I take things step by step."
Rather than Spain in August, Sivakov says, "I will try to progress on my TT, maybe trying to do something at the Worlds can be a good goal. Normally I'll do the Deutschland Tour, then the Tour of Britain, and finish with the Worlds. It's a good program and a good alternative to the Vuelta."
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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.