After losing twice to the same rider on two days in the Tour de Pologne, when he crossed the stage 5 finish line once more in the wake of Sky's Michal Kwiatkowski, Dylan Teuns' look of sheer frustration and hammering at the handlebars said it all.
Stage 4's defeat at Szczyrk hit Teuns hard, given the BMC racer was the former winner on the uphill finish, but stage 5’s bizarre bunch sprint finale, where Teuns was closing fast on Kwiatkowski, stung even more.
Teuns later explained that a minor incident when he all but touched wheels with another rider 300 metres from the line had caused him to lose speed just before the final all-out battle against Kwiatkowski - in other words, just when it mattered the most and when the damage was impossible to repair.
"Somebody moved a little bit and I didn't expect this, so I had to change positions, lost some speed," Teuns told reporters afterwards. "I only lost [to Kwiatkowski] by one wheel and when you lose speed like I did at that point, it's really crucial. It feels like a missed chance."
The 2017 overall winner pointed out that Thursday's trek to the twin towns of Bielkso-Biala was not the toughest of Tour de Pologne's last quartet of hilly stages, but that after Mitchelton-Scott had upped the pace in the last 50 kilometres, the tension had increased notably. Furthermore, a long, uphill sprint finish was dangerous for losing time in last-second splits, so he had to be sure to stay ahead.
"I was in the perfect position, I was very well-placed in the last three or four kilometres and I could stay there," Teuns recounted. "I came into the sprint well, but I lost speed with 300 metres to go. The best thing about today was that I didn't lose any time."
Early race leader Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), who took fourth, agreed that it had been an unusual finale, with the GC rivals battling the fast men and some uphill sprinters into the bargain. "For sure it was not easy, Kwiatkowski was winning in the mountains and also the second and third guy today [Dylan Teuns] were up there. So I can be happy with fourth," Ackermann said.
Looking ahead to Thursday's and Friday's stages through the Tatras mountains, both which are near carbon copies of the last two stages where he won the race in 2017, Teuns argued "both are really important, both are tough."
"The main objective now is the GC, I'm still well-placed and I'm a former winner. I want to give everything to be on the podium on Friday."
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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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