So near but so far: Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing Team) came within a whisker of repeating his 2017 breakthrough victory in Szcyzyrk's summit finish in the Tour de Pologne, but the Belgian was overhauled, painfully close to the line, by Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky).
Teuns was understandably disappointed at missing out by so little on an ascent where he had taken his first WorldTour win in 2017, one which laid the foundations for his overall victory four days later.
This time round, Teuns has had to settle for second. And if the Belgian found some consolation that there are still three further opportunities in Pologne for him to win, when Teuns spoke at the Szcyzrk summit, his defeat was still too close for him for that to be of much comfort.
"Maybe in a few hours I can relativize it all, but it would have been great to get the win a second time and I came damn close, so it’s a disappointment," Teuns told Cyclingnews.
"I couldn't say anything else except Kwiatkowski was really strong, so congrats to him and I'm just sad that I couldn't do it. A second place is good, but it's not the same as winning. I’ll have to play a smart game now, and try for a victory someplace else.”
Teuns explained later to reporters that he had tried a different strategy on the fearsomely steep, narrow ascent to 2017, waiting for a little more to make his move because he was worried about the strength of the opposition, "and then Kwiatkowski came through strongly in the end. Maybe the timing was just too late, or just too early, I don't know."
What has not changed, Teuns argued, was the Pole remains the top favourite for overall victory. "That we already knew before Poland started," he argued rather dryly, "and he has a strong team, too. But everything is still possible, starting tomorrow [stage 5]. There are three hard days, so it's a fight until Friday."
"I'm not the only one who wants to win, there are other guys up there [on GC] and they will attack, so it'll be a fight. But Sky will want to dominate, that's for sure.
However, having to digest a near-miss like on stage 4 would be hard for any rider to do - and in the case of Teuns, given his past history on the Polish climb, even more so. To his credit, though, Teuns recognised he been defeated fair and square.
"I think second is a good place but right now I'm disappointed," he concluded, "but all credit to Kwiatkowski - he beat me in a man-to-man fight."
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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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