Normal racing has resumed in the Tour de Pologne following Monday’s death of Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto-Soudal) and Tuesday’s homage, but stage 5 winner Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) said that the Belgian remains uppermost in the peloton’s thoughts – including his own.
"It was a hard day; it still is," Mezgec told reporters after taking his second bunch sprint in four days in Pologne. "I had Bjorg many times in my mind today. It’s a tragedy. We will never forget him."
On Sunday during Katowice’s downhill finish, Mezgec said he had been able to use Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) to "give me a slingshot" to victory. In Bielsko-Biala on Wednesday, he employed a similar tactic with Team Ineos' Ben Swift, saying he was "in a perfect position" behind the Briton to move ahead in the last 100 metres for a convincing victory.
"It was much harder than my win three days ago. I knew this would suit me better, and I knew I was in good shape," Mezgec said. "But I haven’t raced for a month and a half, so I was a bit unsure how good I can be when the pace gets really tough.
"In the end, though, it was tough for everyone,= and I could keep calm and I was exactly where I needed to be in the in last 200 metres."
Mezgec’s personal options will now take a back seat in Pologne as the race heads into the foothills of the Tatras mountains for two stages of some tough climbing.
"It’s more about training for me, and being support for our GC guys. Mikel [Nieve] is good for that, and [Nicholas] Schultz is going well too," he said.
"I’ll try there to be as long as possible, but I’m also racing the Europeans [Road Championships] on Sunday, I don’t want to go too deep because I need some recovery time."
Mezgec is cautiously optimistic about his chances in the European road race, pointing out that two years ago in Denmark, when the race ended in a bunch sprint – as is expected on Sunday – he took fifth.
"But you know how it is in a sprint, if you are in a good position and lucky you can be up there, or you brake two times and you’re out of the top 15," he warned.
Mezgec will have a full contingent of support for his bid in the European Championships with five Slovenian teammates, and he will be the leader. Whilst Wednesday’s win will be a big boost to his morale for this weekend, it will also mean his chances of racing the Vuelta a España have considerably increased as well.
"I don’t know if I’m in the best shape of my life, but I’m definitely close," Mezgec said. "I’m really motivated for races coming up."
Asked if that included the Vuelta a España – which was uncertain even after his win last Sunday – Mezgec said with a grin, "Now I think I’m on the list."
And in the meantime, he has two WorldTour wins in four days – the first since his "golden year" of 2014 – in the bag as well.