25-year-old Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing Team) showed he could keep an impressively cool head under the heaviest of enemy fire on Friday as the young Belgian clinched his first ever overall victory in a WorldTour race at the Tour de Pologne despite severe pressure from his rivals.
The GC leader since Thursday, when Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) cracked on the first of two severely hilly stages that brought down the curtain on the Tour de Pologne, Teuns began the seventh and final day of racing with no less than 11 riders at 43 seconds or less on GC. The closest, local favourite and former Pologne winner Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), was just six seconds back.
The heat was on with a vengeance, then, but finally Teuns held off Majka and an arguably even more dangerous Wout Poels (Team Sky) to win the Tour de Pologne by a mere two seconds, with Poels third, after the Dutchman captured the final stage.
It was a gripping finale, and Teuns came within a whisker of cracking completely on the ultra-steep Sciana Bukovina climb close to the finish, particularly thanks to Poels repeated attacks. Teuns clung onto the group initially, albeit with difficulty, but then on the second part of the ascent, coming after the official summit of the climb, the Dutchman started to power up the road again on the wheel of teammate Diego Rosa and Teuns was definitely in trouble.
However, teammate Tejay van Garderen not far away and the American was able to provide Teuns with some extremely timely support, dragging him up the final part of the climb just when he was on the point of cracking. This support in turn allowed the Belgian to get back on even terms with Poels and Rosa on the descent. After that, there was still the final unclassified climb to Bukowina left to tackle and everything left to play for, with Teuns jettisoning all his energy bars at the foot of the climb to ensure he had as little extra weight as possible when it came down to the final battle.
But despite repeated different attacks, Teuns was able to shadow all the right moves, finish fifth on the stage and claim the overall win, albeit by the narrowest of margins. It was also BMC Racing Team's first ever victory in the Tour de Pologne.
The result crowns an immense three weeks of racing for Teuns, which started when he took the lead of the 2.HC Tour de Wallonie in Belgium and then went on to claim the overall and two stages, his first ever victories as a pro. The Tour de Pologne, though, has taken him up to a whole new level.
"My team could save their strength early on a little bit, because at the start UAE [Team Emirates] were working to make it hard," Teuns said after receiving his last yellow jersey.
"But we knew it would be a very hard finale. As we expected on the steep climb, the attacks on my lead really started, they didn't wait until the finishing climb to go for it.
"I could follow their wheels but I couldn't recover well on the second last climb and I was dropped a little bit. I was such a lucky guy, I still had Tejay with me to bring me back on the descent to recover there and then recover a bit more on the last little flat section before the climb. That was really important for to be able to catch my breath to take on the final ascent.
"Then I knew it was two kilometres full on, absolutely on the limit until the finish line."
"I knew for sure the most important rider to follow was [Rafal] Majka, he attacked me three times I think in the last climb, and I followed as good as I can. Then in the final sprint, I tried to hang on so I wouldn't lose time.
"It's my first WorldTour GC win, it's amazing. It's also good, because Tim Wellens is a good friend of mine, and it's nice to be able to take the victory the year after he did here in Pologne."
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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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