On a day of GC drama that saw Alberto Contador pull off a trademark attack and race leader Chris Froome hit the deck twice, Tomasz Marczyński's stage win became second fiddle at the Vuelta a Espana. Add into the mix incidents with a fan pushing Maxim Belkov off the road, and a spectator being shoved into path of support motorbike.
The Polish rider on Lotto Soudal hadn't won a race since 2015 before the Vuelta but on Thursday was raising his arms in triumph for the second time in a week. Although Marczyński's second stage win was far from the main story on a tumultuous day at the Spanish Grand Tour, 33-year-old was basking in the glory regardless of the external going ons.
Based an hour east of the Antequera Los Dólmenes stage finish in Granada, Marczyński had the advantage of 'home knowledge' during the stage and despite Brendan Canty (Cannondale-Drapac) and Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) looking most likely to drop their breakaway companions for a solo win, Marczyński remained calm. Four kilometres from the summit of the Puerto del Torcal, Marczyński made his stage winning move to enjoy a solo win with Fraile second best at 52 seconds.
"It was an amazing feeling to win today, especially because the race started really close to my home place," said Marczyński. "There were a lot of people I know at the side of the road and that gave me extra motivation. Today was a day during which I really wanted to try something, so I attacked several times in the beginning to make it into the breakaway.
"I spent a lot of energy, but in the end I was happy to have done so because I felt really good. I thought 'Now that I'm here, I have an opportunity to win a second stage, so I'm going to make sure I use it as well as possible'. I knew I had the legs to do it again today and I was in control the whole day."
The former national road and time trial champion took his first Vuelta win in a three up sprint into Sagunt. His stage 12 win showcased another skillset of the Pole as he explained his move all came down to timing and measuring his efforts.
"I tried to stay focussed and I knew I had to spare my energy for the final climb. I first tried to follow other people's attacks, and I went clear when I felt that it was the right moment. The breakaway was starting to fall apart but I still had good legs, and when I heard that I had a one-minute gap, I decided to go full gas until the line," he said.
While Marczyński was soloing to the win and taking time on the chasers, behind in the GC group, Contador was launching his move on a similar point of the Puerto del Torcal to the Lotto man. While Contador was travelling faster, Marczyński had an almost nine-minute buffer and was concentrated more on holding off Fraile than the three-time Vuelta winner.
"With two kilometres to go I got a wrong information that the chasing group was only thirty seconds behind me, so I was a bit worried, but then our sports director told me that the gap was still around fifty seconds and I was relieved. I then enjoyed every metre until the finish line, it really was an incredible feeling," Marczyński recounted of the finale.
With the Vuelta regularly rewarding aggressive racing, and Marczyński enjoying a purple patch of form, he added he is keen to turn his double into a hattrick and sign off from the Vuelta in style.
"I will keep attacking in this Vuelta, but I first have to recover from today's efforts," he said. "I will see afterwards how my legs feel: if the condition is still there when another opportunity arises, I will go for it. That's what the team is here for, so my teammates will also try their best in the upcoming stages."
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