Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) won stage 5 of the Tour de Pologne ahead of Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), though the finale was blighted by a mass crash in the final kilometre in Rzeszów.
Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) was among those delayed by the crash, but the Colombian was awarded the same time as the front group and he retains the yellow jersey of race leader,
The majority of sprinters were eliminated from contention when a number of riders crashed on a sharp right-hand bend with 800 metres to go, shortly after the road had narrowed from two lanes to one.
Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma), Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) lost their chances of stage victory when they were held up by the crash, which took place at the head of the peloton.
The incident blocked the road, leaving just eight riders still in contention for the stage win, with Démare and Bauhaus the established sprinters among their number. Démare’s teammate Jacopo Guarnieri led for much of the final kilometre before swinging off in the finishing straight, where Jonathan Milan took over on Bauhaus’ behalf.
Milan availed of his qualities as a pursuiter to deliver a long lead out for Bauhaus, who proceeded to unleash a crisp sprint within sight of the line. Démare lifted himself from the saddle in a bid to get on terms, but the Frenchman had to settle for second place, while Nikias Arndt (Team DSM) came through for third ahead of Max Kanter (Movistar) and Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo).
The win was Bauhaus’ second of 2022 after his stage victory at Tirreno-Adriatico in March. The German had come close on the opening day of the Tour de Pologne when he was beaten into second place by Kooij.
How it unfolded
The 178km leg from Łańcut was always likely to finish in a bunch sprint but that didn’t deter a platoon of early attackers from striking out in the opening kilometres. Shane Archbold (Bora-Hansgrohe) instigated the break, and he was joined by Sean Quinn (EF Education-EasyPost), Mads Würtz Schmidt (Israel-Premier Tech), Yevgeniy Fedorov (Astana Qazaqstan), Boy van Poppel (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Michel Schlegl (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Mateusz Grabis (Poland) and Jakub Murias (Poland).
The octet quickly struck up a solid working alliance and the peloton was content to grant them some early leeway, with their advantage nudging towards five minutes after two hours of racing. With 100km remaining, a loose coalition of sprinters’ teams began to chip away at that advantage, though the Bora-Hansgrohe team of Bennett and race leader Higuita was exempted from that initial pursuit due to Archbold’s presence in the move.
Quinn spent much of the stage as the virtual race leader, and as the gap dropped to just over a minute, he opted to go on the offensive, attacking with 37km to go in the company of Schmidt.
The duo put up stout resistance over the category 3 ascent of Rzeszów, where they maintained a one-minute lead over the bunch. That buffer was still intact by the time they passed the finish line for the first time with 20km to go, while the rest of the break was now 26 seconds behind them.
Fedorov made a spirited effort to bridge across to Quinn and Schmidt on the local circuit, though the Kazakhstani’s effort was in vain, as he was distanced by the leaders on the unclassified final climb.
Quinn and Schmidt battled gamely to stay in front until the final 3km when they were eventually swept up by the sprinters’ teams, with UAE Team Emirates and Groupama-FDJ prominent, while Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) also put in a cameo on the front in the technical finale. Not for the first time, the configuration of the final kilometres of a Tour de Pologne stage left much to be desired.
The race continues on Thursday with an 11.8km individual time trial from Szaflary to Wierch Rusiński. Higuita carries a slender, four-second lead over Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) into the test, while Matteo Sobrero (BikeExchange-Jayco), Carapaz and Ethan Hayter (Ineos) all lie just 10 seconds back.
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