Awaiting the rider’s at the Tour de Pologne today was the queen stage of the race and one that featured over 3200 metres of climbing, with 160 kilometres on the menu from Zakopane to Kościelisko. With the parcours rolling for most of the stage, it proved to be a difficult day in the saddle.
The battle was intense from the start with numerous teams and riders looking to form the break of the day. Robert Power got into a large group that was 25 riders strong and they initially managed to gain a 45 second advantage over the peloton. However, the gap was never allowed to grow out any further and they were soon brought back. The fight continued before a group of four eventually got clear and formed the breakaway.
The peloton always kept them close and as the kilometres and climbs ticked by, the gap diminished. Coming into the final 50 kilometres an elite group of around 30 riders was what remained of the peloton, with Chris Hamilton, Jai Hindley and Michael Storer riding strongly to represent the team. With the breakaway caught, the counter attacks continued to fly with Hindley very active at the front, joining a group of 16 that broke clear. There was a lack of cooperation in that group and with other teams pulling behind, Storer and Hamilton were soon back in what was now the lead group.
Yet even more attacks came throughout the remainder of the stage, before Hindley forced what was the race winning move with around 12 kilometres to go. The attacking trio caught lone-leader, Swift, before dropping him on the final climb of the day. On the descent Hindley managed to get a small gap but wasn’t able to drop his companions and the trio would fight it out in a sprint to the line. After leading down the descent, Hindley was forced to open up his sprint from the front and ended up finishing in third place: a great result for the young Australian climber with what is his first podium at WorldTour level. Hamilton also rode strongly in the group behind, coming home in ninth place and securing the team’s second top ten finish on the stage. As a result, Hindley sits in third on GC while Hamilton is in eighth, with just tomorrow’s final stage to go.