British rider Stevie Williams took his first victories at the Cro Race over the weekend, winning the penultimate stage en route to sealing the overall win.
The 25-year-old won stage five ahead of Uno-X's Markus Hoelgaard, a day with an HC-category climb in the middle before finishing with two third category ascents. Williams had broken away in a small group also containing Simon Yates, who finished fourth overall, before accelerating away in the final few kilometres to take a 10-second gap at the finish and assume the GC lead.
“I was afraid after the first passage through Opatija that they would catch me since we'd done a lot of stages and I was afraid that there was no freshness in my legs," Williams said. "However, somewhere three kilometres to the finish, I realised that I still had a freshness and could still pick up the pace."
Since turning pro with Bahrain-Victorious in 2019, Williams has struggled with injury, limiting the results he's been able to achieve.
"I am really happy to take this win for the team and myself. I am over the moon now. I am also happy to take the lead GC, and I am expecting a tough race tomorrow. I will give everything, and hopefully, I will come out with the red jersey.”
Then, on the final stage six of the Croatian stage race, Williams finished second behind Jumbo-Visma's Tim van Dijke as the pair sprinted away from the rest of the field alongside Hoelgaard to secure a first stage race victory of his career.
“You never start a day expecting for sure, but I was confident in myself and in my team who did an excellent ride, and as a team, we were fantastic all day," Williams said after his victory was confirmed.
"It was a lot harder stage than I predicted. In the end, it was pretty tactical the way it all happened, but all stage, it was pretty demanding, windy, quite technical, lots of changes of directions.
"My teammates brought me perfectly to the circuit and gave me the best chance to stay safe and go for myself. As a team, we did a great job the whole week, and I am proud to be a part of it. This win is a team victory.”
Cro Race 2021
1. Stephen Williams (GBr) Bahrain Victorious, in 25-45-17
2. Markus Hoelgaard (Nor) Uno-X, at 17 seconds
3. Mick van Dijke (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 28s
4. Simon Yates (GBr) BikeExchange, at 34s
5. Urko Berrade (Esp) Equipo Kern Pharma, at 35s
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