Most 23-year-olds would be content with a few beers and a trip to Nandos to celebrate their birthday, but for Jan Polanc winning stage five of the Giro d’Italia was the icing on the cake.
Polanc, who turned 23 on on May 6, soloed to the win on the summit finish in Abetone on Wednesday having been out in the breakaway all day.
“This is indeed a nice birthday present,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “It feels a little strange, my first win is immediately one of the WorldTour [races], I think I’ll just about sleep tonight.”
It was touch-and-go for the five-man break as it hit the final climb. A time gap of nearly nine minutes almost proved to be insufficient as Polanc and Sylvain Chavanel decided to go it alone in the last few kilometres.
Polanc’s late effort – which he says he saved until the final five kilometres – was enough to hold of Fabio Aru, Alberto Contador and Richie Porte and despite riding off the front for the whole day, the Slovenian knew he couldn’t ease off at the end.
“My first aim was to build our lead as quickly as possible,” he explained. “Once we had 10 minutes, I knew that the stage victory was up for grabs.
“Then it was especially important to ascertain who was the strongest of the five. I knew I had to keep my eye on Chavanel.
“I’m a good climber, but it was not a steep climb, so Sylvain was a dangerous customer for the victory. He himself went a few times and I always managed to get his wheel.
“Eventually I put on myself, because I knew that I could not wait too long and the favorites were not so far away.”