Jack Haig (Orica-Scott) took the first win of his professional career on stage six of the Tour of Poland as Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was dropped during a lumpy finale to hand the race lead to Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing).
Sagan was dropped with around 20km remaining on one of the many short, sharp climbs that characterised the stage into Zakopane, just a few kilometres before Haig launched what turned out to be the day’s decisive attack.
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The young Australian looked strong as he accelerated away from a strong group of GC riders including Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), who then failed to form a cohesive chase on the final run to the line, meaning Haig was able to win the stage by nearly a minute.
However the fight behind was for GC, with Teuns leading out the final sprint to prevent any late attacks, and finishing in 12th place to go into the final day of racing with a six second lead over Majka.
Stage six of the Tour of Poland was the first of two mountainous stages that would decide the yellow jersey, and saw three riders escape in the opening kilometres. They were Moreno Moser (Astana), Antwan Tolheok (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Adam Stchowiak (Poland) who opened a maximum advantage of five minutes on the flat first half of the stage.
However once the hill started in earnest with around 80km remaining, the gap fell away quickly. Bahrain-Merida and Bora-Hansgrohe in particular were turning the screw on the front of the peloton, bringing the break’s advantage down to just 30 seconds with 50km remaining.
The dwindling gap forced Tolhoek to attempt a solo move, before Robert Power (Orica-Scott) was able to bridge across while Moser, Stchowiak, and, eventually, Tolhoek were dropped.
Power looked strong for 10km or so, but was soon reeled in by a peloton led by Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors), while Peter Sagan seemed to be struggling a little in the second half of the main group, eventually being dropped by the scintillating pace.
Jungels was joined at the front by Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) who worked hard on the front for Dylan Teuns to slim the front group down to just 12 riders with 20km remaining.
Van Garderen continued to set a high pace, but as soon as the gradient slackened Jack Haig was able to get away, at first with Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) for company before pushing on alone. The Australian looked strong, and quickly opened a gap of around 30 seconds over a chasing group that lacked cohesion.
With 13km to go Haig hit the 18 per cent gradients at the base of the Butorowy Wierch climb, and proceeding to extend his lead to 50 seconds over the course of the next few kilometres.
However that was the moment it all kicked off behind, with Vincenzo Nibali and Wout Poels both putting in a huge accelerations with 9.5km remaining to slim the group down.
Those moves trimmed Haig’s gap to 30 seconds, but that quickly went out again as no coherent chase formed on the run to the finish.
That meant that Haig was able to cross the line with his arms in the air to take his maiden pro win, while Wout Poels led the chase group home nearly a minute behind.
Tour of Poland 2017, stage six: Wieliczka Salt Mine to Zakopane (189km)
1. Jack Haig (Aus) Orica-Scott, in 4-58-55
2. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 51 secs
3. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors
4. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
7. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
8. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott
10. Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb , all at same time
General classification after stage six
1. Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team, in 23-41-27
2. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6 secs
3. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 10 secs
4. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 13 secs
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale, at 18 secs
6. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 19 secs
7. Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 24 secs
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 25 secs
9. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 28 secs
10. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors, at 29 secs