By Kenny Pryde
Left out of BMC's Tour de France team and ‘sent' to ride the Tour of Austria instead, the former world road race champion Thor Hushovd proved he didn't take July off with a sprint win in Rzeszow on the third stage of the Tour of Poland.
Speaking before the stage start in Krakow's town square, Team Sky's Ben Swift rather tempted fate (not that we said anything of course), when he reckoned that "the fact that there aren't such big teams to control the sprints, I don't know, it might be good or bad. It might mean carnage, though I don't mind a bit of carnage!"
Well, there are only six rider teams here in Poland and with Luke Rowe out with sickness on the baking hot mountains on stage one, Sky was down to five riders, though with Sergio Henao lying second overall, it was hard to imagine the climbing Colombian riding to bring back any breaks.
And of course, on the first stage back on Polish soil, a break went inside 20 kilometres and, inevitably, that break included the soon-to-be-out-of-a-team Euskaltel and Vacansoleil riders (Ricardo Mestre and Mirko Selvaggi) along with Alex Dyashenko (Astana) and Barto Matysiak riding for CCC Polsat, the team sponsored by the Polish television channel. Hell, who knows, maybe Dyashenko was inspired by the fact the race was heading East, towards his native Kazakhstan.
Whatever their various motivations, the quartet had a lead over over 10 minutes but that was as good as it got and, after Saxo-Tinkoff had ridden a modest tempo for race leader Rafal Majek, Argos, Orica and BMC all decided to put a rider in the front and reel them back in with less than 90km to go.
Unhappily for Swift, who had spent two weeks at a Team Sky training camp in Nice and was (and is) coming into decent form, those teams with no interest in the general classification were more determined and more organised in the finale. As Sky DS Dan Hunt put it, "there was no way we were going to rinse our guys when we've got the second placed rider on GC. Danny (Pate) made sure that our guys were well placed when the race turned off the main road for the last hill and when he was on the front he stayed there on the descent, but there were other teams to take it up. If we can get up there in a sprint, then we will, but we're not going to ride any breaks down on a day like today."
Instead it fell to BMC's Marco Pinotti riding for Hushovd to try to close down the escapees, with a little help from Cannondale and, weirdly, Colombia The leaders toiled hard and they still had 1-50 with 20 kilometres to go, clinging onto 40 seconds at at six kilometres and, at the bell, with three kilometres to go, still had 24 seconds on the finishing circuit.
Inevitably, given that they had been out in front for the best part of 200km, it wasn't enough though and they were swallowed. Taylor Phinney was the last BMC man riding on the front for Hushovd and the Norwegian managed to get round Mark Renshaw (Orica) and then hold off the fast-finishing young Aussie Steele Von Hoff of Garmin to win by half a bike length.
"He's going well," noted BMC directeur sportif Allan Peiper, "he worked hard in July, he won a stage in Austria and he's on course to have a good end of season." Perhaps all the way to China. Hushovd, mobbed by bidon-hunting young Poles, would no doubt agree - though maybe not about going on to China...
Tour of Poland 2013, stage three: Kraków to Rzeszów, 226km
1. Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC Racing in 5-10-02
2. Steele Von Hoff (Aus) Garmin-Sharp
3. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Belkin
4. Grega Bole (Slo) Vacansoleil-DCM
5. Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
6. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
7. Michal Golas (Pol) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
8. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Ag2r
9. Ben Swift (GBr) Sky
10. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Argos-Shimano all same time
106. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky at 21 secs
Overall classification after stage three
1. Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo-Tinkoff in 16-14-45
2. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky at 4 secs
3. Christophe Riblon (Fra) Ag2r at 6 secs
4. Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge at 7 secs
5. Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 9 secs
6. Chris Anker Sorensen (Den) Saxo-Tinkoff at 9 secs
7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r at 13 secs
8. Eros Capecchi (Ita) Movistar at 13 secs
9. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack-Leopard at 16 secs
10. Thomas Rohregger (Aut) RadioShack-Leopard at 18 secs
49. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky at 23-43
Bradley Wiggins wraps up
Thor Hushovd celebrates his first WorldTour win since taking two stages of the 2011 Tour de France
Rafal Majka maintains the race lead
Riblon takes solo win on stage two of Tour of Poland
Stage one: Ulissi wins Tour of Poland opener
Tour of Poland 2013: The Big Preview
Katie Archibald becomes omnium world champion for second time in utterly dominant display
Archibald claims her 24th major gold medal of a stellar career as Lambie wins his first world title
By Chris Marshall-Bell •
How Clay Davies became an accidental figurehead
When Clay Davies become the first openly gay rider in the UK's elite ranks, he suddenly found himself in unfamiliar territory
By Alex Ballinger •