Remco Evenepoel put on another masterful display on Saturday afternoon as he launched a long-range attack on the queen stage of the Tour de Pologne and blew the race apart, before crossing the finish line while holding up the race number of Fabio Jakobsen, who sustained several serious injuries on the opening day of the event.
A course that gave little respite, featuring a succession of climbs stacked between Bukowina Resort and Bukowina Tatrzanska, promised a real showdown between the overall contenders, who were separated by just a few seconds at the start of the 152.9km stage. In the past, the winner emerged on the final ascent, but Evenepoel had other plans this time and stormed away with 51 kilometres remaining, which proved to be the key move of the stage.
He gained 20 seconds after just two kilometres and increased this to a full minute with 40 kilometres to go, and despite a series of attacks from behind and a concerted effort of several teams, that was the last time the yellow jersey group saw the young Belgian until the finish.
In full time trial mode and extremely focused, Evenepoel continued to increase his gap to almost two minutes, easing up only with 200 metres to go, when he held aloft the number 75, the dossard of Fabio Jakobsen at the Tour de Pologne, in a touching tribute he brought to his teammate.
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team) finished in second, 1’48” down with Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) in third at 2’22”. Evenepoel leads Fuglsang overall by 1’52” with Yates in third.
“I wanted to give everything today for Fabio. After stage 1, we all had some pretty tough moments, but stayed together and I think the whole world saw today just how strong this team is. The good news we received yesterday about Fabio acted as a big morale-boost and for that reason I wanted to do something today. That’s why in the morning, before the start, I asked for his race number and the moment I had it in my hands I immediately felt something special. It wasn’t easy and I suffered, but it doesn’t compare to what Fabio’s enduring these days. This gave me the energy to carry on and never look back.”
Overcome with emotion at the end of this hard day which landed the yellow jersey on his shoulders, Remco talked also of his strategy for the queen stage of the Tour de Pologne: “The plan was to attack, not too early, but feeling that everybody was on their limit I just went with 50 kilometres to go. Up until then, the guys did a great job for me, protected me from the start of the day, and I wanted to repay them for that. When the info came from the car that I had a small gap over the chasers and that nobody could follow, it gave me even more confidence, so I just kept a high pace, without going over my limit, all the way to the end. I’m happy with this win and with having the yellow jersey with just one day to go.”