Two first wins within two days
At the two one-week stage races Tour of the Alps and Tour of Croatia, the riders of the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLIN TEAM were riding aggressively, scoring two wins as a reward: First Kanstantin Siutsou won the Queen’s stage of the Tour of Croatia, then Mark Padun got to celebrate his first win in the pro peloton at the conclusive stage of the Tour of the Alps.
After Niccolo Bonifazio’s stage win in the first stage of the Tour of Croatia, the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM was in an attacking mood at the end of the second stage as well. But Bonifazio crashed in a corner in the tricky finale, and Matej Mohoric’s attack got neutralized on the final kilometer. As for the third stage, sprinters were out of contention seen the final ascent that stretched over a distance of 28 kilometers from almost sea level all the way up to the Sveti Jure at 1762 meters above sea level. At the beginning of this ascent, Manuele Boaro set a fast pace to pull back the last remaining early attacker. After a couple of kilometers a rider from the Trek Segafredo Factory team took over from the riders in red, gold and dark blue, reducing the group of favorites rider by rider by setting an even faster pace even after the last attacker had been caught. Amongst the riders who succumbed to this pace was Domen Novak who lost contact with twelve kilometers to go. When the pacemaker had done his job and swerved off, however, the attack did not come from his captain but from Kanstantin Siutsou.
The experienced Belarusian had carefully managed his reserves up to that point, got most of his opponents by surprise and took off towards the finish with three other riders. With five kilometers to go, Dutchman Pieter Weening attacked and got away, building a gap of 25 seconds. But Kanstantin Siutsou did not panic, found his rhythm and got back on the Dutchman’s wheel with 1.5 kilometers to go. Siutsou tried to accelerate one more time to get rid of his opponent, but that did not work. Thus the duel of these two highly experienced riders came down to the final straight, and on the steep final 100 meters Kanstantin Siutsou had that little bit more left in the tank to get his first win in the jersey of the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM - and the first win since he broke a femur in a crash in June 2017. This second stage win for the team compensated for the fourth stage where an attacker won as a soloist and Niccolo Bonifazio had to settle for 5th in the sprint of the chasing pack. All the more so as Siutsou is still wearing the leader’s jersey of the Tour of Croatia.
The Tour of the Alps can be considered a success in terms of a rehearsal for the Giro d’Italia from the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM’s perspective. Domenico Pozzovivo rode aggressively in the finale of the fourth stage, defending his 2nd place in the overall standings. While his attack at the Bannberg did not earn him a stage win, he collected enough KOM points to slip into the best climber’s jersey in Lienz. Thus the team had plenty of things to defend on the final day that took the race to Innsbruck and included some of the steep climbs that will be part of the world championship’s course this fall. Again the riders in red, gold and dark blue opted for the attack: Giovanni Visconti set off at the penultimate passage of the «Olympic Climb» but soon got the company of Miguel Angel Lopez. The latter dropped him on the next climb, but Visconti had enough left in him to pace Domenico Pozzovivo one more time and allow his captain and Thibaut Pinot to get back on the wheel of Lopez.
For a few kilometers the three best-placed riders of the overall standings were riding in the race lead, but they were more focused on each other than on the stage win, allowing the chasers to get back to them with six kilometers to go. Things looked set for a sprint of about a dozen of riders in Innsbruck, but young Ukrainian Mark Padun had a different scenario in mind. Having moved up to the pro ranks by signing with the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM at the beginning of the season, he attacked with four kilometers to go. From there, he made good use of the twisting course through the streets of Innsbruck and his time trialing capabilities to keep his chasers at bay. Thus Mark Padun finished the Tour of the Alps in true style, celebrating his first win as a professional - and unlikely his last. As for the young rider’s classification, Padun moved op to 2nd on the final day. Domenico Pozzovivo finished the closely fought stage race in 2nd in both the overall standings and the best climber’s classification, and the team also finished the race in 2nd in the team classification.
TOUR OF CROATIA: STAGE 3, TROGIR - BIOKOVO (SVETI JURE), 134KM
1. Kanstantin Siutsou, BLR/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, in 3:51.32 hours
2. Pieter Weening, NED, + 0.04
3. Yevgeniy Gidich, KAZ, + 0.49
TOUR OF THE ALPES: STAGE 5, RATTENBERG - INNSBRUCK, 164.2KM
1. Mark Padun, UKR/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, in 4:16.10 hours
2. George Bennett, NZL, + 0.05
3. Jan Hirt, CZE, + 0.06
1. Thibaut Pinot, FRA, in 18:28.48 Stunden
2. Domenico Pozzovivo, ITA/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, + 0.15
3. Miguel Angel Lopez, COL, st
1. Oscar Rodriguez, ESP
2. Domenico Pozzovivo, ITA/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM
3. Thibaut Pinot, FRA
YOUNG RIDERS CLASSIFICATION
1. Ben O’Connor, AUS, in 18:30.21 hours
2. Mark Padun, UKR/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, + 1.41
3. Michal Schlegel, CZE, + 3.19
1. Astana Pro Team in 55:29.56 hours
2. BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, + 10.16
3. Dimension Data, + 18.33