“Birthday boy” Higuita wins the hill sprint in Poland

Colombians in yellow, Hessmann in a mountain shirt

By Kevin Kemp

Pictures with text "
Sergio Higuita (Bora – hansgrohe) won the 3rd stage of the Tour of Poland Photo: Cor Vos

01.08.2022 | (rsn) – With a long hill climb, Sergio Higuita (Bora – hansgrohe) secured the third stage of the Tour of Poland on his birthday. After 238 kilometers between Krasnik and Przemysl he was faster than Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) and Quinten Hermans (Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert). Matteo Sobrero (BikeExchange – Jayco) finished fourth behind Quentin Pacher (Groupama – FDJ), Swiss Mauro Schmidt (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and Austrian Felix Gall (AG2R – Citroën). Thanks to his fifth victory of the season, Higuita also took the yellow jersey from Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X), who lost touch with the field in the mountains.

The longest stage of the Tour of Poland was decided on the last hill with a length of 1700 meters in Przemysl. After several breakaway attempts from the decimated field, there is a sprint in the last meters. “When you’re in front, you have to keep going. That’s why I waited behind for a long time,” said Higuita, a proven expert for such arrivals. “The last climb was very difficult. It was short but steep. It reminded me of home. When I was younger, all races ended with this climb. I saved my strength for the last 200 meters,” explained the 25-. Age explained his successful strategy in which the Colombian champion celebrated his third victory of the season at the WorldTour level after the overall victory in the Tour of Catalonia and the stage victory in the Tour de Romandie.

Michel Hessmann (Jumbo – Visma) believes in the group of the day. The German became the strongest rider in the quintet and shook off all his friends in the first three climbs. Before he was caught by the peloton, he was able to win three mountains and therefore a special shirt that went with them.

In the overall standings, Higuita leads Bilbao by four seconds. Third is Hermans, six seconds back. In the points classification, the winner of the opening round, Olav Kooij (Jumbo – Visma), went ahead.

Here’s how the contest goes:

After six kilometers, a quintet with German, Austrian Matthias Brändle (Israel – Premier Tech), Edward Theuns (Trek – Segafredo) and Poles Piotr Brozyna and Marcin Budzinski formed on the initiative of Hessmann. Although the three riders spent only 12 seconds in the classification, the escapees were allowed to lead by eight minutes after only thirty kilometers.

Then the field woke up and gradually reduced its deficit. Meanwhile, Theuns won the first two sprints, the last secured by Budzinski debutant WorldTour after 145 kilometers when escapees only about two minutes ahead. The melting gap between the two groups prompted Thomas de Gendt (Lotto Soudal) to take the lead with 70 kilometers to go. However, eleven kilometers later, he abandoned his attempt.

Shortly before the start of the first climb of the day, Theuns and Hessmann gently shook their three companions. At the same time, Abrahamsen also had to give up in the field. At the front in Solca (2nd cat.) Hessmann was stronger than his Belgian friend. With a distance of 36 kilometers, the neo-pro started his solo.

As the pace increased in the DSM field and Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) dropped from the field, among others, Hessmann was the first to cross the first mountain classification. On the descent, Theuns returned to the front runners. 30 km before the finish, the first ascent stage is repeated in Kalwaria Pacawska (2 cat.), the second and hardest hill of the day. Hessmann drove away from Theuns and was the first to secure five points at the crest, just in front of Theuns and 30 seconds ahead of the field, leading the mountain classification.

With 25 kilometers to go, Mauri Vansevenant (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) attacked on the last of the three climbs with Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) on his rear wheel. Harold Tejada (Astana Qazaqstan ) and Pacher connected a little later and Jhonatan Narvaez (Ineos Grenadiers) also managed to jump before the field recovered the escapees. On the other hand, Hessmann was able to save a few meters before the crest, making his tally up to eleven points in the mountain classification and was overtaken by the decisated field with 22 kilometers to go.

The driver did not injure himself during the 21 kilometers that followed. BikeExchange was the first team to complete the last 1.7 kilometers. 200 meters later, Mike Teunissen (Jumbo – Visma) attacked, his progress lasted until 700 meters before the finish line. There, the Dutch were advanced by the Ineos brigade led by Ineos Narvaez. The Ecuadorian was so strong that his teammate and compatriot Richard Carapaz could not keep up with him. Sebastian Berwick (Israel – Premier Tech) broke away with 500 meters to go, but was caught by Schmid and three other riders a hundred meters later.

With 300 meters to go, Pacher picked up the pace, with Higuita on his rear wheel, who started the race with 200 meters to go and could not be beaten by Bilbao and Hermans.

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