Victory from a solo breakaway of 57 kilometres is a rare occurrence in professional cycling, but 24-year-old Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida) proved up to the task in the finale stage 7 of the Tour de Pologne.
The former under-23 and junior world champion powered away with well over a third of Friday’s hilly stage remaining to claim his first win since sealing the overall title at the Deutschland Tour last year.
The lone triumph at the Tour de Pologne is a memorable moment for Mohoric after a lackluster season. He completed the Tour de France last month but was not able to claim a stage win to add to his previous breakaway Grand Tour victories at the Vuelta a España in 2017 and Giro d’Italia in 2018.
Pologne has put him back on the right track. It also represents another success in what is his growing collection of breakaway wins from long-distance attacks.
“Usually, when I win it’s from a long way out,” Mohoric said. “In the Vuelta, I was only soloing from the break with 10 kilometres to go, but in the Giro [where he beat fellow breakaway Nico Denz] it was 30km to go. In the World Championships when I won for a second time, it was from 40 or 45km to go.
“This is a tactic I know I can do, I’m not so good in short efforts, but I can hold quite a bit of power for a very long time.”
Mohoric pointed out that he had not aimed to ride solo for the whole of the 57 kilometres after taking off from the day’s early break of 14 riders.
“I didn’t aim to stay away so long to the finishing line like that; it was more that I was struggling with the pace that the climbers were putting in on the steep climbs in that first big break,” he said.
“Also, the speed in the breakaway was not high enough to stay away, and there were two GC guys in the move. The gap between us and the main peloton was not huge, either.
“I wanted to see if the strong guys would come across from behind and then we’d stay away together. But in the end, nobody came across, and I managed to stay away in any case.”
Already briefly on the attack late on stage 5 before he was swept up by the bunch, Mohoric said that he only started to believe he might be able to stay away this time in Bukowina with about 20 kilometres to go.
“When I started the two uncategorized climbs I knew there was a chance to stay away because I still had something left in the tank,” he said. “I was hoping that the guys in the chasing group would start to calculate and play games.”
Mohoric’s original goal had been to go for the GC in Pologne. On stage 6, however, he decided to drop out of the overall battle when he realised that he was not going to be able to crack the top five placings.
“I was running fifth on GC before stage 6, and on that day when Jumbo-Visma launched a second attack, I was in a perfect position. But then I started to struggle a bit,” he said.
“I was looking around at the faces of the other riders that were doing GC, and I saw five or ten of them were really going well. So I said to myself ‘ah, I can’t do this anymore, it’s not worth it to go for sixth place [on GC]. I will go all out for the stage tomorrow [Friday].'”
After his spectacular stage victory in Pologne, Mohoric has no intention of returning to defend his title at the BinckBank Tour. He will instead race the GP Plouay, and the two WorldTour races in Quebec and Montreal
“I’m going on holiday, cos I’ve done the Tour de France and I’m really tired, so I’m looking forward to some time on the beach,” he said with a grin.
“I have a goal to be good in Canada, I will also do Plouay [September 1st] before that, but I probably won’t be that strong. Then after Canada, it’s on to the World Championships.”