Home favourite Kirill Pozdnyakov takes the second stage and overall lead at Tour d’Azerbaidjan...
More than a thousand Azeri fans crowded the finish to cheer native son Kirill Pozdnyakov (Synergy Baku Cycling Project) to a stage 2 victory and see him slip into the overall lead at Tour d’Azerbaijan in Ismayilli on Thursday.
The 28-year-old former Tour of China winner and last year’s Tour of Szeklerland champion made it look easy as he soloed to a 39-second win over his nearest rival – Oleksandr Polivoda (Kolss) – after attacking a 12-man break over the 186.5-kilometre race’s final categorised climb.
“The race was perfect,” explained Pozdnyakov. “It was not an easy stage today, especially in the last 20 kilometres after the rain.”
The race kicked off at Velo Park in Baku, which will host the 2018 UCI BMX World Championships. Twenty-seven riders went on the offensive before being reeled in prior to the last of the three categorised climbs with 33km remaining. On the Cat 1 climb, Pozdnyakov joined 12 riders on a countermeasure before launching his own attack following a 10-minute deluge.
“I just give it all and it worked out,” said Pozdnyakov. “I trained for this race … it’s for us a very important race, because it’s our home race. I tried to save as much as possible for the final kilometres and I am very happy to finish like this today.”
Former WorldTour rider Dennis van Winden (Israel Cycling Academy) was disappointed, yet optimistic with his third-place finish on stage 2 at the 2017 Tour d'Azerbaijan in Ismayilli on Thursday. Photo: Oran Kelly | VeloImages
Image credit: Eurosport
Eurosport caught up with WorldTour veteran Dennis van Winden (Israel Cycling Academy), who was visually disappointed following his third-place finish on the day (+0:43).
“Today was a GC day, and I am not the GC guy, so I wish it was a bit different, but personally it’s my best result of the year,” Van Winden told Eurosport. “Kolss was really strong and they controlled the final from the climb on.
“I felt good, and if I can attack on the climb that means I am in good form because I am not a climber,” he explained further.
But in the final I did not have the legs to close the gap. They knew I was one of the strongest and they played me in the final.
But the 29-year-old former Rabobank-turned-Belkin rider (2007-2014), who spent past two seasons with LottoNL-Jumbo, was optimistic with his performance.
“My legs felt incredible and could have kept going,” claimed van Winden. “If I can continue to feel like I felt today, then that’s something to build on.”
With the win, Pozdnyakov lifts the blue leader's jersey from stage 1 winner and van Winden’s ICA team-mate Mihkel Räim. The Azerbaijani leads Polivoda by 39 seconds, followed by his Kolss Ukrainian compatriot Mykhaylo Kononenko and van Winden – who are both 43 seconds back.
The five-day UCI Europe Tour road race resumes on Friday with the 177.2km stage 3 in Gabala.