Riccardo Zoidl continued Trek-Segafredo’s dominance in the Tour of Croatia with the team’s third victory as he out-paced everyone on a tough finish climb to claim the win in the fourth stage.
« This victory means a lot for me because this year I had a lot of troubles at the beginning of the season, » said Zoidl, referring to his crash at the team’s first training camp where he broke his collarbone. « Then just to continue with this victory, we have already two, is incredible. Thanks to the team, they rode amazing in the last 50 kilometers. I am very happy about the win! »
It was another cohesive effort by Trek-Segafredo. Race leader Giacomo Nizzolo – already with two wins and a second place – pulled at the head of the peloton in the crucial kilometers ahead of the looming mountain finish, before Eugenio Alafaci, Edward Theuns, and finally, Gregory Rast paced the team’s two climbers, Julian Arredondo, and Riccardo Zoidl, to the foot of the 20-kilometer ascent.
The peloton easily swallowed the day’s eight-man breakaway, and the steep gradients of the long climb soon pared down its numbers to 14 with seven kilometers remaining. Arrendondo and Zoidl ignored the few early attacks; instead, they played a cool and calculated climbing game that paid off in the end.
Five kilometers from the top, Zoidl accelerated, and the group split with three leaders surging ahead. Zoidl’s final blow came with two kilometers to go. This time, no one could respond, and Zoidl opened a gap that he held to the line to take the win by 28 seconds over Matija Kvasina (Synergy Baku Cycling Project).
Kvasina will wear the leader’s jersey into the 40-kilometer team time trial tomorrow after Zoidl lost time in stage two, a result of a late crash splitting the peloton. Zoidl sits in second place at 19 seconds.
Zoidl: « I knew the climb was very long and that you have to pace it and wait and wait. Dirk (Demol, director) told me to wait until the last moment. With five kilometers to go, I tried to split it a little bit and then we were three guys. I felt good, so I decided to go early – at 2kms to go – and yeah, it worked out. It’s an amazing day for me.
« It’s was a pity that I lost 50 seconds on the second stage with the crash, but after two victories and now again today we are really motivated; we will go full gas tomorrow, and we will see. »
Article by Tim Vanderjeugd
Photos credit: KL Photo