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The last edition of the race was dominated by Peter Sagan, other stars of world cycling also made their presence known

The last edition of the race was dominated by Peter Sagan, other stars of world cycling also made their presence known

The next chapter of the Tour of Slovakia event had come to its end. The last edition of the race was the most successful one so far, starting with the best representation in history, for the first time in his carreer with also the historically best Slovak cyclist present.

 

From Wednesday to Sunday, Slovak cycling fans were given the opportunity to admire the biggest stars of world cycling on their own roads, almost at home in their living rooms. The World Tour teams have been presenting themselves on the Tour of Slovakia for several years now, but so far it was the 65th year of the race which saw their presence in highest numbers yet. Last week, up to seven teams from the highest league had presented themselves to us. Never before in the history of the event did the starting list contain a four-time winner of the Tour de France, or a three-time world champion in road cycling. Names like Peter Sagan or Chris Froome were a guarantee of quality event. But the 65th year of the race wasn’t just about these two names. Other well-known names came to Slovakia, and they didn’t came to just take a scenic ride of our country.

 

 

 

 

Peter Sagan ended the dominance of Quick-Step

 

The program of the event was tailor-made for classicists and sprinters, which is why these types of competitors dominated the teams. The German Bora – hansgrohe sent a very high-quality selection to the Tour of Slovakia, with Erik Baška, Juraj Sagan and especially Peter Sagan included in the line-up. While the first two nominees have already raced at the Tour of Slovakia, the seven-time winner of the points classification at the Tour de France was attending the largest cycling race in Slovakia for the first time. And he premiered with thunder and glory. During five days on his homecountry roads, Peter Sagan entertained the fans with his cycling, as he could be seen from the introductory prologue all the way to the final ending in Trnava. Although he did not experience a stage triumph, he finished on the podium four times, as he was second three times and third once. During his debut at the Tour of Slovakia, the three-time world champion thus dominated the overall classification, becoming the first Slovak racer to succeed in the last 16 years. He also won the points classification.

 

Even the Belgian Deceuninck – Quick-Step, who came here to defend last year’s triumph, did not go home empty-handed. Their blue jerseys were well visible at the front of the peloton from the first stage to the last, and their riders fought for the stage championship in each bunch sprint to the finish line. Eventually, they took two stage laurels home. Álvaro Hodeg, one of the biggest stars of the 65th year, took care of it during the bunch sprint in Košice, and Jannik Steimle, who defended the overall championship, won the chaotic finale in Dolný Kubín. In the end, the German cyclist could not get a yellow jersey, because he lost the sprinting duel with Peter Sagan on the last day of the race in Trnava, and thus both men were eleven seconds apart in the overall classification in the end. This year ended the three-year dominance of the riders of Deceuninck – Quick-Step team. Since 2018, the competitors of this team have been successful at winning the overall classification.

 

Also other World Tour teams became visible this year. Israel Start-Up Nation sprinter Itamar Einhorn also got to the stage victory during the final day. In it, he found himself in a break, along with the company of 25 other cyclists, including his colleagues Chris Froome and Krists Neilands. Einhorn then dominated the group’s sprint in Trnava, leaving behind Peter Sagan and Cees Ball. Einhorn won his first professional victory on the road that way. Even the Dutch sprinter from Team DSM did not leave Slovakia sad. Although he was able to assert himself only once in bunch sprints, and despite falling at the end of second stage in Dolný Kubín, and also visiting a doctor during the third stage, he still wasn’t far from winning the stage laurel in Trnava. In the end he was third. It was his best placement on the Tour of Slovakia. He also got on the third position in the overall classification.

 

Astana, Qhubeka NextHas and BikeExchange also belonged amongst the teams from the highest league to attend the Tour of Slovakia. Only the last mentioned team achieved a stage victory though, thanks to Kaden Groves who won the introductory prologue in Košice. The other two World Tour teams fought for success in the stages, but their riders didn’t manage to win in such a strong competition. The last stage winner can be found in the pro-continental team of Uno-X Pro Cycling Team. Kristoffer Halvorsen is an outstanding Norwegian sprinter and he displayed his capacity for speed in Považská Bystrica, where he managed to beat all the other sprinters and thus achieved his first victory in the last two years. It is for this reason that he will remember the 65th year of the Tour of Slovakia for a very long time, because on Slovakian roads he once again was reminded of how victory tastes.

 

 

Slovakia was also made visible by fans

 

Three Slovak teams and a total of 22 Slovakian cyclists attended the event. Two Slovakian teams, namely Dukla Banská Bystrica and Cycling Academy Trenčín and also riders from national team had been present on the race. Members of Dukla Banská Bystrica selection were especially visible. Although they did not manage to get a single valuable jersey, the club colors were made visible by Martin Haring’s performance after he spent the first stage in all-day lasting break. Lukáš Kubiš also displayed excellent performance when it comes to bunch sprints, as he finished fourth in Dolný Kubín and was extremely close to gaining the white jersey for the best rider under 23 years of age. He didn’t get it in the end, because on Sunday he failed to join the break, from which not only the winner of the stage emerged, but also the winner of this competition. Kubiš in the end achieved sixth position among competitors under 23 years of age and was the best young Slovakian racer. The third best domestic rider was Matúš Štoček. Cycling Academy Trenčín sent young cyclists to the event, for whom participation in such a large event was an important training for the future. A combination of experience and youth was also notable in the composition of the Slovakian national team.

 

When evaluating the race, we must not forget about the fans. Spectators have been supporting the modern day gladiators in large numbers since the opening day till the last. Not even a rainy and cold weather could discourage them from doing so. The presentation of the teams and the subsequent prologue was watched by fully crowded Main square in Košice and thousands of fans were also present in finish line destinations in Dolný Kubín, Považská Bystrica and Trnava. During the stage which started in Spišské Podhradie and ended in Dolný Kubín, up to 150,000 spectators found their way to join the event, setting a record for the Tour of Slovakia. The participation of a large number of spectators was also appreciated by Peter Sagan himself, as Sagan admitted in the final interview that, with the exception of Grand Tours, he doesn’t remember races with such large audiences present. Once again, we showed the world that Slovakia is a cycling country and the atmosphere was perceived and thoroughly enjoyed by all the cyclists as well. In a total of five days, hundreds of thousands of people have come to watch Slovakian roads, cheering loudly but responsibly.

 

A busy start list, world-famous winner, amazing atmosphere, a smooth course of the event, but also cold weather were all high-lights of the 65th year of the race. Once again, we managed to send an excellent response to the world. In the eyes of the cycling public, the most prestigious Slovakian cycling event once again stepped up with fame. None of the participants complained about anything, quite the contrary. On Sunday afternoon, all the stars, judges and organizers had only positive memories to share of what happened on our roads on those five days of the race. Some of the teams and riders had already expressed the desire to return to Slovakia in a year. We hope that you fans have the same desire.

 

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