FLAT OPENING STAGE OF TOUR OF CROATIA
Koprivnica, 18th April – Good start at first stage of Tour of Croatia for BAHRAIN MERIDA Team. The riders worked hard for Team’s captain, Vincenzo Nibali, and kept him in the front. The Team is looking forward to tomorrow’s mountain challenge.
Third edition of Tour of Croatia started today in Osijek, capital of Slavonija, Croatia’s most eastern region. “A race through nature’s beauties”, how the organizers call it, is a 6-stage race, full of diversities regarding weather conditions, which is one of its specifics.
The 1st stage (227 km) of Tour of Croatia is the only flat stage of the race and it started today, on a cloudy and rainy day with a slight S wind of 6 km/h and 9°C. The roads were wet from the start but after 40 km the rain stopped. A breakaway group of 5 riders was formed soon before Belišće (22,5 km) and made a maximum gap of almost 10 minutes. After Đurđevac (150 km) the peloton got much closer and the gap dropped to 2 minutes; it became clear that the breakaway quintet would be caught sooner or later. BAHRAIN MERIDA riders were keeping their block throughout the whole race, giving good shelter from the wind to Vincenzo Nibali, the team leader. The key goal for the team was to assist Vincenzo, work hard for the common goal in general classification and to avoid any unnecessary risk at today’s rainy, cold and flat stage.
At Ludbreg (Cat. 3, 202,8 km), the only climb at today’s stage, the peloton started to get closer and just 10 km before the finish swallowed the breakaway. In the end the bunch practically crossed the finish line with the same time as the winner. Today’s stage victory went to Sasha Modolo from UAE Team Emirates with time of 5:24:19. Ramunas Navardauskas was the best rider of BAHRAIN MERIDA Team, on 17th place.
Vincenzo Nibali, who finished 20th, said after the race: »Today was a perfect day, with a normally long stage. It is very cold, only 9°C, but conditions are very good. Tomorrow we expect a hard climbing stage. I tested my conditions for climbs and it is perfect, I feel good. My teammates did a good job today, last 3km were not so good, because we are not sprinters, but tomorrow the conditions will be better for us.«
Paolo Slongo, sports director, commented: “It was a sprinters’ stage that did not suit our Team so much, but we defended pretty well and were able to keep Nibali in the front and away from risks. We can say that it was a good stage for us and we are focused on tomorrow’s race with a climb finish.”
KL-Photo of photos and Goran Razic Cinematography of video.