The winner of the 2011 Tour de Pologne is Slovakian Peter Sagan (Liquigas Cannondale). There could not have been a more thrilling, inspiring final for the Polish stage race. Peter Sagan accomplished quite a feat, fighting like a lion to gain a 2 second advantage at the intermediate point and then jostling for second place in the final sprint behind stage winner Marcel Kittel. For Sagan, this second place was worth the final victory in the Tour de Pologne. However an honourable mention goes to Irishman Daniel Martin, who came in second, who defended himself to the end with the help of his team mates on Garmin-Cervelo, yet who had to render the yellow jersey to the Slovak. Final third place went to Italian Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil).
The seventh and grand finale stage in the Tour de Pologne took place today, Saturday August 6th, against the splendid background of a city circuit which was magnificently installed in the centre of Krakow by the organisers of the race. Krakow is the city which best symbolises Karol Wojtyla, the great Pope John Paul II, and today's stage was dedicated to his memory. The stage consisted of 10 laps around a 12.4-kilometre circuit for a total of 128 kilometres of spectacular show, with everyone's attention riveted on the nail biting battle for the yellow "Skandia" jersey of the overall winner. This Tour de Pologne really came down to the wire; in fact at the start of today's stage there were only 3 seconds separating the leader, Daniel Martin, from Peter Sagan and Marco Marcato.
It was a Polish rider, Jacek Morajko (CCC Polsat), who got things started and riled up the home crowd when he set off on a solo attack after the first few kilometres. With 5 laps to go to the finish, the Moldavian National Champion Alexandr Pliuschin (Katusha) caught up to Morajko to form a pair in command of the race. The situation in the head of the race changed around the 49 km mark with a quartet made up of: Alexandr Pliuschin and Luca Paolini (Katusha), Daniele Righi (Lampre) and Tomasz Marczynski (CCC Polsat).
Behind them the Liquigas Cannondale group was busy carrying Sagan to try and clinch the 3 second bonus in play at the Fiat intermediate mark, placed at 30km from the arrival. Here Heinrich Haussler, Martin's team mate, got the best of it, but Sagan busted an exciting, combative sprint for a valiant second place which gave him a 2 second bonus, taking him to just one second away from Martin in the general classification.
There were still plenty of attacks before the final sprint, with the super-generous Tomasz Marczynski (CCC Polsat) together this time with Nelson Oliveira (Radioshack). And it was in none other than the final sprint that Sagan accomplished his feat, giving it everything he had and managing to obtain second place over the finish line, beaten only by the strongest sprinter in the pack, Marcel Kittel, in his fourth personal win in this Tour de Pologne. However, his second place gave Sagan a 6 second bonus that allowed him to supersede Martin and shoot to the top of the standings.
"I'm thrilled," says the winner Sagan that took as special prize a brand new Fiat Freemont . "I have to thank the team, which was also extraordinary today. After the second place in the intermediate sprint I knew that I had to give it my all in the arrival as well. I put in everything I had and fortunately I managed to close out in second place. I knew that I could win or lose this race for only a matter of seconds. I gave it my all and this is the most wonderful victory in my career, because I built it day after day with stubborn obstinacy."
"Today there wasn't much I could do to win the race," says Martin in second place. "Haussler was great in the intermediate sprint. Some riders came up to congratulate me after the intermediate mark but I knew that Sagan could also win the final sprint. It's too bad, but I proved that I'm the strongest on climbs in one of the races I love the most. Now I hope I can improve even more as I look forward to the Vuelta."
"I tried for the final sprint again today," explains Marcato, third of the general "but it isn't one of my strongest points. Yesterday I suffered a lot but I stuck it out. It was a challenging week but I obtained the best result in my career by sucking it up and staying concentrated day after day. I'm really happy."
"I wasn't nervous; the sprint was really fast," says the stage winner Kittel. "The lead out was not the same in these last few days but I managed to find a small opening and eke past. I didn't expect to win 4 stages; I was hoping to win one. It's an immense joy, even because I hung in there on the climbs in the hard stages and I managed to finish this Tour de Pologne. I'm still very young; I still have time to grow, so I don't really feel a lot of pressure. This race will definitely remain in my head and in my heart for my entire life."
As far as the other rankings, Poland celebrated with Michal Golas (Vacansoleil), who took the cyclamen "Tauron" jersey for the Mountain Grand Prix and Adrian Kurek (Poland) who captured the red "Fiat" jersey as the most active rider in the group. On the other hand, Peter Sagan is also going home with the white & green "Plus" jersey for the points' classification. The Vacansoleil team won the final classification for teams.
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Watch and download photos from the 7th stage, © Tour de Pologne (free usage).