Stevie Williams took a solo win and the red jersey on the queen and penultimate stage of Cro race.
Only 137.7 kilometres long, stage 5 was the make or break for the GC, with several teams looking to place themselves in the red jersey ahead of stage 6.
The action started from the beginning in Rabac as Hermann Pernsteiner, and Lazkano (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) pulled out of the peloton to break. The two of them escaped the main group and won the first mountain goal of the day, the ascent to Gračišće, with Hermann taking the top points. After that, a passing goal in Pazin awaited, and Hermann was the first again.
On the way from Viškovo to Rijeka, Yates and Stevie Williams were joined at the head of the race by Riccardo Zoidl (Felbermayr Simplon Wels) as the trio managed to create a half-minute advantage over a group of about 20 riders. In both Viškovo and Rijeka, Stevie was strongest on through the passing goal. The trio then took advantage of the unorganized chasing group from Rijeka to Opatija and increased their advantage to almost a minute. Despite the chasers eventually closing the gap by 30 seconds, it was not enough to catch the trio out front.
In the final few kilometres, Stevie was able to accelerate away from Yates and Zoidl and solo to victory. Stevie was delighted with the win: “I was afraid after the first passage through Opatija that they would catch me since we did a lot of stages and I was afraid that there was no freshness in my legs. However, somewhere three kilometres to the finish, I realized that I still had a freshness and could still pick up the pace.
My teammates positioned me well on the start of the climb Učka, which started very hard on the bottom. The group gradually got smaller and smaller. As the group, we were very lucky with Hermann’s position and Santiago in the group behind, so it was perfect for me to be with Simon. I was able to use them. I am proud of the way I raced. I am really happy to take this win for the team and myself. I am over the moon now. I am also happy to take the lead GC, and I am expecting a tough race tomorrow. I will give everything, and hopefully, I will come out with the red jersey.”
Satisfied Sports director Franco Pellizotti commented on Stevie’s win: “I am happy for the win but especially because the win goes to Stevie, who has in previous seasons suffered a lot. He succeeded in progress and went through difficult times, and here is the result. I am super happy for him.”
(All pictures can be used for editorial and non-commercial usages only and are copyright CRO race / KL Photo @TeamBahrainVictorious)
— Simona Mazzoleni to bahraincyclingteam.com