The second stage in Slovenia started in Žalec, riding 147 km through the hilly Štajerska region with two Cat 2 climbs and three intermediate sprints, with the final on the top of the hill over Celje. The strategy was to reach the penultimate climb in a good position for Matej Mohorič, which Team Bahrain Victorious riders succeeded in. Matej was able to ride downhill on his tempo and catch the chasers but not today’s winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). Matej took 2nd place.
Matej commented after the race: “Today’s end of the stage was very demanding, also due to the downpour, which made the penultimate and last ascent even more difficult. We dictated a strong pace before starting the penultimate ascent, which diluted the group and allowed me to ride the slope at my own pace and catch the connection to the chasers group at the top. Tadej Pogačar was too strong, and he was out of reach. I was already on the descent to make a difference, but the other three riders from the UAE team eliminated that difference, and then in the final sprint, I managed to reach 2nd place, which was the best I could reach on this stage. We will try to defend this position and get on the podium in Novo Mesto.”
Sports director Gorazd Štangelj: “It was quite predictable that on the 1st bonus sprint, it would be the big fight for the bonus and the points. Our riders did a great job, Matej took 3 seconds, and Phil took points for his jersey. In the end, we did a maximum more than expected. Let’s say we would expect top 10 places but hardly 2nd place. Tadej was outstanding, but then behind was a battle for the 2nd position. Matej tactically was perfect and brought home the best possible.”
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