Fight for Green is decided, Visconti takes emotional victory
The queen stage of 26th Tour of Slovenia delivered the final battle for the green jersey of the race leader, and we can now say that Italian Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) won the race for the second time in his career (after 2011). Winner of the 4th stage from Nova Gorica to Ajdovščina is Giovanni Visconti (Neri Sottoli–Selle Italia–KTM), in the very top was again Slovenian Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates).
“The race will ‘break’ in the third stage, and decide in the fourth on the climb to Predmeja.” These were the words of Race Director Bogdan Fink ahead of the Slovenian tour and the race is really developing according to this scenario. We can’t declare Ulissi as a winner yet, but gap of 22 seconds is more than enough to secure the title tomorrow.
Day started in rainy weather in Nova Gorica. First attacks happened right away from the start, but the successful break came only when Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) attacked. He was of course after the points from the intermediate sprints and for the red jersey. After that he backed down, and the rest of the break was eventually caught before the start of the nine kilometers long climb to Predmeja.
Team Gazprom-Rusvelo send their ‘solders’ to the first row immediately and started the climb with brutal pace for their leader Aleksandr Vlasov. They wanted to take him away from Ulissi and they actually did that, but when Vlasov attacked Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) followed right away and covered the attack. This gave race leader enough time to come back to the front, Giovanni Visconti (Neri Sottoli–Selle Italia–KTM) also joined the party. There were moments where it seemed that Tadej could go ahead, but he stayed with his teammate; after the finish he said: “Our goal was to defend the green jersey, and we did that perfectly, the whole team was working together. Each of us gave 100 percent. Team Gazprom-Rusvelo started with very strong pace on climb to Predmeja, Vlasov attacked shortly after that. I covered his attack and waited for Ulissi. I’m happy with my race, I’m stronger with each of the stages and I’m giving my best. I wish the race would be longer.”
Four riders came together on the top of the climb and stayed together all the way to bottom of the Vipava Valley. They were happy with the 30 seconds lead they had over three chasers - including Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) – and wanted to decide the race in the last meters. Slovenian fans of course wanted to see Pogačar in the first place, but it was Giovani Visconti’s day. After very emotional victory he explained: “We’re waiting for this stage from start of the race, and it really turned out to be the important one. I was waiting for the sprint finish, our sports director is always saying that you either win or loose the race in the sprint. Today it worked out for me. I want to dedicate this victory to my dear friend Massimo, who tragically died two days ago.” This was first non-World Tour victory on the Tour of Slovenia after 2015!
Vlasov was riding very bravely, but lost second overall to Visconti. Consolation award for him is the blue jersey of KOM that he can’t loose anymore.
Diego Ulissi was of course also happy with the outcome of the stage: “The stage was hard, with rain in the beginning and hard climb on the end. Vlasov launched a strong attack, but Pogačar had him covered. I want to congratulate Visconti for the stage victory. I also want to thank Pogačar for his help on my way to defend the green jersey. This was a climb for the pure climbers, and I’m not that. Tadej did excellent job in the beginning of the climb when he covered the attack, I had some problems at that point and only caught with them later.”
Fight for Green is decided, but the race if far from over. Last stage from Trebnje to Novo mesto will be very interesting, especially in the very last part with the new entry to Main Square. Big surprises are possible there.
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