Nizzolo Wins Exciting Finish in Novo mesto
Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) easily defended the overall lead on the very exciting last stage of 26th Tour of Slovenia and took his second victory on the race. Fellow Italian Giacomo Nizzolo (Dimension Data) won the last stage – he crossed the finish line in Novo mesto ahead of Slovenian favorite Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott).
Last stage of 26th Tour of Slovenia was anything but boring, with attacks and changes in the front all day long. Real drama was happening in the last 40 kilometers, after the main group caught the breakaway and four riders launched a new attack. Team Gazprom-RusVelo was most active at the time and is the most responsible for the formation of the next group of leaders. About 20 riders were in that group and that later decided on the winner. It was an interesting mix of overall contenders and sprinters, so it was quickly clear that they will make it to Novo mesto alone and decide the stage on the last straight. The sprint finish was however a little bit less intense as expected as Pascal Ackermann (BORA-hansgrohe) didn’t start today.
Giacomo Nizzolo was in the best position and had the strongest legs today and took perfect victory. That is great addition to the second place he had from first stage. “The hardest part of the day for me was to get over the last climb. I already thought that I will not make it, but I did. That was a big effort for me, but after that I started to think that I could get it. We’re lucky that the sun came out, because of that I was feeling mentally better as well. We tried to control the race from the beginning, but I had a big question mark over our plan due to the last climb. Big thanks to the team, guys helped me a lot. I’ve really enjoyed it today,” said Italian before stepping on the top of the podium.
Luka Mezgec was second and got the points to win the red jersey: “I feel great, we’re battling all five days. We lost the red jersey in Novo mesto two years ago, this year I won it. We went on the last stage without any special tactics, we just went for the victory. We knew that the last climb can be interesting and it really was. GazProm had a very hard pace, there were only 20, 25 of us left. I felt great, also tanks to easier pace yesterday on Predmeja. I would have to be in the better position on the bridge to take victory today. Cameron Meyer came on my right, I had to brake a little bit. BORA guys went all the way to the fence. I passed them on the inside, but two of them got away. There were two riders between Cam and me on the bridge, at that moment I knew I couldn’t win. Atmosphere on the race was great. People were out there even in rain, Novo mesto was especially great. Results from the last five days are great, now I’ll go to the national champs and then take some rest.”
Overall standings were decided yesterday, Diego Ulissi just confirmed the victory when he crossed the finish line in the first group. Diego Ulissi after his 33rd career victory: “I’m really happy after this victory. I came in top form from Giro and won Grand Prix Lugano a week before Tour of Slovenia. I came to Slovenia to train, win a stage and get ready for the national championships. Suddenly the opportunity for the overall victory appeared and I grabbed it with both hands. Last stage was very hard, with rain in the first part and attack from Gazprom team later on, that were very hard moments for me. I think we risked too much on the last descent, but everything worked out great.”
Best Slovenian in the overall standings is Tadej Pogačar, who took white jersey of the best young cyclists for the third time in the row. “Team RusVelo was dictating very hard pace, they wanted to catch the breakaway riders, I wanted to get some bonus seconds. We’re not fast enough for the intermediate sprint, but they attacked again on the last climb and tried to stretch us out. We stayed with them, but the race was again very hard, like all other days. I wasn’t at my best on the first three days, but felt great on the last two. I think we needed strong legs to defend the green jersey, as there were a lot of attacks. I’ll race national champs now, after that I will take some rest. We’re talking about maybe doing Vuelta, but nothing is decided yet. If I will go I will not have a specific job,” explained Tadej after another great week of racing.
Tour of Slovenia again proved to be a very hard race, way harder than it looks on the paper. It was exciting as well, with very tight racing and number of fans on the roads of all five stages. #FightForGreen is not only race for the overall victory, is also a message with the enviormental note and representation of Slovenia as a green country for active people. All a fight worth fighting for!