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Tour of Poland stage 3: Sergio Higuita surges into leader’s jersey with birthday win up steep wall

The Colombian attacked on the steepest part of the final wall to win the stage.

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Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) won Monday’s third stage at the 79th Tour of Poland in a wild uphill charge that shook up the GC.

Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) crossed the line second and Quinten Hermans (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) was third out of the explosive reduced bunch sprint.

“It’s very beautiful for me and the team. And this jersey and victory is thanks to all the hard work of the team,” Higuita said. “It was super hard, super steep. It’s short but steep. I always try to finish full-gas in a finish like this. I like these short distance climbs. I leaved a little bit of power for the last 200 meters. I waited, waited, waited, and at the top of the climb, I had the legs to continue to the victory.”

The victory came on Higuita’s 25th birthday, and it was an ideal way to celebrate.

“It’s a great birthday present for me,” he said. “It was a very long stage, with some explosive climbs and very steep. This is thanks to all the hard work from the team to protect me in all the key moments. The time trial [in stage 6] will be very decisive, and I am hoping to have a good day. Having the stage and the leader’s jersey gives me a lot of confidence.”

Colombian rider Higuita, who is preparing for the Vuelta a España, moved into the overall lead, with Bilbao and Hermans lined up behind him.

Sean Quinn (EF Education First-EasyPost) was the top American in 24th at 29 seconds back.

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At 237.9km, the longest stage of the 2022 Polish tour saw an early five-rider breakaway reeled in with less than 25km to go to carry the remnants of the main bunch to the short but steep wall to the line in Przemyśl.

BikeExchange-Jayco led the bunch to the base of the final climb at 1.6km to go, with Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) jumping first. Ineos Grenadiers closed it down after the red kite. Richard Carapaz was led out perfectly, but was swarmed in the final ramps.

A group of about 15 formed in the closing 300m on the steepest part of the finale, and Higuita attacked out of the bunch to cross the line as victor. Higuita is back in action this week since finishing second at the Tour de Suisse in June.

The race continues Tuesday with the 179.4km fourth stage Lesko to Sanok in another hilly, challenging parcours.

Early breakaway reeled in with 25km to go

Mark Cavendish, shown early in stage 3, is back in action this week. (Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

The 237.9km third stage from Kraśnik to Przemyśl was riddled with three short but steep climbs in the closing two hours of racing, and capped by the steep punchy climb to the line.

With two third-category climbs sandwiching an even harder second-category climb in a closing circuit, sprinters such as Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) struggled to remain in touch with the lead bunch.

A five-rider breakaway formed early, and built up a lead topping seven minutes. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) tried in vain to bridge out, and the lead shrank considerably once the race hit the rated climbs. The stragglers held a lead of one minute with 30km to go. The fractured bunch finally swept up the remnants of the breakaway on the day’s final climb with 22km to go.

Overnight leader Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X), who rode into early breakaways in the first two stages Saturday and Sunday to earn seconds to capture the leader’s jersey, couldn’t stay with the best in the hilly finale.

Racing under mostly sunny skies, the lead group was down to about 60 riders rushing toward the finish line.

UAE Team Emirates and Ineos Grenadiers set the pace with 10km to go leading toward the final uphill kicker to the line where the jersey and the win would play out.

What’s next: Another hard day in saddle

The 79th Tour of Poland continues Tuesday with the 179.4km fourth stage Lesko to Sanok. The climb-riddled stage features three second-category climbs, but it’s up and down all day.

It will be a rough day for the peloton’s sprinters, and there’s an unrated climb at 4.8km at 5.9 percent with 19km to go that should produce fireworks for anyone left at the front.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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