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Mihaylov spoils it for the favorites in Păltiniș

Nikolay Mihaylov of CCC Sprandi Polkowice won the queen stage of the sixth Sibiu Cycling Tour finishing at Romania's oldest ski resort in Păltiniș after a 210 km stage. The Bulgarian could celebrate a surprise victory after a long day in the break, beating Italian Francesco Gavazzi (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Dutch Derk Abel Beckeringh (Parkhotel Valkenburg) by more than 3 minutes. With his win, Mihaylov also took the yellow jersey for the overall leader of the race. Best Romanian finisher was Serghei Țvetcov in 29th place.

After yesterday’s reduced bunch sprint on the Bulevardul Victoriei, it was another rapid start today when the riders headed off for the stage from the Sibiu Ambient Store. Many teams and riders tried to join the early breakaway, and it took a while to establish. Romanian Eduard Grosu was one of the first riders trying to escape, picking up the points on the early climb of Dealul Dăii, but he didn’t succeed in the end. Once 13 riders finally got clear from the bunch, around 20 km of racing were covered.

And a strong break it was: With the two Nippo-Vini Fantini riders Giacomo Berlato and Yuma Koishi, Nikolay Mihaylov from CCC Sprandi Polkowice, Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec’s Francesco Gavazzi and Richard Handley from the race leader’s ONE Pro Cycling outfit, all four Professional Continental Teams had placed themselves in the lead group. The presence of Luis Lemus, Daniel Turek (both Cycling Academy Team), Derk Abel Beckeringh, Thijs van Beusichem (both Parkhotel Valkenburg), Alex Turrin (Unieuro Willier), Mathias Skov-Jensen (Team Soigneur), Nicola Genovese (D'Amico Bottecchia) and Rubén Ramos (Tuşnad Cycling Team) meant that only eight teams had missed the move.

Normally the big teams will take care of the chasing work in the peloton, but as they were all prominently placed in the breakaway, the lion's share was on the smaller teams to take responsibility. Once they managed to organize themselves after around 50 km, the gap had already increased to 6 minutes, going further out to 9 minutes until Kilometre 100.

Over that period the breakaway battled out three intermediate sprint classifications, won by Giacomo Berlato, Nicola Genovese and Francesco Gavazzi, while green jersey Daniel Turek picked up more points to manifest his lead in the mountain competition, finishing second behind Grosu on the first category C climb of the day, third next to Berlato and Genovese on the second one, and finally first ahead of Lemus and Ramos at the third climb of that category around halfway through the stage. While the different sprint winners meant that no one could challenge blue jersey wearer Daniel Crista (Tuşnad Cycling Team), Turek’s lead was not large enough yet to be certain of keeping his jersey with the bigger climbs to come later in the stage.

With the gap to the peloton staying stable over the following 50 km, the escapees slowly started to believe that they weren't just fighting for sprint and mountain points but that the stage win and yellow jersey were also at stake. GM Europa Ovini, Stradalli - Bike Aid, Christina Jewelry, and Synergy Baku Cycling Project couldn't reduce the gap and finally stopped working with 70 km to go when the time gap was at eleven minutes. Some riders weren't happy to see their hopes dashed, though, attacking from the peloton. First Peter Schulting went clear on the flat with his Parkhotel Valkenburg teammate Joris Blokker, then Damien Garcia (Stradalli - Bike Aid), Hayden McCormick, and George Harper (both ONE Pro Cycling), and later also Emanuel Piaskowy, Chris Butler (both Cycling Academy Team), Gustav Erik Larsson (ColoQuick CULT) and Stefan Hristov (National Team Bulgaria) took off.

Up the road in the breakaway, Daniel Turek attacked on the way to Calugaru, securing 6 more points on the category B climb only to be dropped shortly afterwards on the run-in to the final ascent of the day together with van Beusichem, Skov-Jensen, Genovese and Koishi, which meant only eight riders remained in front to go into the 15 km long category A climb to Păltiniș together.

From the bottom of the climb, Nikolay Mihaylov (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) put his foot down and quickly went clear of the other seven. Riding hard all the way to the finish, he put 3:46 minutes into his breakaway companions while Gavazzi, Beckeringh and Turrin fought for the remaining two spots on the podium. Gavazzi took second place with Beckeringh ending up in third. Behind them, every rider was going at his own pace, some dropping further down while others came back from behind. As the group of the pre-stage favourites around last year's winner Mauro Finetto finished over 13 minutes down, Mihaylov now also holds a clear advantage in the general classification with a lead of 3:56 over the Italian Gavazzi going into tomorrow's mountain time trial. Best Romanian rider of the race is now Serghei Țvetcov who finished in 29th place today.

Following the podium ceremony, Mihaylov said: “We wanted to put someone in the break today to ride for the general classification, that ended up being me. I saved myself for the final climb as I could feel I was the strongest rider, then I went from far out to get as much time as possible. Now I'm happy that I can ride tomorrow's time trial without stress as I have a good advantage.”

Stage podium
 Nikolay Mihaylov (BUL) CCC Sprandi Polkowice 5:18:55
 Francesco Gavazzi (ITA) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec 3:46
 Derk Abel Beckeringh (NED) Parkhotel Valkenburg 3:59

Jersey wearers on stage 3
 Nikolay Mihaylov (BUL) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
 Daniel Crista (ROU) Tușnad Cycling Team
 Daniel Turek (CZE) Cycling Academy Team
 Marco Tecchio (ITA) Unieuro Wilier
 Serghei Țvetcov (ROU) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
 Steele von Hoff (AUS) ONE Pro Cycling, leader is Nikolay Mihaylov

The full results can be downloaded here.

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