After coming close on yesterday’s opening stage today proved to be the day for ORICA-SCOTT’s Slovenian fast man Luka Mezgec who has taken the stage two win and race lead at his home race, the Tour of Slovenia.
An almost carbon copy of stage one unfolded in the hills near the Slovenian capital Ljubljana today with an early breakaway going clear over the initial climbs before regrouping over 100kilometres later as the roads leveled out towards the finish.
ORICA-SCOTT were present at the front throughout and took the race under control by sending diesel engines Svein Tuft and Chris Juul Jensen to the front with 30kilometres to go.
The duo reeled in the remnants of the break as heavy rain started to fall and were joined by Mezgec and the rest of the team as they lined out at the front, ready for the sprint.
A messy finale ensued with a big crash splitting the field on the final corner, but Mezgec’s positioning held fast and the Slovenian avoided the trouble before accelerating away to a clear victory and the race leader’s green jersey.
“I am really really happy,” said Mezgec at the finish. “We came so close yesterday to starting the race with a win and I’m overjoyed to have been able to get there today. It was a nervy finale with the slippery roads and crashes, but the boys were fantastic, they kept me at the front and out of trouble and then all I had to do was give it everything to the line.”
“It is my first win of the season and I’m very proud to have taken the victory here in the capital of my home country. It’s very special and it will be an honour for me to wear the race leader’s jersey tomorrow.”
Tomorrow’s stage three heads into the mountains for the queen stage and will certainly be a day for the general classification hopefuls, including ORICA-SCOTT’s Jack Haig who was caught up in the late crash today, but thankfully escaped without injury.
“It was super slippery out there on the closing circuits,” said sport director Matt Wilson. “There was a real downpour with torrential rain in the last 15kilometers and you could see from the crashes how bad it was. We did really well to stay out of trouble and the boys rightly decided to stay at the front which is the safest place to be.”
“I’m really happy for Luka to have gotten the stage victory, he was so motivated to win here at home and he deserves it very much, especially after coming so close yesterday. It really is satisfying. He went from a long way out and carried so much speed it’s a great victory.
“Jack went down in that last crash, but he’s ok and our plans haven’t changed, he is carrying some fatigue from Dauphine, but it’s a big day tomorrow and we are ready to give it a good crack and go from the front foot.”
How it happened:
As with the previous day’s opening stage a breakaway group slipped away early on the first climbs and developed an advantage of around five minutes on the peloton that was held for the best part of 70kilometres.
With 60kilometres remaining the sprinters teams decided enough was enough and began to eat into the lead of the frontrunners. ORICA-SCOTT sent Tuft and Juul Jensen up to the head of the peloton and the gap immediately dropped below two minutes.
The weather began to play a significant role in the final 30kilometres as heavy rain and strong winds made for some treacherous conditions on the road with a couple of crashes occurring in the bunch and no sign of the storm passing.
The peloton were persistent and always looked to be in control, making the catch with 15kilometres to go with the fight for positioning beginning in earnest.
A reduced bunch led by ORICA-SCOTT arrived on the finishing circuits with the rain continuing to pour and the road conditions getting worse as they entered the final five kilometres and more crashes at the back of the peloton.
Another crash on the final corner totally disrupted the field with Mezgec managing to avoid the carnage and accelerate away convincingly to take a well-deserved stage win on home soil.
Tour of Slovenia Stage 2 Results:
1. Luka Mezgec (ORICA-SCOTT) 03:50:51
2. Roberto Ferrari (UAE-Emirates) ST
3. Mark Renshaw (Dimension-Data) ST
General Classification after Stage 2:
1. Luka Mezgec (ORICA-SCOTT)