Sad that he did not win the laurels for a stage win, but happy that he moves to the top of the overall standings. This describes, in the eyes of young Italian, Filippo Zana (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane), the final few metres of the third stage of the SAZKA Tour. In the final metres of the climb to Dlouhá stráně, he was overtaken by Tobias Halland Johannessen of Norway (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team). The best of the Czechs was again Jan Hirt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), who finished seventh, and goes into the final stage with the same position in the overall standings.
For the second time in this year’s race, the organisers placed the finish line at the end of a climb, which would obviously favour the hill climbers. The riders set a quick pace right from the start of the 144-kilometre stage in Moravská Třebová. There were frequent break-away attempts, but after the first major climb six riders managed to pull away, including Dominik Neuman (Elkov Kasper). He was very active, coming second in two climbs (Horní Město and Skřítek), and actually won one of the sprints, which earned him a place on the podium as the most active rider of the stage.
However, the break-away group was unable to build even a three-minute lead, and during the first climb to Dlouhé stráně they were absorbed back into the peloton. Up the ten-kilometre climb a group of twenty riders crystalized at the front around three Elkov Kasper riders, Adam Ťoupalík, Michael Kukrle and Jakub Otruba. The group also included Hirt and other favourites.
During the second climb it looked hopeful for Kukrle, who was in a break-away together with a pair of riders, but they were caught seven kilometres from the finish line. Shortly afterwards, the Zana-Johannessen pair pulled away from the others and fought for the victory right up to the line. Around 500 metres from the line, Zana dug deep, gained the lead and seemed to be heading for a double on Dlouhé stráně, where he won two months ago in the U23 Peace Race. This time, however, it wasn’t to be as his opponent put in an excellent finish on the steepest part of the climb to pass him. Estonian Rein Taaramae (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) came home in third place half a minute behind. In the yellow jersey, Australian Nicholas Schultz (Team BikeExchange) finished fourth with a deficit of 40 seconds and dropped to the same position in the overall standings.
The quartet of riders in the top Czech team, Elkov Kasper, Jakub Otruba, Michael Kukrle, Adam Ťoupalík and Jan Bárta, finished in the second ten, with similar positions in the overall standings. "I think that from our perspective it is good. The four of us, who are going for the overall standings, were there and we put in a good performance. This year's race was set out for climbers, which we are not. The course profile would have suited Michal Schlegel, but unfortunately he is not here for obvious reasons. The race will finish tomorrow in Šternberk, and there is still the opportunity to mix things up, we are not giving up," said Michal Otruba after crossing the line in fourteenth place.
stage: Moravská Třebová - Dlouhé stráně (143.2 km):
1. T. H. Johannessen (Nor./Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) 3:48:41, 2. Zana (It./Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) +3, 3. Taaramae (Est./Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) +29, 4. Schultz (Aust./Team BikeExchange) +40, 5. Zoidl (Rak./Team Felbermayr - Simplon Wels) +40, 6. Covili (It./Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) +53, 7. Hirt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) +1:12, ...14. Jakub Otruba +1:52, 16. Kukrle +1:52, 18. A. Ťoupalík +2:22, 19. J. Bárta +2:22, 45. Zahálka (all Elkov Kasper) +14:04, 49. Turek (Team Felbermayr - Simplon Wels) +14:04, 55. Neuman +14:04, 60. Petr Kelemen (both Elkov Kasper) +16:12, 78. M. Vacek (Gazprom - RusVelo) +21:18.
Standings after the 3rd stage:
1. Zana 12:24:09, 2. T. H. Johannessen +22, 3. Taaramae +29, 4. Schultz +30, 5. Zoidl +49, 6. Covili +1:05, 7. Hirt +1:19, ...13. Kukrle +2:16, 15. Otruba +2:33, 16. A. Ťoupalík +2:44, 18. Bárta +3:48, 33. Turek +14:47, 45. Zahálka +18:52, 51. Neuman +20:58, 56. Petr Kelemen +23:30, 80. M. Vacek +35:25.