Novalja, September 27, 2023 – Portuguese Iuri Gabriel Dantas Leitao of team Caja Rural-Seguros RGA powered to victory in the hectic final sprint of stage two of this year’s CRO Race, which ran a 114.5 kilometre course from Biograd na Moru to Novalja.
Soon after the stage start, four riders broke away from the peloton—Slovenians Kristijan Koren (Adri Mobil) and Anže Skok (Ljubljana Gusto Santic), Czech Jan Kašpar (ATT Investments), and Austrian Marvin Hammerschmid (Hrinkow Advarics). Kašpar was the first through the intermediate sprint in Zadar at the 21.5 km mark, followed by Koren and Skok.
Barcelo was the first over the line at the top of the Jovići categorised climb, followed by Kašpar who had been leading until then, with Koren taking third. Given the very short stage length, the tempo in the peloton was set by INEOS Grenadiers and Elia Viviani, winner of yesterday’s first stage and current red jersey holder, who never allowed the breakaway riders more than a two-minute advantage.
Skok was dropped from the lead group immediately after crossing the bridge to Pag, with the remaining trio of Koren, Hammerschmid, and Kašpar first over the line at the intermediate sprint in Pag. This was followed by the difficult climb up Gradac, where Hammerschmid was distanced from the remaining breakaway riders; Koren was finally reeled back in by the peloton just before the top of the climb. Despite the pressure and occasional gusts of wind making riding difficult, Kašpar maintained his focus and remained at the front of the pack to take the maximum of six points in the battle for the green jersey. The remaining points went to Englishman Conor Swift (INEOS Grenadiers) and Dane Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X).
When the peloton first crossed the line in Novalja, it was led by Wilsy ahead of Spaniard Roger Adria (Kern Pharma) and Englishman Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers).
Leitao started his powerful final sprint nearly 500 metres from the line, managing to maintain his lead to the finish line over the main favourites for the stage win, yesterday’s winner Viviani and Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X), who took second and third place, respectively. Despite coming in second, Viviani remains in the lead for the blue points jersey, while Czech Michal Schuran (ATT Investments) also remains in the green king of the mountains jersey.
“This is a great victory for me and the whole team, because it came against big competitors from the World Tour. I’m thankful to my team for their trust in me and I’m happy to finally have justified that trust. The relatively short stage worked well for us as it allowed us to save some energy for the very finish“, stated Leitao.
The cyclists were seen off at the start of stage two by Biograd na Moru Tourist Board director Nives Jeličić and Ante Sjauš, head of Zadar County’s Administrative Department of Economics and Tourism.
Greeting the cyclists at the finish line were mayor of Novalja Ivan Dabo, Novalja City Council president Matej Guščić, Novalja Tourist Board director Marina Šćiran Rizner, and deputy head of Lika-Senj County Jasna Orešković Brkljačić.
The second stage of the race starts on 28 September in Otočac at 1:30 PM and finishes in Opatija; cyclists are expected to arrive in Opatija between 4:31 and 4:46 PM.
If you use photos from the folder entitled Mario Stiehl photography, please credit them to Mario Stiehl; photographs taken from the folder entitled Luis Angel Gomez should be credited to Luis Gomez/Sprint Cycling Agency.