Zagreb, 1 October 2023 Venezuelan Orluis Alberto Aular (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) has won the eighth edition of the CRO Race cycling race, despite crashing just 200 metres before the finish line in Zagreb. New Zealander Campbell Stewart (Jayco-AlUla) took the win on the final stage, which ran a 157.5km course from Samobor to Zagreb.
At the first intermediate sprint in Sveta Nedelja, just three kilometres from the start in Samobor, Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X) was the first over the line ahead of Brit Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers) and Dane Louis Bendixen (Uno-X). Second place for Hayter on the intermediate sprint meant two bonus seconds, which was enough to reduce his gap on GC leader Aular from nine to seven seconds, while Kristoff’s three bonus seconds reduced his gap on Aular from twelve seconds down to nine.
Five riders then kicked off the front—Pole Mateusz Kostanski (Voster), Slovenian Aljaž Turk (Adria Mobil), Dane Martin Pedersen (Lidl-Trek), South African Travis Stedman (Q36.5), and Austrian Mario Gamper (Santic-Wibatech). They grabbed up the bonus points at the second intermediate sprint in Dugo Selo—Kostanski first, Turk second, and Pedersen third—leaving the general classification unchanged. The breakaway was still off the front of the bunch at the categorised climb in Sveti Ivan Zelina, where Stedman took first ahead of Kostanski and Gamper.
Upon arriving in Zagreb for the final three laps before the finish, Turk was dropped from the breakaway, but the remaining four managed to keep their gap until the final intermediate sprint, which Stedman won ahead of Pedersen and Gamper. The main group caught up the breakaway riders three kilometres before the finish line, and a fierce sprint for the stage victory ensued.
Aular crashed exactly 200 metres out from the finish line after colliding with a Bahrain Victorious rider, thus losing his spot in the final sprint despite being very well positioned. This opened an opportunity for both a win in the stage and in the general classification for experienced Norwegian rider Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X).
“Despite crashing at the very end of the race, I feel very good because I managed to take the win in the general classification. We came here with a clear goal, and that was to win the GC. The entire team worked for me all week, and you could see this today. We are leaving Croatia with two stage wins and a win in the general classification, which is a big thing for a small team like us“,
In the end, Aular kept a gap of three seconds over Kristoff; Englishman Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers) took third place in the GC, seven seconds down on Aular. Kristoff still took the blue points jersey, however, while the green king of the mountains jersey went to German Jonas Rapp (Hrinkow Advarics) and the white jersey for the best young rider went to American Magnus Sheffield (INEOS Grenadiers). Kristoff was in the lead until thirty metres out from the finish line when he was overtaken by Stewart, leaving the 36-year-old Norwegian to come in second place in both the final stage and the general classification. Slovenian Gal Glivar (Adria Mobil) took third place on the day in Zagreb.
The winner’s trophy of the eighth edition of CRO Race, the work of sculptor and designer Ivica Propadalo, was handed to Aular by Minister of Tourism and Sport Nikolina Brnjac.
At the start of the sixth stage, the riders were seen off by head of the Croatian Tourist Board’s Strategic Projects Department Dubravko Šimenc, head of the Administrative Department of Culture, Sport, and Technical Culture of Zagreb County Jadranka Dujić Frlan on behalf of the head of Zagreb County, mayor of Samobor Petra Škrobot, mayor of Sveta Nedelja Dario Zurovec, mayor of Sveti Ivan Zelina Hrvoje Košćec, and deputy mayor of Samobor Petar Burić.
The cyclists were met at the finish line by Minister of Tourism and Sport Nikolina Brnjac on behalf of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, deputy mayor of Zagreb Luka Korlaet on behalf of the city of Zagreb, management board director of Hrvatska elektroprivreda electricity company Frane Barbarić, and head of the Croatian Tourist Board’s Strategic Projects Department Dubravko Šimenc on behalf of the Croatian Tourist Board.
GC winners of Kids CRO Race announced
As a part of the official announcement of the winners, the winners of the general classification in the fourth Kids CRO Race were also announced. Winners Elena from Ozalj and Adrian from Zagreb in the younger age group and Paola from Ozalj and Nikola from Labin in the older age group took to the podium shoulder to shoulder with the winner of CRO Race.
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.More information about the race, teams, cyclists, etc. will be available on the official sites on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,