It was a difficult and trying stage in the Tour of Slovenia for Friday’s stage 2, but Team KATUSHA’s Rein Taaramäe had it well in hand, taking both the win on the 217,2km route between Nova Gorica and the ski resort of Golte and slipping into the leader’s jersey, as well.
– It was so hard today with three big climbs – one at 11km and two at 15km. The last one to Golte averaged 7,3% with gradients up to 23%.
I had a 36 chainring in the front and even with that chainring it was hard, but I made it. It’s nice, especially since I had to change my bike because of a wheel problem three times in 15 kilometers and just before the last climb. Fortunately I had good legs and a super team. Also my team director Claudio Cozzi told me to stay calm. He knew that I would have possibilities on this final climb. He assured me I did not have to panic in advance. At 5km from the finish, we caught the last riders of a five-man breakaway and then some attacks started. Our group started to get smaller and smaller with more riders dropped.
In the end I stayed in front with my teammate Pavel Kochetkov and Jack Haig from Orica-GreenEdge. I didn’t know that young guy but he was surprisingly strong. Every time I attacked, he followed. That’s why I decided to put in one more big attack. I gave everything for several hundred meters. After 400 meters I saw Haig was dropping meter by meter. I felt the victory was for me but that last kilometer was so steep, around 15%. It seemed to never end, but in the end I made it, – said new race leader Rein Taaramäe.
Joining Rein on the stage podium were young Haig at 36-seconds and Egan Arley Bernal of Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec another fourteen seconds behind. KATUSHA teammate Pavel Kochetkov took a fine 4th place in the mountain stage. The general classification results are the same with Taaramäe the new leader with two stages to go, including Saturday’s individual time trial at 16,8km from Celje to Celjska Koča with an uphill finish.