Boy van Poppel sprinted to another fourth place finish in a hot and long stage four at the Tour of Poland Tuesday.
The 238-kilometer flat parcours was projected to end in a bunch sprint, and when the last of the day's breakaway was caught with five kilometers remaining, the expected finish was in order.
In the last kilometers Marco Coledan was a big force for van Poppel, and he powered to the front with Boy on his wheel under the red kite signifying the final kilometer. It's Coledan's first race since recovering from an injury sustained in May, and today he showed his form is quickly returning.
Van Poppel was placed in prime position, but it was Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) who profited from a textbook leadout in the final meters and sprinted to the win.
As the sprint kicked into its final gear, Boy van Poppel, tucked behind Danny van Poppel (Sky) and Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe), couldn't find an open door and sprinted to fourth. It was another moment where a little luck could have played the ending differently, but van Poppel was not holding any grudges.
He's happy to finally have these opportunities to show he can sprint against some of the world's best, and a fourth place is more than enough proof.
"In the first stage I was a little bit too much in the wind, in the second day I was happy with fourth – maybe I was too early though– and today I had really good legs, but I didn't have the space to come out," explained van Poppel. "I was waiting and waiting, and when I wanted to start my sprint I was in-between my brother (Danny van Poppel) and Peter Sagan, and I couldn't move left or right, and I was bumping into them and had to wait and hope no one was passing on the left.
"But I am happy with my fourth place again. Of course, I don't say that I would have won today, but if I had the full space to do my full sprint, I could have really played for the victory. Yeah, every day I am showing myself up there in the sprint and showing also that I can be one of them."
It was the longest stage of the seven-day race, and the temperatures hovered around 37-39 degrees (Celsius), making for a tedious and scorching five and a half hours on the bike.
With the sprinters' teams interested in a bunched finish there was little chance for the day's escapees, and little to do in the peloton but ride it out, making sure to stay hydrated and as physically - and mentally - fresh as possible for the last kilometers.
"It was really hot and a really long day and all day lined out. I had one big goal, and then I can focus on that, but if you are not doing the sprint, I am sure it was even more of a long day," added van Poppel. "But I could focus on the sprint, and then you stay busier in the head, thinking about nutrition - eating and drinking on time. The team helped me with fresh bottles, and I really drank a lot today. I didn't count how many, but for sure it was really a lot!"
The hills return for Wednesday's stage five, which could prove too much for the sprinters, but Boy van Poppel was not counting himself out of the running.
"I was happy that I felt strong after such a long race. Tomorrow looks hard, but if I can survive the climbs then who knows? Maybe I can still be up there in the finale. So now we think about the recovery and then see how tomorrow goes," he said.