Stuart Pickering's picture

Bernal and Grosu celebrate on the Piața Mare

In a Sunday evening sprint finish on the Piața Mare, Eduard Michael Grosu (Team Romania) finally took a stage win in his home race while Egan Bernal became the first-ever Colombian to win the Sibiu Cycling Tour. The Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia rider took the yellow jersey with two convincing wins in the mountains and defended it during the final stage of the race. Swiss riders Colin Stüssi and Valentin Baillifard rounded out the podium in the seventh edition of the Transylvanian cycling race, and stage winner Eduard Grosu could also celebrate the win of the red jersey for the best Romanian rider. 

Looking back on the race

The 2017 edition started on Wednesday with a prologue in the Historical Centre of Sibiu won by Andrea Palini (Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia). On stage one, Edwin Ávila (Team Illuminate) took over the yellow leader's jersey with a surprise win from a long breakaway. The Colombian's race lead only lasted one day though: When the race headed into the mountains the next day, it was his countryman Egan Bernal (Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia) who celebrated two convincing solo victories on the climbs to Bâlea Lac and Păltiniş, taking a commanding overall lead and defending it without problems on Sunday's final stage of the race.

The final stage

The general classification was settled before the final day, but Sunday's stage was still a fought-for affair with four mountain sprints on the 148.4 km starting and finishing in Sibiu and the blue jersey for the best sprinter still on the line in the three intermediate sprints. Especially the climbs of Ruși and Slimnic inside the final 25 km of the stage offered a breakaway or late attackers a real chance to spoil the sprinters' plans before the high-speed descent to Sibiu, followed by a hectic run-in through the city finishing with a cobbled uphill finish into the Historical Centre.

The start of the stage was quite hectic as well with plenty of breakaway attempts during a rapid first hour of racing in which the riders covered 48.5 km. The first intermediate sprint was won by Damian Lüscher (Roth - Akros) who the lead in the sprint classification with that, and shortly afterwards a group of six riders got clear. Their advantage was never above two minutes though..

Riccardo Cenghialta (Unieuro Trevigiani - Hemus 1896), Nicolas Samparisi (D'Amico Utensilnord), Mel van der Veekens (Monkey Town Continental Team), Andrea Ruscetta (GM Europa Ovini), Žiga Horvat (Adria Mobil), and Griffin Easter (Team Illuminate) were kept on a short leash by the Romanian National Team and CCC Sprandi Polkowice who tried to set things up for their sprinters Eduard Michael Grosu and Maciej Paterski who still eyed a chance to celebrate their first victories in the Sibiu Cycling Tour.

The Italian Samparisi turned out to be strongest climber from the breakaway group, and with an attack on the final climb in Slimnic, he tried to spoil the sprinters' plans, but in the end he couldn't defend his 20-second lead over the final 10 kilometres, and after a last-minute attack by Daniel Crista (Christina Jewelry-Kuma) was neutralised, it all came down to a sprint in the cobbled finish on the Piața Mare. Due to a crash on the last three kilometres, only some twenty riders ended up sprinting for the victory.

After coming just short of winning the first stage a couple of days ago, this time there was no one who could challenge Romanian Eduard Michael Grosu (Team Romania). The Romanian sprinted away from his rivals on the cobbled climb into the Historical Centre and took his first victory on home soil ahead of Maciej Paterski (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) and Francesco Gavazzi (Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia).

For the Italian Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia team there was more to celebrate than Gavazzi's third place today as his team mate Egan Bernal won not only the general classification of the race but also took the white points jersey and the orange one for the best U23 rider. 0711|Cycling rider Moritz Fußnegger defended his green jersey for the best climber during the final stage, Damian Lüscher took the blue jersey for the winner of the intermediate sprint classification and his Roth - Akros team also could celebrate the first place in the Sibiu Cycling Tour team classification. Eduard Grosu became the best Romanian rider of the race, wearing his red jersey with pride on top of the podium in Sibiu's old town.

The stage winner Eduard Michael Grosu was overjoyed: “Finally! I've waited three years for this stage win. They changed the finish this year, maybe that broke the spell for me … I had only two teammates left, and they did a great job, bringing back the break and shutting down the last attacks. Then I went on the cobbled climb with 300 metres to go and got a big gap that nobody could close.”

For Egan Bernal, this was an important victory: “I rate this as my biggest win so far. The other races I've won were 2.2, this is 2.1 against some good competition, so I'm very happy to win like this. Today's stage was pretty quiet for me, it was just about getting through in one piece. Now I will go home to Colombia for a break, then I will target the Tour de l'Avenir and the Italian autumn races.”

Patrick Banfi, the Roth - Akros sports director, explained how the team took the blue jersey on the final stage: “We were targeting the first sprint since it was likely that a breakaway would sweep up the points on the remaining sprints. Damian won it in fashion and had then won three sprints to Tivani's two, giving him the jersey. We also have two riders on the overall podium and won the team classification, so we're quite happy with this result.”

Stage 4 podium:

1.  Eduard Michael Grosu (ROU) Team Romania 3:21:24

2.  Maciej Paterski (POL) CCC Sprandi Polkowice 0:00

3.  Francesco Gavazzi (ITA) Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia 0:00

Final overall podium:

1.  Egan Bernal (COL) Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia 18:18:56

2.  Colin Stüssi (SUI) Roth - Akros 1:40

3.  Valentin Baillifard (SUI) Roth - Akros 2:15

Classification jersey winners:

 Egan Bernal (COL) Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia

 Damian Lüscher (SUI) Roth - Akros

 Moritz Fußnegger (GER) 0711|Cycling

 Egan Bernal (COL) Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia

 Egan Bernal (COL) Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia

 Eduard Michael Grosu (ROU) Team Romania