Day four of the Istrian Spring Trophy proved to be a thrilling finale to an entertaining 14th edition of the Croatian stage race. Alex Frame (JLT Condor) had set his sights on taking a second stage win, and with the support from solid lead out train, duly delivered.
How the race unfolded
Perfect prologue for JLT Condor. Alex Frame and Ian Bibby shot to the top of the standings after the prologue on the opening day. Frame took the lead in the race by setting the fastest time over the 2km circuit. “The prologue was perfect for me. I put in 110% and I knew I could win it.” explained Alex Frame.
Ian Bibby set the second fastest time in the coastal port of Umag putting the rider in a good position to attack the general classification overall.
Day two featured a narrow cobbled climb to a steep summit finish in Labin. With many riders marking Ian Bibby, Swiss rider Fabian Giger hit out on his own to take a solo stage win, five seconds clear of Ian Bibby who crossed the line in third.
Day three from Vrsar to Motovun was another lumpy day in the saddle for the squad and the climb to the finish tore the race apart.
“We rode the front pretty much all day. We let a break of 3 go, then kept them at 3 mins, they eventually came back. Which was great because I could grab seconds in the intermediate sprints.” explained Ian Bibby.
Bibby then sprinted to the Hot Spot bonus and gained three bonus seconds. Into the final 15 kilometres and a flurry of attacks came from Austrian Continental squad Amplatz – BMC and German squad Team Sunweb. “We had to cover alot of moves. Ian had to really battle to take 4th spot. It meant he missed out a bonus second at the finish but retained his 2nd place on GC.” explained John Herety
Former Solvenian National Champion Matej Mugerli, claimed the stage win and took hold of the yellow jersey with just one day remaining.
The final day featured a 156km loop from Pazin to Umag. Racing was fast from the gun with several riders trying to establish a breakaway to distance themselves from Alex Frame, who was clear favourite for the stage win.
JLT Condor worked hard to control the attacks to ensure the bunch would be all together for the run in to the line. At 10km to go Tom Moses and Ali Slater took up the pace making and JLT Condor riders formed a lead out train for Alex Frame. With 1km to go Russell Downing hit the front with Alex Frame on his wheel and no one could stay with the pace of the rider from New Zealand.
“Another stage win is great. Everyone in the team worked hard for that stage win, I am glad I could bring it home.” explained Alex Frame after the race.
Evaluating the performance in Croatia, team manager, John Herety was pleased with the six-man squad. “We were very strong in Croatia. It has been a good two weeks and stepping stone to Tour de Normandie and Tour de Taiwan, both at the end of this month.”
“We’ll regroup and final selections will be made for the squads going to Taiwan and Normandy. Both are tough UCI stage races and riders form is good to do well in both.”