In a heart-stopping finish, Iúri Leitão of Caja Rural-Seguros RGA proved to be the dark horse during the second stage of the CRO Race. With a strategic sprint from 250 metres out, Leitão triumphed, leaving the likes of Elia Viviani from Ineos Grenadiers, stage 1 victor, scrambling to reclaim the lead.
Viviani, the robust Italian, managed to surge ahead of Alexander Kristoff from Uno-X, securing second place. However, he couldn’t bridge the gap to the swift Portuguese racer. The move was a show of sheer strength and strategy, exemplifying why races aren't won on paper alone.
Post-race, an elated Leitão remarked, "This win means a lot. Racing against top-tier World Tour competitors and emerging victorious underscores our team's mettle. I owe much to my team who put their faith in me." He attributed the stage's brevity to preserving energy for a striking finish.
The day's course, weaving from Biograd na Moru to Novalja, witnessed an initial four-man breakaway. Yet, major sprint teams curtailed this lead well before the climax, setting the stage for Leitão's grand coup.
Aular's Strategy Paves Leitão's Victory
Orluis Aular, Leitão’s teammate and the Venezuelan National Champion, played an integral role, maneuvering the peloton strategically, allowing the 2023 Omnium World Champion, Leitão, to break away in his signature track style.
Discussing the day’s plan, Leitão revealed, "Our aim was to position me for the sprint. My teammates did an impeccable job, especially Orluis, in the final 3 kilometers. Sensing my strength, I seized the moment to attack."
The race's dynamics were intriguing. A brief lead established by Koren, Skok, Kaspar, and Hammerschmid met with challenges as the race clock ticked crucial minutes. Coastal stretches saw the leaders fragment, with only Kaspar remaining ahead, until he too was caught during a rapid descent.
As the race moved into its final laps, the peleton’s size and the speed, touching 60km/h, hinted at an imminent sprint finish. Dominant teams like Ineos, Bahrain, and DSM amplified the pressure, but the stage saw an unexpected twist when Caja Rural-Seguros RGA took the reins. None could retaliate swiftly enough.
Despite the upset, Viviani clings to the overall lead as the riders gear up for stage 3, spanning 133km from Otačac to Opatija. However, with a mere six-second gap separating him from Leitão, the competition at CRO Race remains fierce and unpredictable.