On the second stage — and only day for the sprinters — of the Tour of Slovenia, BikeExchange sprinter Dylan Groenewegen showed excellent form ahead of the Tour de France. The Dutch sprinter decisively beat Alpecin Fenix’s Lionel Taminiaux and UAE Team Emriates’ Pascal Ackermann in a bunch sprint at Rogaška Slatina. Tim Merlier meanwhile was dropped by the peloton and finished in the second group.
“It was a small bunch sprint after the climbing was on, but I can survive it thanks to my teammates,” Groenewegen said. “We timed it really perfect, but in the last corner, Bahrain boxed me in. It was really hard but I can follow Luka [Mezgec] in that corner, and then we had to wait so we could go again. I got some space and it was enough.”
When asked about the strong sprinters he beat Groenewegen added, “Merlier was not in the bunch, I think. He was dropped in the climbs. It was a little bit shit, I like to sprint to win against the best sprinters, but I was in the bunch group with Ackermann and he is a really fast guy with his whole team around him, but we did a perfect job and took the sprint.”
After a mixed showing at the mountain-heavy Dauphiné (where his best place was eighth on stage 6) Groenewegen was able to prove that he could withstand the rolling hills of the Štajerska region even with a hell-bent Bahrain driving on the front. Around 40 kilometers to go, Bahrain put Matej Mohorič and Jan Tratnik on the front and the pair blew the peloton apart in an effort to help their newest member, fast-man Matevž Govekar, who finished ninth. During this effort, Ackermann and Merlier were both dropped. However, despite the chaos, Ackermann was able to bridge back to the peloton, but had to burn quite a lot of candles to do so.
Groenewegen meanwhile stayed together in the bunch surrounded by teammates, keeping him from the wind until the last 4 kilometers when Bahrain finally relented. BikeExchange was then able to assemble a full sprint train that proved that much stronger than the others, thus fulfilling the team’s main goal for the week.
The sprint in the Tour of Slovenia is another feather in the cap of Groenewegen’s first season with Team BikeExchange. Earlier this year, he won the 1.1. race Veenendaal-Veenendaal classic, a sprint in the Tour de Hongrie, and two stages of the Saudi Tour. However the season has also posed some challenges, notably a DNF in Scheldeprijs and an ill-fated showing at Paris-Nice. Going into the Tour de France, the sprinter seems to have been working out some of those kinks.