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From Schladming it gets very steep and difficult for Felix Grossschartner and Co.

From Schladming it gets very steep and difficult for Felix Grossschartner and Co.

Brandon Smith Rivera threw his hands up in Steyr. After a tough finish on the steep Borschberg, where Felix Großschartner (UAE) destroyed the field, the Ineos driver won the second stage, which had a bitter start: overall leader Max was injured in an early crash, with around 45 drivers, Wollscheid (Jaico) and other drivers falling. The race continued after a break and the trio were treated in hospital. Großschartner ended up 13th on the day. “I tried it for a while on the Borschberg, but I saw that I couldn't get away on my own,” said Großschartner. Martin Messner also showed a strong performance. The driver from WSA Graz crossed the finish line as the favorite (17).

This was the 750th professional race for Grossschartner, who has also built up a healthy self-confidence in his 14 years as a professional. “Winning the Tour is my goal and I know that I am also one of the favourites. But there are five or six others who can win. I have beaten them all before, but they have also beaten me. We will see on Sunday if that is enough.” This is his second year in the service of the “UAE” team, the team led by star Tadej Pogarar, which is also in a prime position in the Austrian Tour. “In every race we participate in, we have a first-class team and we can even run on three tracks. The amount of people in the team is huge.” “We are generally very relaxed. We help each other well, and whoever is the best is the best. “It is not like there is a fight,” says the third overall, “I am happy that I have moved up a few places. But the big goal is to win the overall on Sunday and the team is leading me.”

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In addition to his teammates Rafal Majak, Eddie Dunbar of Jesus, David Peña of “Jaico” and Rivera are also strong contenders. Superstar Filippo Ganna (Ineos) is no longer among the best in Steyr and now the terrain is no longer his match. From Schladming the mountains appear in front of the peloton. “It's a really tough start and maybe a good day for the breakaway.”

After the steep climb to Ramsau, which has been traversed twice, the first executioner awaits with the Dientner Sattel and its final, very steep slope – described by Großschartner as a “real wall” – where the heavy riders will probably be sorted out again, to a great extent. Sadly. Third place in the 2017 Ö-Tour is certainly not one of them and he proved it impressively in 2015 with the title of “Glockner King”. “At that time I had nothing to say in the general classification and I went after the Glocknerkönig. It will be even more difficult this year because there is still a long way to go until the end. The outliers will probably make their decision”, he adds with a sly smile. “The title is still very valuable, and if it comes…”