Jan Polanc says it’s an “incredible feeling” to become the first UAE Team Emirates rider to win a Grand Tour stage and is convinced this is just the start of more success for the newly-formed side.
Headwinds and a tricky course faced the elite field as they tackled the 118 kilometre first mountain stage from Cefalu to Etna in the Giro d’Italia following a day’s rest.
And the 25-year-old Slovenian showed why he’s a specialist in climbing by using all his experience and skill to pull away from a four-man group and cross the finish line in just over four hours and 55 minutes in the fourth stage of the race.
The result not only saw him claim his first win since the fifth stage of the 2015 edition, but also wrote himself into UAE Team Emirates’ history books with their maiden triumph in a Grand Tour on their debut season on the World Tour.
Understandably, Polanc was still coming to terms about delivering his best result in two years and his most special so far.
“It’s really exciting to be the first rider from UAE Team Emirates to win a grand tour stage,” he told Sport360°.
“This is a new project with a new team. I want to thank all the staff and management because without them it wouldn’t be possible to win the race. To be honest, it’s not sunk in yet but for me to win the first stage for my team is an incredible feeling.
“When I was a kid, it was always a dream of mine to race in the big races like the Giro d’Italia and it’s now a reality. I always watched the race on TV every year and it was my dream to compete. Now I’m here riding in my third Giro and it’s an incredible feeling to win.
“I hope this win has put the UAE on the map in the cycling world. It’s important for the UAE country as a whole on this result and we are all proud to be riding for this team.”
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamUAEAbuDhabi) May 9, 2017
He added: “If you compare it to my 2015 win, then this is definitely more special because I had to put in a lot of effort for this race.
“Today, it was definitely not easy to ride there because I was in a group of riders and that meant you had to move together and be as fast you we can so you can keep up.
“There was a lot of wind that made things even more difficult especially as there was so many kilometres to go and a lot of climbs.
“In the end, there wasn’t much energy in me but I managed to hold on for the win even though the wind and riders made it difficult for me.
“It was a similar race as I did two years ago but given the whole context, this is more special.”
Polanc will now wear the blue jersey as leader of the mountains classification when the race resumes with a 159km course from Pedara to Messina today.
Another sixteen stages await the elite riders before the 3,609.1 km prestigious race concludes in Milan on May 28.
With four more mountain stages still to come, Polanc was wary of replicating his success but was confident any of his eight team-mates can follow in his footsteps and stand on the top of the podium.
“It’s hard to say if I can win more. There’s still a long way to go and there are plenty of stages that we have to race. So I will just take it day by day and hope for something good,” he said.
“We have a good team and there are a lot of opportunities for us to do well here. I think all the riders can take confidence from this win because it’s for the whole team and hopefully there will be more good results to come.
“This team is really special and it’s a new project. We will grow in every race and all the guys are really ambitious to bring good results and we all understand well together.”