The Latvian was Trek-Segafredo’s protected sprinter for Stage 4 of Tour de Hongrie and he rose to the occasion, sprinting to second place.
The 27-year-old Latvian finished runner-up, hot on the heels of stage winner Jakub Mareczko (Team CCC) who out-sprinted the competition to take his third victory in a row.
With just two short Cat-3 climbs on the menu and pan-flat final sector the 180km stage 4 from Sarospatak to Kazincbarcika the day looked set to favor the fast men in the bunch once again.
Nevertheless, the attacks came thick and fast as soon as the flag dropped, but after one hour of racing, no breakaway had managed to stick. Junior World Champion Quinn Simmons seized the opportunity to grab some bonus seconds in the first intermediate sprint. Eventually, five riders broke clear and opened a gap of three minutes on the peloton, amongst them Chris Harper (Jumbo-Visma) who was the last of the escapees to be caught after a brave 15km solo effort.
The sprinter teams, including Trek-Segafredo, moved to the front as the race entered the final 15km and drove a high pace. A crash just inside the flamme rouge took down the Yellow Jersey but the perfect positioning of the Trek-Segafredo train at the front enabled Liepiņš to commit to his sprint untroubled.
Alex Kirsch did a big turn before Matteo Moschetti hit the front launching Liepiņš who opened his sprint with 150m to go. With his fast kick Liepiņš powered to a second place on the line, only beaten by a red-hot Mareczko (Team CCC), who took his third victory in a row.
The team decided that I deserved an opportunity today and I was really happy and excited to take this responsibility. Once again, the teamwork was amazing and my teammates did a perfect lead-out.
Unfortunately, Mareczko looks to be really strong at the moment, and personally I was a bit stressed because It’s been a long time since I went for a sprint myself. I’m happy with my podium and to experience that feeling of fighting for the victory again.
Our tactic was to make the race hard in the end because there were the laps with two climbs. Quinn (Simmons) attacked quite a few times to tire the legs of the opposition and then the rest of the team was perfect setting up the final sprint. I’m very thankful for this opportunity
It was the first podium of the season for Emīls Liepiņš who, earlier in the season, helped Moschetti to two wins in Mallorca as his last lead-out man.
The Tour de Hongrie concludes this Wednesday with a mountaintop finish stage 5.