Arriving this weekend to cure your Tour de France withdrawal symptoms is the 70th edition of the Tour of Poland, this year featuring a thoroughly exciting parcours that will see some of cycling’s best climbers battling for overall victory.
What kind of race is it?
Made up of seven stages and part of the UCI WorldTour calendar, the Tour of Poland traditionally mixes hilly stages with sprinter-friendly flat finishes. However, courtesy of an excursion across the Italian border, this time around it could be a true climber rather than a puncheur that emerges with the overall victory. The last five winners of the race are:
2008: Jens Voigt (CSC-Saxo Bank)
2009: Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC)
2010: Dan Martin (Garmin-Transitions)
2011: Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)
2012: Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale)
What happened last year?
The Liquigas-Cannondale team defended the title Peter Sagan won in 2011, with their puncheur Moreno Moser establishing his credentials as one of the most exciting young riders around. He took victory on the opening stage before losing the leader’s jersey to home favourite Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) three days later, though Moser reclaimed and retained it for good after winning the hilly penultimate stage.
The 2012 edition upheld the race’s reputation for allowing talented youngsters to flourish, with 21-year-old Moser standing beside 22-year-old runner-up Kwiatkowski and 24-year-old Sergio Henao (Sky) on the podium. Henao’s teammate Ben Swift claimed the points jersey, after two impressive sprint victories.
1. Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale) 30:15:49
2. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:05
3. Sergio Henao (Sky) +0:06
4. Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) +0:26
5. Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan) +0:28
6. Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +0:29
7. Tiago Machado (RadioShack-Nissan) same time
8. Alexandre Geniez (Argos-Shimano) s/t
9. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) s/t
10. Javier Moreno (Movistar) s/t
This year’s race
This year the Tour de Pologne’s parcours looks more exciting – which is to say considerably more difficult – than any other recent editions. With the race kicking off in the northern Italian province of Trentino (coincidentally the birthplace of Moreno Moser), the riders are truly thrown in at the deep end. The opening stage runs through the Dolomites to a summit finish at the ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio, finishing atop the second Cat1 climb of the day.
Things get even harder on day two, with the riders facing another summit finish after over 200km in the saddle. With three Cat1 climbs crammed into the final 70km, it’ll be another grueling day in the Dolomites, leaving the sprinters wondering why they bothered.
Fortunately, it’ll be a happier day for Ben Swift and company on the third stage, with the Tour de Pologne (remember, this is not the Giro del Trentino!) finally leaving the Italian mountains and arriving in Poland after a rest day transfer. Providing the sprinters can be nursed over the single Cat3 climb, they’ll be battling for victory.
At over 230km long, stage four is the longest of this year’s Tour. It’s a rolling day, but with no categorised climbs, it should come down to second consecutive bunch finish. Stage five is some 70km shorter, but will be rather less appealing for the sprinters. Reminiscent of a nasty spring classic, the puncheurs will be licking their lips at the three first and second category climbs.
But, if that looks difficult, stage six is even harder. There are 10 (yes, that’s 10) climbs as the riders take on a punishing 38.4km circuit five times in total. With so much climbing from day one through to day six, we could see pretty big time gaps at the top of the GC by the time the final stage comes around. However, with a fairly sizeable 37km individual time trial bringing the race to a close, the time trial specialists who’ve managed to limit their losses to the climbers will be making a bid for overall victory.
Who to watch
Cannondale won’t have Moreno Moser around as they bid to win this race for the third year running, though their squad is headed by veteran Ivan Basso. The 35-year-old hasn’t ridden a Grand Tour this year, so should have fresh legs for the tough mountainous parcours. His compatriot Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is probably the race favourite, combining excellent climbing with a good time trial. However, as this race is forming part of the 2013 Giro d’Italia winner’s preparation for the Vuelta a España in September, he might not be in best form quite yet.
A third Italian who could be gunning for victory is Lampre’s Michele Scarponi, although his teammate Przemyslaw Niemiec should also be near the front in his home race. Bradley Wiggins heads a hugely strong Sky team, with last year’s podium finisher Sergio Henao and his Colombian compatriot Rigoberto Uran both excellent climbers. Their sprinter Ben Swift will be out to defend his points classification victory.
BMC’s Ivan Santaromita finished second to Nibali in the actual Giro del Trentino this year, so he could well be his team’s man for the GC. They’re also bringing Norwegian champion and part-time God of Thunder Thor Hushovd to the race, who could excel on the slightly hilly sprint stages. The Tour may prove too hilly for Luis Leon Sanchez (Belkin), though given his decent climbing and TT ability he’s a name worth watching.
Other overall contenders include Pole Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff), Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol), Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack-Leopard), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Simon Spilak (Katusha), while there’s a couple of other names to keep an eye on. Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) will be licking his lips and rubbing his well-proportioned calves at the prospect of the final time trial, though Taylor Phinney (BMC) should provide stiff competition.
July 27th: Stage 1 – Rovereto-Madonna di Campiglio, 184.5km
July 28th: Stage 2 – Marilleva Val di Sole-Passo Pordoi Val di Fassa, 206.5km
July 30th: Stage 3 – Kraków-Rzeszów, 226km
July 31st: Stage 4 – Tarnów-Katowice, 231.5km
August 1st: Stage 5 – Nowy Targ-Zakopane, 160.5km
August 2nd: Stage 6 – BUKOVINA Terma Hotel Spa-Bukowina Tatrzańska, 192km
August 3rd: Stage 7 – Wieliczka-Kraków, 37km individual time trial
The Tour de Pologne starts on Saturday 27th July and concludes on Saturday 3rd August. Live coverage will be shown on Eurosport. Check cyclingfans.com for live feed links.
Link: Official website