The 71st Tour de Pologne starts on Sunday at the number two gate of the Gdansk shipyard (the birthplace of the non-Communist trade union movement Solidarity), marking the 25th anniversary of free elections in Poland.
- Last year started with two challenging climbing stages, but this year’s opening four stages are for the sprinters or a breakaway (if the sprint trains let them go). Three of these are 220km or more in length.
- Stage five heads into the Tatra mountains for an uphill finish in Strbske Pleso, Slovakia, with the sting in the tail of a 16% gradient in the last 100m.
- Stage six’s profile looks like a loopy rollercoaster and could be just as scary. This is a gruelling four laps of a 38.4km circuit that is up and down the whole way. The climbs are short but sharp – think Belgian classics – with the climb at Sciana Bukovina topping out at 22%. The other climbs aren’t that much better, with 11%-plus sections to test the resolve of the riders before the uphill finish.
- Stage seven is a showcase individual time trial around Krakow, which may or may not have a bearing on the overall podium places.
- There are three wildcard teams to accompany the 18 WorldTour teams in this year’s race: Rusvelo, CCC Polkowice and Reprezentacja Polski.
- Former Polish president and co-founder of the Solidarity movement, Lech Walesa, will be guest of honour on the Tour’s opening stage in Gdansk.
- Stage two starts in Torun, the hometown of Michal Kwiatkowski. (He’s not be riding this year.)
- There are two past winners in the race this year. Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE) will be wearing the number one as defending champion while 2012’s winner Moreno Moser leads Cannondale.
- The race has a history of showcasing break-out performances. Moser’s 2012 victory was his first major international win, which he followed up the following spring at Strade Bianche. Peter Sagan was just 21 when achieving his first stage race overall win in 2011. And Dan Martin‘s victory the previous year propelled him on a path which has seen him win stages at both the Tour and the Vuelta as well as La Doyenne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Who to watch
In addition to our two past champions, Weening and Moser, we have an interesting field of riders for this year’s race. Sprinters who were unable to make it to the Tour de France will be lining up, including Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), and Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ben Swift for Sky.
Soon-to-retire Thor Hushovd (BMC) will also be on the start line, hoping to take a stage in the style he did last year, when he won two. Call me crazy, call me a sentimental fool, but considering just one true mountain stage and that important Belgian classics-style stage, would it be too much to ask for Thor to take the whole kit and kaboodle? Well, would it?
A rider cut from that same cloth – decent sprinter, good climber, likes the classics – Trek’s Fabio Felline could also do well on this parcours.
Of the other riders in the mix, we will be seeing Samuel Sanchez (BMC), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Ag2r La Mondiale’s Carlos Betancur (assuming his team can find him), three riders we’ve not seen much of this year. Trek’s Giro revelation Julian Arredondo will be starting as well, as will the Tour’s winking KoM jersey winner, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo). Let’s see if he can keep his motivation up after such a brilliant Tour.
August 3rd: Stage 1 – Gdansk to Bydgoszcz, 226km
August 4th: Stage 2 – Torun to Warszawa, 226km
August 5th: Stage 3 – Kielce to Rzeszow, 174km
August 6th: Stage 4 – Tarnow Gemini Park to Katowice, 236km
August 7th: Stage 5 – Zakopane to Strbskie Pleso, 190km
August 8th: Stage 6 – Bukovina to Bukowina, 174km
August 9th: Stage 7 – Krakow to Krakow, 25km individual time trial
Daily live coverage and highlights will be shown by Eurosport in the UK. For other coverage check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website