Most of the Tour de Pologne’s pre-race favourites went AWOL, with Orica-GreenEDGE’s Pieter Weening emerging from the field to capitalise. He took the yellow jersey after the final time trial to Kraków, edging out Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale), and adding a victory to his palmarès for the first time since winning a stage at the Giro d’Italia in 2011.
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.
The Tour de Pologne concluded with overall victory for promising youngster Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale) and his team’s successful defence of the title won last year by Peter Sagan. Moser had won the opening stage and taken the leader’s jersey only to temporarily concede it a couple of stages later. He retook the jersey in spectacular fashion on stage six and never looked like relinquishing it again.
Traditionally, this race has both highlighted and confirmed up and coming talent, and this year was no exception. Ben Swift (Sky) won the points classification, Adrian Kurek (Utensilnord-Named) again won the intermediate sprints jersey, Tomasz Marczynski (Vacansoleil-DCM) took home the King of the Mountains title, while runner-up Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was the best placed Polish rider. Young Colombian Sergio Henao (Sky) rounded out the podium. A quick scan of the stage podiums also reveals young burgeoning talent, as does the overall classification. For example, Giro stage winner Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in sixth place overall has picked up more valuable points for his team while want-away riders Alexandre Geniez (Argos-Shimano) and Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan) will have added to their marketability.
When you consider what the riders who lit up 2011’s Tour de Pologne – notably Sagan, Dan Martin and Marcl Kittel – have gone on to achieve in the intervening period, just take note of the names who’ve illuminated this year’s race and rendered oblivious a field of talented and experienced sprinters, climbers and stage racers.
VeloVoices was keeping an eye on the wonderfully named neo-pro, Colombian on Lampre’s squad, Winner Ancona, who comes from a track background and finished 10th overall in the recent Tour of Slovenia, rode in support of his team leader and, as a consequence, finished just outside the top 100.
Stage 1: Golebiewski Karpacz to Jelenia Gora, 179.5km
Another of Liquigas’s talented youngsters, 21-year-old Moreno Moser, stole the show with a sprint victory – and the first leader’s jersey – ahead of local Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Lars Boom (Rabobank). A five-man breakaway spent most of the stage with their noses in front only to be hauled back by the sprinters’ teams with just over 20km remaining and before the final climb of the day. Two of Kwiatkowski’s team mates Niki Terpstra and Tom Boonen fell on a slippery descent, the former abandoned while the latter was able to continue in his recently acquired Belgian national champion’s kit.
Stage 2: Walbrzych to Opole, 239.4km
Not content with hogging the limelight in France, Sky’s Ben Swift timed his sprint to perfection to beat fellow track star Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Boonen by half a bike length. Sky took control of the peloton on the two final circuits, although they appeared to have ceded it to Rabobank in the last kilometre but the Dutch team was unable to hold the pace to set up their sprinter Theo Bos. Instead Sky executed the perfect lead out for Swift, dropping him off with 150m to go, from where he managed to hold off the Italian’s late surge. Overnight leader Moser came home in the main bunch to retain the leader’s jersey.
Stage 3: Kedzierzyn-Kozle to Cieszyn, 201.7km
Czech cyclo-cross star Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) sprinted to his first WorldTour win – his biggest victory on the road – beating Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) and Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox), after getting into a late move in the final three circuits around Cieszyn. That, and subsequent moves, were brought back by the bunch before Stybar’s team mates set up the winning move for him on the last corner, 500 metres before the finish. The Czech rider was delighted to take a win on the stage which had a brief incursion into his home country.
Stage 4: Bedzin to Katowice, 127.8km
Lithuanian Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEDGE) recorded his maiden WorldTour win in his rookie season coming off the wheel of stage two’s victor Swift on the fast and flat run in to the finish on another largely circuit stage. Rabobank’s Bos was third.
The Polish national road race champion, Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) had attacked with 10km to go but was swiftly brought back into the fold by Sky, who controlled the latter portion of the race intent on setting Swift up for another win.
Local Kwiatkowski took over the race leadership from Moser after his teammate Boonen worked as his poisson pilote to ensure he took precious bonus seconds on the intermediate sprint.
Stage 5: Rabka-Zdroj to Zakopane, 163.1km
Swift took his second stage on the long, uphill drag to the finish, just besting Viviani, who finished second – again – with Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil-DCM) third. Swift strengthened his grip on the points jersey while race leader Kwiatkowski finished sixth to retain the jersey.
The day’s lumpy stage began with the obligatory breakaway, but they were kept largely within easy reach by the race leader’s team. Orica-GreenEDGE’s Eritrean rider Daniel Teklehaimanot used the break to his advantage setting himself up as kingpin in the mountains. The peloton was all back together with just over 3km remaining but the finish proved to be more testing than many anticipated and it was Swift who timed his surge to perfection much to the chagrin of the runner-up who indulged in a spot of handle-bar thumping.
Stage 6: Bukovina Terma Hotel Spa to Bukowina Tatrzanska, 191.8km
Moser perfectly timed his late attack to cruelly deny Sky’s Sergio Henao on the line, with time bonuses enabling him to retake the leader’s yellow jersey with a five-second advance on Kwiatkowski who fought hard to finish third, but it wasn’t enough for him to hold onto the jersey.
The day’s stage contained 15 climbs, ten of them classified. While mountains leader Teklehaimanot took the first points, he surrendered his jersey to Tomasz Marczynski (Vacansoleil-DCM), who was in the day’s breakaway which was overhauled by Henao’s initial attack at the foot of the final categorised climb. Henao attacked again as he crested the climb and soloed almost to the line where he was overtaken by Moser’s late and well-timed surge. This was where the overall was won by Moser who, as Francesco Moser’s nephew continued his family’s long and successful cycling heritage.
Stage 7: Krakow to Krakow, 131.4km
The final circuit race around the historic town of Krakow saw John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) return to winning ways. In the pouring rain, his mud-splattered Argonaut team mates provided the perfect lead-out train to best Sky’s double stage winner Swift and Mathew Hayman in the sprint. A 12-man breakaway had escaped early and split into two on the last of the circuit’s seven laps before being taken back, at which point it started to rain heavily rendering the circuit treacherous. But that didn’t prevent Argos-Shimano taking charge and delivering Degenkolb to his fifth win of the season.
Moser and the other GC contenders finished safely in the peloton, thereby missing out on bonus seconds, and confirming Liquigas’s second consecutive victory in the seven-day WorldTour stage race.
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