Tour de Pologne review

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.

Moreno Moser winner of Tour de Pologne 2012 (image courtesy of official race website)

Moreno Moser winner of Tour de Pologne 2012 (image courtesy of official race website)

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

Zdenek Stybar winner of stage 3 (image courtesy of official race website)

Zdenek Stybar, winner of stage 3 (image courtesy of official race website)

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

Stage 5 winner Ben Swift (image courtesy of official race website)

Stage 5 winner Ben Swift (image courtesy of official race website)

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

Stage 7 winner John  Degenkolb (image courtesy of official race website)

Stage 7 winner John Degenkolb (image courtesy of official race website)

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.

General classification:

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

Links: PreviewOfficial website

Tour de Pologne preview

The 69th Tour de Pologne (in Polish: Wyścig Dookoła Polski) takes place over seven days –  during the same time as that other race in France – from today (Tuesday 10th) until Monday 16th July. It will be the 19th race on the UCI’s 2012 WorldTour.

The race was first held in 1928 and then sporadically until 1952 when it became a firm fixture on the Eastern European calendar. The event became a ProTour race in 2005 and now draws an excellent international field, particularly of up-and-coming talent. Traditionally, it’s held after the Tour de France, at the end of the July/beginning of August, but this year it has been brought forward a month to avoid overlapping with the Olympics and as such it’s providing pre-Olympic racing for a number of notable professionals, such as former world champions Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Thor Hushovd (BMC).

What kind of race is it?

It’s a seven-day stage race covering 1234.7km from Karpacz to Krakow. Due to the number of Olympic contenders in this year’s race, the organisers claim that they’ve made the route even more spectacular.

The past five winners are:

2007: Johan Vansummeren (Predictor Lotto)

2008: Jens Voigt (CSC-SaxoBank)

2009: Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC)

2010: Dan Martin (Garmin-Transitions)

2011: Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)

What happened last year?

Last year’s race winner, young Slovakian sensation Peter Sagan (Liquigas) fought to the bitter end on the final day to gain crucial bonus seconds at the intermediate and final sprints to take his first overall win in a stage race, prompting commentators to muse how he’d fare in Grand Tours. [I think we know the answer to that question – Ed].

Tour of Poland 2011 podium l to r Martin, Sagan, Marcato (image courtesy of official race website)

Tour of Poland 2011 podium l to r Martin, Sagan, Marcato (image courtesy of official race website)

Defending champion Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) had taken the overall lead after victory on the penultimate stage, giving him a slender three-second advantage over his nearest rivals, Sagan and Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM). Having won both the 4th and 5th stages, Sagan had led prior to Martin, but lost his advantage after losing time in the closing metres of stage 6, after an attack by Martin and Wout Poels (Vacansoleil).

On the final stage, Sagan and Marcato moved closer to Martin at the intermediate sprint – offering time bonuses to the top three riders – by taking second and third behind Martin’s team-mate Heinrich Haussler who was subsequently demoted for irregular sprinting.

Despite missing out on a sprint stage victory during the race – all four were taken by Marcel Kittel (Skil-Shimano) – on the ultimate conclusive stage, Sagan’s haul of bonus seconds enabled him to take his maiden stage race win. After the race, Sagan confirmed:

I’m thrilled. I have to thank the team, which was also extraordinary today. After the second place in the intermediate sprint I knew that I had to give it my all in the arrival as well. I put in everything I had and fortunately I managed to close out in second place. I knew that I could win or lose this race for only a matter of seconds. I gave it my all and this is the most wonderful victory in my career, because I built it day after day with stubborn obstinacy.

In the race’s other classifications, Michael Golas (Vacansoleil-DCM) was top dog in the mountains, Sagan won the points classification, Adrian Kurek (Poland BGZ) won the sprints jersey and Vacansoleil-DCM finished top team.

1. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) 26:40:01

2. Daniel Martin (Garmin-Cervélo) +0:06

3. Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) +0:07

4. Wouter Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) +0:23

5. Peter Kennaugh (Sky) +0:25

6. Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) +0:28

7. Bartosz Huzarski (Poland) same time

8. Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) s/t

9. Steve Cummings (Sky) s/t

10. Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC Polsat) +0:32

This year’s race

The organisers have expanded the field to 25 teams of 8 riders this year – all WorldTour teams, the Polish national team and six wild cards from the Professional Continental ranks: Colnago-CSF Bardiani, Caja Rural, Team Type 1-Sanofi, Argos-Shimano, Farnese Vini-Selle Italia and Utensilnord-Named.

It all kicks off from the historic town of Karpacz with an undulating route more suited to the climbers. The second and longest stage to Opole – almost 240km – will suit the punchier, more attack-minded rider. The third day features the traditional incursion into the Czech Republic and should also prove  challenging. The fourth day’s much flatter parcours will be one for the sprinters. Thereafter are two hilly stages, which are likely to be conclusive in determining the general classification before the final sprint showdown on a circuit around Krakow.

Who to watch

Young Winner Ancona (image courtesy of Lampre-ISD)

Young Winner Ancona (image courtesy of Lampre-ISD)

Neither last year’s stage winners nor the defending champion are taking part, however, there’s still plenty of existing talent on view in Poland. In particular, there’s a number of  young talented sprinters in addition to the two heavyweights mentioned above, such as John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) and Arnaud Demarre (FDJ-BigMat), not forgetting young stage racers of the calibre of Alexandre Geniez (Argos-Shimano) and Giro d’Italia stage winner Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi). Many of the ProTour teams, such as Astana with Roman Kreuziger and Amstel Gold winner Enrico Gasparotto, are bringing their Giro riders. Left off their respective Tour teams, Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan) and Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Sharp) could both let their legs do the talking and emulate Jakob Fuglsang (RST), who won in last week’s Tour of Austria.

I’m going to be keeping an eye on the wonderfully named neo-pro, Columbian on Lampre’s squad, Winner Ancona, who comes from a track background and finished 10th overall in the recent Tour of Slovenia.

Race details

July 10th: Stage 1 – Golebiewski Karpacz to Jelenia Gora, 179.5km

July 11th: Stage 2 – Walbrzych to Opole, 239.4km

July 12th: Stage 3 – Kedzierzyn-Kozle to Cieszyn, 201.7km

July 13th: Stage 4 – Bedzin to Katowice, 127.8km

July 14th: Stage 5 – Rabka-Zdroj to Zakopane, 163.1km

July 15th: Stage 6 – Bukovina Terma Hotel Spa to Bukowina Tatrzanska, 191.8km

July 16th: Stage 7 – Krakow to Krakow, 131.4km

The Tour de Pologne starts on Tuesday 10th July and concludes on Monday 16th. EurosportUK will have delayed coverage at 17:30 (GMT) each day.  For live coverage check cyclingfans.com.

Link: Official website