By David Hunter
The world tour racing continues with the 78th Tour of Poland. The organisers have decided to alter this year’s route, meaning it’s easier and the ITT will have a large say in the outcome of the race. I’m not a fan of the new route, especially what used to be the Queen stage.
We begin with a sprint stage, but one that is very long, bucking recent trends. The final 800m averages close to 4% and is on cobbles, this isn’t a typical sprint stage.
For me this is the most important stage in the race. It might not look much, but the finale is incredibly steep. The last 1.5km averages 7%, but that includes a short descent and a flat finish. The final kilometre is full of ramps of around 15%, it is very difficult and will have a significant impact on the GC.
A 225km sprint stage, who’s idea was this?
The traditional Bukowina stage has been made significantly easier, which is a big mistake. This stage was usually one of my favourite stages in the whole year, now it looks very boring and tough to create gaps on GC.
The tough uphill finish in Bielsko Biala remains unchanged. The lap circuit saps the legs and normally we get a reduced sprint finish, not a day for gaps on GC.
We have an 18km ITT, a stage that will decide who wins the yellow jersey. This is one for the specialists. Can they recover enough time to claim the overall win?
The race ends with another sprint.
To win this race you need to be good on your TT bike, can cope with a steep climb and it also helps if you have a sprint to claim bonus seconds.
Michal Kwiatkowski – it looks like the organisers have made the race for the home hero. He won back in 2018, the last time he participated in it. He looked impressive in the Tour de France, he will hope to carry that form into this week and look to win multiple stages. The TT is also good for him, the Pole can hold his own against the clock. The uphill finishe in stage 2 is perfect for him, this is where he’ll look to seize control of the race.
Gianni Moscon – not a bad second option for Ineos. His current form is good, but we’ll have to see if Ineos give the Italian freedom, as this is a big race for his teammate. He’ll like the uphill finishes and he can also go well on his TT bike.
João Almeida – this is a massive opportunity for him to win his first professional race, aside from his national TT crown. He should be able to put time into most of his rivals in the TT and he has the sprint required to challenge for stage wins. He might be leaving the squad, but I don’t think this means we’ll see any less motivation from him, especially if he’s managed to negotiate a bigger salary if he wins races between now and the end of the season. As usual, Deceuninck – Quick Step have a strong team, they’ll expect to win the race.
Matej Mohorič – his current form is excellent but I’m not sure his TT will be good enough considering the level of his rivals.
Matteo Sobrero – the young Italian has been one of the revelations of the season. After the Giro, he went to the Tour of Slovenia and looked very strong, and then he won the Italian TT title. Since then, he’s had a little break, so he’s likely to be a little rusty, which could mean he won’t challenge for the overall win. Word has it he’s going to be joining Ineos next year, the kid is a huge talent.
Tim Wellens – with the Tour de Wallonie in the legs I’m hoping we see him back to near his best. As a former winner of this race, he’ll be happy to be back, especially as the weather forecast suggests rain in the first half of the week. If he’s going to win the race, he needs to take a lead into the TT, but maybe not too much. On his day he’s capable of producing the goods on his TT bike.
Rémi Cavagna – it’s all about how much time he’ll lose in the second stage, and how much he’ll gain in the TT. His team have talked up his chances, but I don’t see it myself.
Diego Ulissi – he’s in the same position as Wellens, he’ll need time before the TT. His current form is excellent, he’ll look forward to the uphill finishes, he really should be winning at least one stage in this race.
Dylan Teuns – after a brilliant stage win in the Tour de France he’ll approach the race full of confidence, especially as this is a race he’s won before. He’ll look to collect bonus seconds in the uphill finishes and defend his position in the TT.
I’ll take a win for the local hero Michal Kwiatkowski, but it’s going to be close.
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