By David Hunter
As the cycling world gets used to the new normal, the peloton head over to Poland for a slightly shortened edition of the race.
Sprint stage to begin with and we have Jakobsen v Ackermann v Groenewegen. This will be fun.
Another big sprint battle.
This is the uphill sprint stage which Luca Mezgec won last year, but this year it’s got a lot more climbing in it. This year it will be a GC day, not a sprint stage.
The typical Queen stage, just 153km in length but it is a very challenging stage.
Rather strangely the race ends with a sprint.
After finishing 10th on GC last year, James Knox knows this race pretty well. The QuickStep rider is ideal for this type of race thanks to the punch he has, and the Polish roads are fairly similar to Cumbria!
Judging by your numbers in training, what is your current shape like?
“Yeah, actually not too bad, we’ll have to see when I finally get a number on my back but after a very slow few months starting to feel sharp again in training.”
You were 10th here last year, just how grippy are the roads?
“Very grippy. I’m pretty sure the stage that Vingegaard won last year, power wise was one of the hardest days on the bike for me all year. Always up and down and the punchy climbs just short enough to be attacked almost full gas lap after lap. Legs were in bits by the end of both of the hilly days last year.”
QuickStep arrive with a very strong team, what will your role be?
“Absolutely. With Remco’s restart to the season I’m sure most teams will be looking to us to take control, which is never easy. We have a strong team and I’m sure we’ll take some responsibility for shaping the race. What role that leaves me with is difficult to say just for the moment. I think the road will have to decide what I’ll be up to.”
With just two potential GC days how do you see the race developing?
“Pretty standard short stage race in my book. No room for breakaways, everyday very controlled and the GC days all out. No messing about.”
Ineos – looking at their squad I think they have two options: Carapaz and Dunbar. Both participated in Burgos, but this race should suit Dunbar better. The Irishman likes punchy climbs and Poland has plenty of them. Don’t get me wrong, Carapaz will also hope to be competitive, but I think he would like longer climbs.
Mitchelton Scott – they arrive fresh from Burgos with Simon Yates, Chaves and Nieve. This is a super strong squad and it provides them with multiple options which will be important if the racing gets tactical. This race is very different to Burgos, with short, punchy climbs instead of mountains. It should suit Simon Yates better than Chaves and Yates has won the Queen stage before. Chaves looked in good form in Burgos, whereas Yates looked to be building. Both riders should be challenging for the overall title.
Jakob Fuglsang – the Dane looked in amazing form during Strade Bianche, but paid for his efforts towards the end of the race. The way he was able to distance the rest of the front group in the early gravel sections didn’t pass me by, he looked far stronger than everyone else. Despite the race being very tough there has been enough time for him to recover and if he brings the same form to this race he’ll be challenging for the win. Astana arrive with a team who can support him during the GC days, particularly Ion Izagirre.
Wilco Kelderman – should be the Sunweb leader despite the team having Jai Hindley who was 2nd here last year, and Chris Hamilton who was 8th. Despite all his potential, and he has lots, the Dutch climber just doesn’t win enough races. Now 29 years old, he has four pro wins to his name, three of those came in TTs and his only GC title was in Denmark way back in 2013. Yes, there has been lots of injuries along the way, but it still doesn’t explain why he hasn’t been able to turn his potential into wins.
Wout Poels – would normally prefer longer climbs, but remember he has won LBL. It will be interesting to see how he responds in this race, but I imagine he’ll be looking for good sensations ahead of the Dauphiné and Tour de France.
Max Schachmann – another who impressed on Saturday. 2020 is shaping up to be a pretty special year for the German, despite the enforced break in racing. 2nd in Algarve, 1st in Paris-Nice and 3rd in Strade Bianche is quite the return. Bora are well aware of his qualities, they’ve now tied him down on a four-year contract, that tells you exactly how much they believe in him. Without big mountains, this is an ideal race for him, and you can bet he is fully expecting to be challenging for the win.
Remco Evenepoel – wow! His performance in Burgos was off the scale, what a boy. As James Knox has already explained the pressure to control the race will be on QuickStep’s shoulders, but they do have Devenyns, Cattaneo, Knox and Evenepoel. If others try to put too much pressure on the Belgians, they’ll be happy to see one of their other riders disappear up the road. Given his current level, Evenepoel has to start the race as the overwhelming favourite, but with that does come pressure. Does the youngster feel this pressure? I don’t think so.
Tim Wellens – winner here back in 2016, when it was very wet. He’ll be pleased to see that the weather forecast suggests we might get some rain during the race and that temperatures won’t be too high. This is exactly the type of race Wellens should be winning, and I think we’ll see a lot of him this week.
Jonas Vingegaard – took a sensational stage win here last year, but faded the very next day. Just 23 years old, that would have been part of the learning process for him and I’m sure he’ll be better for it. The Dane is a punchy climber, perfect for this type of race. He can fly under the radar a bit, but you shouldn’t underestimate him.
Diego Ulissi – you never know what you’re going to get with the Italian. He could challenge for the win, or be hugely disappointing. I’ll let you decide.
This isn’t a foregone conclusion, despite the current form of Remco. With so many top climbers at this race, we could see tactical racing and a surprise winner, but that is very hard to predict. Given the way he was riding in Burgos I have to pick Remco Evenepoel, sorry for being boring.
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