Saturday, 27 July 2013

Tour of Poland: Stage 1 Preview

The Tour of Poland starts today and in fact its the 70th edition - quite an unusual stat fro a race outside of France, Belgium and Italy which means there is a certain pedigree here. If we have become use to Poland's use of City Centre crit stages and largely flattish terrain then this years edition starts with a bang because the opening two stages happen to be in the very mountainous north of Italy...

Of course once Italy is out of the way the race returns to Poland and picks up where it left of with a mix of 'crit' style stages, some lumpy but far less mountainous routes and a final 37km Time Trial. It makes sense to have the hardest days first because it means a break in the schedule for the race to transfer back to Poland and give the riders a day of rest bite. It's conceivable that the yellow jersey might be decided before the race even reaches it's homeland but the final TT could throw a spanner in the works especially with the likes of Bradley Wiggins taking part.
The first day begins in Rovereto where riders tackle a flat 40km before the lumps and bumps begin for the remainder of the 185km stage. There is plenty of descending here too until the race concludes on the climb up to the Madonna di Campiglio ski resort - a climb that's featured in the Giro del Trentino and one that riders might be familiar with.
From Pinzolo the climb rises for 13.3km with a modest average gradient of 5.6% but it's certainly long and tough enough - especially after a hard day in the saddle - to sort then men from the boys and give an indicator as to who's looking to come into good form ahead of the Vuelta and the World Championships.
The race has been billed as another Vincenzo Nibali V Bradley Wiggins affair but there are plenty of riders here who can do well on the route - Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi, Rigoberto Uran, Sergio Henao and Visconti being just a few. The Nibali/Wiggins calculation is a difficult one to make - we haven't really seen either since the Giro, with Nibali being in the form of his life and the only man during the season to beat Chris Froome in a straight up battle whilst Wiggins looked a shade of his former self at the Giro before abandoning and taking some time out. Of course both have goals left to achieve this season with Nibali taking on the Vuelta and wanting to become World Champion in Florence while Wiggins must be looking at getting back to his best as he takes to the World TT Championships with the aim of winning later in the year.
It should be a good race this year and there are plenty of riders capable of making it theirs. Henao and Uran will both ride the Vuelta and this is a good fine-tuning race where they can show their strength before the Spanish Grand Tour. The climbing in Italy adds another dimension this year and with no lack of big names it will be well worth watching...

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