The 2014 edition of the Tour de Pologne will feature a stage finish in Slovakia that may well entice Peter Sagan (Cannondale) to line up, while the race will start in Gdansk to mark the 25th anniversary of free elections in the country and Poland's independence from the Soviet bloc.
The race takes place from August 3-9 and while full details of the Tour de Pologne are yet to be finalised, organiser Czeslaw Lang has sketched out the route in broad brushstrokes. After an unusual Italian start in 2013, that saw proceedings begin with two mountainous stages in Trentino before a rest day and a transfer north to Poland, the race begins on home roads next year.
"The route still needs to be made official, we have to work out some details and get some confirmations, but for the most part we have outlined an overall design for the 2014 Tour de Pologne," Lang said. "It will all start in Poland; after a few years' absence we've decided to return to the north. The stage for the kickoff will most likely be Gdansk, a very important city for its historical, cultural and political background."
The dockyards of Gdansk were the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, the shipbuilders' union led by Lech Walesa that went on to play a major role in the fall of Poland's Communist regime in 1989. The port city had a diverse prior history that saw it pass back and forth between Polish and German control, as well as undergo two separate spells as a free city.
The second stage of the Tour de Pologne is set to begin in Torun, the birthplace of emerging talent Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), with a finish in or around Warsaw. Stage 3 and stage 4 ought to have a familiar feel, with finishes planned for Rzeszow, where Thor Hushovd won in 2013, and Katowice, where his BMC teammate Taylor Phinney scored a memorable triumph.
While Lang acknowledged that the opening part of the Tour de Pologne "will feature four flat stages suitable for the sprinters," the race takes on a rather different complexion in its closing days. Stage 5 will bring the peloton into the Tatra mountains, with a probable start in the ski town of Zakopane, and a likely finish over the border in Slovakia.
"It would be the first time this race touched down in that country," Lang said of the proposed Slovakian excursion, a feature that could go a long way towards persuading Peter Sagan to return to the race. Sagan won the general classification and two stages on his last appearance at the Tour de Pologne in 2011, and attracted a sizeable Slovak following on stages in the south of the country.
The penultimate stage will take place on a circuit around Bukowina Tatrzanska, where Sagan and Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) dueled in 2011, while the last day will again feature an individual time trial in Krakow. "It will be around 30 kilometres in length, like the one we had this year where the contenders battled it out for the yellow jersey until the last minute," Lang said.
Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge) won the 2013 Tour de Pologne, while Bradley Wiggins (Sky) claimed victory in the final time trial in Krakow.