By the Cyclingnews Team
2005 winner Kim Kirchen will be back to defend his title in the 63rd edition of the Tour de Pologne, beginning Monday, September 4 in the town of Pultusk. However, the champion of Luxembourg is hoping for a slightly less nerve-racking victory this time round.
"That was a very tight outcome," recalled Kirchen, who won last year's event by just five seconds from Dutchman Pieter Weening, having only taken the race lead in the morning on the double-stage final day, which concluded with a 19 kilometre time trial. Two young Thomases, Dekker (Rabobank) and Lövkvist (Française Des Jeux), weren't far away from winning, either - just 11 and 18 seconds off Kirchen's final overall time.
However, Kirchen can count on strong support from his T-Mobile team, including 1998 winner Sergey Ivanov, who, along with Kirchen, is one of 10 foreigners to win the Tour de Pologne and knows the race like the back of his hand. "The quality of the race was already very high before the fall of the [Berlin] Wall. The ProTour status now attracts even more top riders," said Ivanov.
Lining up alongside 28 year-old Kirchen for the 1.225,5km stage race will be the Tour de France participants Serguei Gonchar and Eddy Mazzoleni, young Linus Gerdemann and Frantisek Rabon, as well as sprinter Eric Baumann. Steffen Wesemann rounds out the eight-man T-Mobile roster, and the 2004 Tour of Flanders winner is no stranger to Poland, having raced several times on Polish soil during his five visits to the Peace Race.
The seven-day stage-race kicks off on Monday in Pultusk near Wroclaw. From there, the course takes the riders from 23 teams to the Baltic Sea, with the longest stage held on day 3 in the Baltic port city of Gdansk.
The first few stages roll over flat terrain in northern and central Poland, then the parcours gets tougher when the peloton hit the big mountains for the final three days. The race traditionally ends in the ski resort of Karpacy at 800m altitude on Sunday.
Stage 1 - September 4: Pultusk - Olsztyn, 214 km
Stage 2 - September 5: Ostróda - Elblag, 122,6 km
Stage 3 - September 6: Gdansk - Torun, 225,5 km
Stage 4 - September 7: Bydgoszcz - Poznan, 183 km
Stage 5 - September 8: Legnica - Jelenia Góra, 192 km
Stage 6 - September 9: Szczawno Zdrój - Karpacz, 162,4 km
Stage 7 - September 10: Jelenia Góra - Karpacz, 126 km
Total: 1.225,5 km