In just two days, the ProTour teams plus a few others will meet up in Warsaw, Poland, for the annual Tour of Poland, a ProTour event which has made the move to August from its previous September spot on the UCI calendar.
Columbia-HTC's Andre Greipel is looking for what would be his 15th victory of the season. If the sprint star were to log a win, he'd equal his tally of victories from 2008.
"When Poland was closer to the end of the season, it was difficult for some riders to feel motivated there. But now in August, it's a great way of building up for the Tour of Spain. The weather should be better than in September, too!"
Greipel is optimistic about his own chances. "I felt pretty tired during my last race, the Tour of Saxony, even though I won the first stage," said Greipel, "but since Saxony, I've had a bit of a break, just doing a few criteriums, and now I'm ready to go again." Greipel said that sprinters don't have to be in top shape to win. "If you've got good team support, like I have, then normally you can get through ok because you're only going full gas in the last 200 metres."
"This year, the race is much more mountainous than when it was in September, and that could suit one of our riders like Michael Albasini," said Columbia-HTC team manager Rolf Aldag after evaluating his team's chances. "If he's racing as well as when he won in the Tour of Austria in July, then he's definitely got a good chance in Poland, too."
Greipel will face a challenge from sprinter Robert Förster who will head his Team Milram's quest for stage wins.
This year's race does not start with a team time trial as in previous years, but riders will open with nine laps of a 12km circuit in Warsaw. On stage two, they face 219 equally flat kilometers from Serock to Bialystok, in northeastern Poland. Stages three and four, also flat, head south. All in all, that's several days of good chances for the sprinters.
Then it's time for the mountains. The fifth stage will feature small and medium climbs, while stage six is the Queen stage from Kroscienko nad Dunajcem to Zakopane and featuring 10 ranked climbs. The Tour of Poland will end on Saturday, August 8 with a medium-difficult stage in in Krakow.
Tour of Poland team rosters
Columbia-HTC: Michael Albasini, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Marcus Burghardt, Andre Greipel, Adam Hansen, Craig Lewis, Marcel Sieberg, Kanstantsin Sivtsov.
Team Milram: Robert Förster, Thomas Fothen, Christian Kux, Martin Müller, Dominik Roels, Matthias Russ, Ronny Scholz, Björn Schröder
Quick Step: Dominique Cornu, Allan Davis, Kevin De Weert, Andrei Kunitski, Francesco Reda, Marco Velo, Wouter Weylandt, Maarten Wynants.
Astana: Assan Bazayev, Alexandr Dyachenko, Maxim Iglinskiy, Roman Kireyev, Sergey Renev, Michael Schär, Tomas Vaitkus & Andrey Zeits