Tour de Pologne: Seven-man teams presented in Krakow - Gallery

Shorter, punchier stages spice up WorldTour race

The teams of the 2017 Tour de Pologne were presented in Krakow's Rynek Glowny Market Square on Friday, the next stop of the UCI's WorldTour after the Tour de France.

The race has opted to be part of an experiment to use smaller teams - there are only seven riders per team - and many stages have been shortened, with the average distance at 160km per day. There is one long stage, the 238km fourth stage to Zabrze, but several shorter, punchy courses and a new uphill finish.

"We’ve designed the race to be as spectacular as ever; the stages aren’t too long and there is also the new project of 7 riders per team," race director Czeslaw Lang said. "There won’t be the final time trial, but instead the last leg will be entirely in the mountains, with the two hardest stages in Zakopane and Bukowina Tatrzanska.

"In the first part there will also be space for the sprinters, but in the third stage there is already a never-before-seen arrival, on a stretch featuring gradients up to 20%, which could turn out to be a launching pad for anyone who wants to try and fire up the race."

Defending champion Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) has opted for the Clasica San Sebastian this year, but there is still a strong field. Among the contenders is Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), who has only raced once since finishing third in the Giro d'Italia, but has been doing some intensive mountain training camps in preparation for the Vuelta a España.

"We’ve been training really well. We’ll have to see how my leg responds after the last intense workouts we did," Nibali said. "The route is interesting; there will definitely be some surprises, which perhaps I can’t foresee, but we’ll have to show up ready to take on whatever comes our way."

Back in action after his disqualification on stage 4, Peter Sagan sported a freshly shaven head for Bora-Hansgrohe's team presentation, where he lined up alongside teammates including 2014 overall winner Rafal Majka. Sagan himself won the overall in Poland in 2011, but has not raced there since that year.

"I'm happy to be back here at the Tour de Pologne," Sagan said. "We are on the Polish roads close to my Slovakia, so especially for this reason I'm expecting to see and hear lots of fans, and then I'm also anticipating the experience of a good race."

Sagan's victory in 2011 was his first in a general classification at the WorldTour level, the season before his Tour de France green jersey run began. "My victory in 2011 was tremendously satisfying but also a big surprise. It was a hard-fought race all the way until the final day," Sagan said. "That Tour de Pologne helped me a lot to grow as a rider; right afterwards I went to the Vuelta and won three stages in Spain, too. I have wonderful memories of that season."

Sagan said he would likely target stage wins with Majka going for the overall classification in light of the steep uphill finish on stage 3. Majka crashed out of the Tour de France with a fractured collarbone on stage 9, less than three weeks ago, but says he has been doing physical therapy to try to get back to full strength.

"The 2014 victory in the Tour de Pologne was very satisfying. Being able to win on the roads of your native country is always exciting. I'm happy to be back here again," Majka said. "I think I'm in decent enough shape to try and ride a good Tour de Pologne. It's a race that means a lot to me."

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