Tour de Pologne organisers have unveiled the route of the 77th edition of the WorldTour race. The race will run between August 5-9, marking the return to stage racing on the highest level after five-month break forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Tour of Poland saw its program cut by two days to accommodate a revised calendar put forward by the International Cycling Union. Of the five remaining stages, three should accommodate the needs of sprinters and two will allow puncheurs and climbers to test their legs after months without racing. Those seeking to get back in the rhythm will have 891 kilometres to do so in what will be the first stage race held under the new atmosphere of medical checks and sanitary measures.
The race will start exactly one year after the death of Bjorg Lambrecht, a talented Belgian who crashed on stage 3 of the 2019 edition and died as a result of his injuries. During the official presentation, the organisers confirmed that the race’s young riders classification will bear his name and number 143 will be retired for all future editions. The race will also hold a minute of silence in memory of the former Lotto Soudal rider before the racing begins.
Despite program changes, the route follows a somewhat familiar pattern. The first two stages are expected to be dominated by sprinters. Starting at the Silesian Stadium in Chorzów, riders will make their way on an undulating course to finish in the well-known circuit in Katowice, where a slightly downhill sprint awaits.
With likes of John Degenkolb and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the mix, there will be plenty of teams to keep the field under control and ensure a bunch sprint. The fastest riders will have their say the following day, albeit stage 2 presents a slightly more demanding challenge with a few smaller climbs on the way to Zabrze.
The general classification should take shape on stage 3, which may look climber-friendly however, a challenge by the puncheurs cannot be discounted. With 12 climbs on a 203km route, bonus seconds will be key as a reduced group of riders is likely to contest the win on a 3km long uphill finish in Bielsko-Biała.
The following day it’s a climbing spree: the race heads to Podhale region and tackles a well-known loop in Bukowina, against the backdrop of the Tatra mountains. It may be shorter than in the previous years but its profile remains jagged with short and steep climbs on narrow country roads. The 48.5km circuit is marked climbs at Rzepiska (2 km, 6.5%), Gliczarów Górny (5.5 km, 5,6%) and an uncategorised climb of Wierch Rusiński (1.7 km, 7.2%) with virtually no flat sections in between. The race winner is likely to emerge on the final ascent into Bukowina (3 km, 4.8%), where Simon Yates and Matej Mohoric won stages after successful breakaways in the past two seasons.
While the teams are still finalising their rosters, Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Richard Carapaz (Team Ineos) and Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) are all expected to turn up in Poland. Given the race’s recent history, it is also likely that a group of younger riders will take it upon themselves to steal the show.
Racing will conclude in Lesser Poland’s capital, Kraków. While the sprinters are most certainly the favourites to battle for the win, the first 100 kilometres presents an opportunity for racing-starved riders. The route leads north from ski resort Zakopane and is peppered by short and punchy climbs. The organizers also threw in a longer and steadier ascent onto Krowiarka Pass in the early part of the day, making sure the teams interested in the final sprint will have to invest more energy in controlling the field.
Racing in the time of COVID-19
Tour of Poland will be organised in accordance with the Polish government’s regulations and UCI guidelines for holding mass-start events amid the coronavirus pandemic. The UCI published regulations for teams and race organizers, and the race organisers confirmed yesterday that they have passed a proposed protocol for the race to the authorities for approval.
Traditionally held in the south of the country, the first three stages of the Tour of Poland’s route run mostly through the Silesian Voivodeship, which has seen a consistent rise in coronavirus cases over the last weeks. Poland’s Health Ministry confirmed 148 new cases today while the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported 13,000 and 334 deaths in the region since the start of the pandemic.
Poland has recorded over 35,000 cases of coronavirus and nearly 1,500 deaths. The restrictions put in place in March have been first relaxed through April and even more so in May and June, however, wearing a mask is still required on public transport, in most public spaces and during interactions with people outside the household. Social distancing rules are still in place with a limit on public gatherings set at 150 people or fewer.
According to a press release of Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, from July 17th mass events may resume but only under strict social distancing rules and with quotas of 50 per cent (indoors) and 25 per cent (outdoors) of seats available to the public. For open-air events, organisers need to ensure five square meters of space per participant, enforce 2m social distancing rule or require participants to wear masks and separate the spectators from passers-by.
Race director Czesław Lang has previously confirmed that there will be no public access in the start and finish zones of the stages. According to state television TVP Sport, all race participants and team staff will have to be tested ahead of the event and those cleared to join the “race bubble” will be filing daily medical surveys as a part of the monitoring set out by the UCI.
Special measures will be in place in hotels and before the start, with riders awaiting in team buses and sports directors registering the start list in their stead. The presentations and podium ceremonies will be abandoned or cut to the minimum with only Lang handing out jerseys on the podium and no podium presenters. TVP Sport also reported yesterday that media access will be restricted to a select number of reporters and television workers, with organisers preparing to set up digital channels to facilitate interviews.
2020 Tour de Pologne route
- Stage 1: Chorzów (Silesian Stadium) – Katowice (195,8 km)
- Stage 2: Opole – Zabrze (151,5 km)
- Stage 3: Wadowice – Bielsko-Biała (203,1 km)
- Stage 4: Bukovina Resort – Bukowina Tatrzańska (152,9 km)
- Stage 5: Zakopane – Kraków (188 km)
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