This year's Tour of Poland offers a new twist on the WorldTour event: a start in Italy with two demanding days with uphill finishes followed by a flight to the race's homeland with the usual rolling terrain, questionable weather and a multitude of inflatables for another five stages.
A 37-kilometer final time trial has attracted top chrono men like Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack), Sky's Bradley Wiggins and Taylor Phinney (BMC).
The general classification will be complicated by the six-rider team experiment being put to the test in the Tour, in particular during stage 5, which includes six categorized climbs, and the penultimate stage, which takes on five laps of a relentless 38.4km circuit with three sharp climbs each lap.
The Cannondale team has won the last two editions with first Peter Sagan and then Moreno Moser. However, since both sprinters have just completed the Tour de France, and the mountains in the first days and long time trial likely preclude a sprinter as overall victor, the team has chosen to go with Ivan Basso as its leader.
Giro d'Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali returns to competition with Astana, and the long climbs which are very steep in places in the two opening stages should suit his capabilities quite well, if he is feeling motivated and refreshed after his break.
There are only two or three opportunities for sprinters this year, with stages 3 and 4 the most likely to end in a bunch kick, and giving riders like Yauheni Hutarovich (AG2R), Ben Swift (Sky), Thor Hushovd (BMC), Mark Renshaw (Belkin) and Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) a chance to rub elbows in the final kilometer.
As a WorldTour race, the Tour of Poland will offer up those all important points toward the licenses for next season, and riders who are looking for new contracts, such as those from Vacansoleil-DCM, Saxo-Tinkoff or Euskaltel-Euskadi, whose futures are not secure, will be keen to get stage wins or show themselves in breakaways. And as always expect to see the Polish riders on the attack.
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