The 2020 Tour de Pologne will pit the likes of on-song Deceuninck-QuickStep star Remco Evenepoel, Wout Poels (Bahrain McLaren), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and 2019 Giro d'Italia champion Richard Carapaz (Team Ineos) against each other, with two mountain stages expected to decide the overall winner of the Polish five-day race, which starts in Chorzów on Wednesday.
While the WorldTour race has retained its usual early August calendar slot, it has nevertheless been reduced from seven stages to five, running from August 5-9.
This year's race will remember Lotto Soudal rider Bjorg Lambrecht, who died after crashing on stage 3 of last year's race between Chorzów and Zabrze, despite desperate attempts to save him in the hospital in nearby Rybnik.
Lambrecht, who was just 22 and widely considered one of Belgium's next climbing stars, will be remembered ahead of stage 1 in Chorzów on Wednesday – exactly a year after his death – while his race number, 143, has been retired from the race permanently as a mark of respect.
Evenepoel starts as the race favourite, despite the older, more experienced riders the 20-year-old Belgian will be up against.
He dominated last week's Vuelta a Burgos, and, in addition to the Volta ao Algarve and the Vuelta a San Juan that he won ahead of cycling's COVID-19 shutdown, it means that he has won three out three stage races in 2020. He'll be keen to maintain that 100 per cent record, despite playing down his chances when he spoke to journalists ahead of the Tour de Pologne on Tuesday.
"The stages are hard, but they're not like proper climbs like in Burgos," Evenepoel pointed out.
"It means it's not to my advantage, but it's also not bad because if you look at the parcours for stages 3 and 4, they're a bit like the Ardennes Classics. If you want to win the GC, then you need to be good on those stages."
At last week's Vuelta a Burgos, he finished 13th in the bunch-sprint finish on stage 2 that saw UAE Team Emirates' Fernando Gaviria come out on top, with positioning difficult after a late climb and descent to the finish.
Cavendish will again face stiff competition in Poland in the shape of Deceuninck-QuickStep's Fabio Jakobsen and Jumbo-Visma's Dylan Groenewegen, in particular, but the British rider will get two, and probably three, chances to go head-to-head with his rivals.
As earmarked by Evenepoel, stages 3 and 4 – on Friday and Saturday – will be where we see the climbers come to the fore, while stages 1 and 2 will be goals for the sprinters.
Far from the fifth and final stage on Sunday being just a procession into Krakow, the first half of the 188km stage features one first-category and two second-category climbs, and only then is there a flatter run into Poland's second city.
If things are still close by that point – which they tend to be at such shorter stage races – there could be early fireworks as teams attempt to get the upper hand and secure their leaders' overall positions.
Cyclingnews will be bringing you reports, results and news from this year's Tour de Pologne, which you can watch via live stream, no matter where you are, with ExpressVPN.
Tour de Pologne stages
Stage 1: Silesian Stadium, Chorzów – Katowice, 195.8km – Wednesday, August 5
Stage 2: Opole – Zabrze, 151.5km – Thursday, August 6
Stage 3: Wadowice – Bielsko-Biala, 203.1km – Friday, August 7
Stage 4: Bukovina Resort – Bukowina Tatrzańska, 173km – Saturday, August 8
Stage 5: Zakopane – Kraków, 188km – Sunday, August 9
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