Copyright: Bettiniphoto

Is it the race that makes the riders great or the riders that make the race great? This is a question that cycling has always pondered. One thing is for sure; it’s enough just to have a look at the route for the Tour de Pologne that is taking off from Krakow on Saturday (scheduled from July 29th to August 4th) to see that it was designed to make the race spectacular. The final will be all uphill, with two mountain stages and a never-before-seen climbing arrival on the third day, to fire up the race before giving the sprinters room to attack. Likewise, if you scan the list of starting riders you will read the names of plenty of great champions who will definitely know how to bring excitement to the roads of Poland. There are 22 teams signed up, 18 Pro Teams plus 4 Wild Cards, with 7 riders per team for a total of 154 athletes on the starting grid.

Three names above all promise to make this a great Tour de Pologne: current World Champion Peter Sagan and Poland’s own Rafal Majka, who have both already won here at the Tour de Pologne, respectively in 2011 and 2014. The duo from Bora-Hansgrohe will have company from “The Shark” Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida), the only currently active rider to have won all three major tours in his career: the Tour, the Giro and the Vuelta.

There are many top riders, and several men who could vie for stage victories but also for the final classification; in any case, they have already stood out on the roads of the Tour de Pologne in the past, and they are likely to do it again. Let us mention among these: the Brit Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), white jersey as the best young rider in the 2016 Tour de France; from Luxembourg Bob Jungels, white jersey for best young rider in this year’s Giro d’Italia and Dutchman Niki Terpstra, winner of the 2014 Roubaix (Quick-Step Floors); Russian Ilnur Zakarin, Spain’s Alberto Losada and the Slovenian Simon Spilak (Katusha-Alpecin); American Tejay Van Garderen, Belgian Ben Hermans, third place in the 2015 Tour de Pologne, Italian Daniel Oss and Spaniard Samuel Sanchez, 2008 Olympic Champion (BMC); Italian, Davide Formolo (Cannondale –Drapac), fourth last year in the Tour de Pologne; Belgian Bart De Clerq (Lotto-Soudal) second in the final classification for the 2015 Tour de Pologne and winner of one stage; Italian Domenico Pozzovivo and Frenchman Christophe Riblon, third in the 2013 Tour de Pologne (Ag2r); Franco Pellizotti and Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain Merida); Portugal’s Alberto Rui Costa, 2013 World Champion (UAE Team Emirates); Italian Enrico Battaglin (Lotto NL-Jumbo); Belgian Wouter Poels and Italian Diego Rosa (Team Sky); the Italian duo Oscar Gatto and Moreno Moser, winner of the 2012 Tour de Pologne (Astana)…all these and many more.

In addition to Peter Sagan, who can amaze on any type of arrival, for sprints the most highly anticipated stars (at least on paper) are Australian Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) and his team mate, Slovenian Luka Mezgec. Then there is Italy’s Niccolò Bonifazio, who already won a stage in the Tour de Pologne in 2016; Spaniard Josè Joaquim Rojas (Movistar), Italians Sacha Modolo and Roberto Ferrari (UAE Team Emirates), with any number of sprinters that could end up in the mix.

And finally, the Tour de Pologne is very proud to have a large Polish turnout, as proof of the constant growth happening within the national cycling movement. There will be 16 Polish riders in the race. In addition to the National Team featuring headliner Kamil Zielinski, who wore the yellow jersey for one day in the 2015 Tour de Pologne, there is the Professional-Continental Polish formation CCC Sprandi Polkowice, which is lining up 4 Polish riders, including Maciej Paterski and Adrian Kurek. There are 5 Polish riders racing for Pro Teams: besides Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) there is Przemyslaw Niemiec (UAE Team Emirates); Michal Golas and Lukasz Wisniowski (Team Sky) and Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto-Soudal).

“We are really extremely pleased; I have to say that this year we have one of the best starting fields we’ve seen in the last editions, with lots of champions and riders who can stand out on any terrain: on the climbs, in the sprints and in the breaks. This is another important sign of the constant growth process that the Tour de Pologne is undergoing, year after year. Not only has this event become the most important bicycle race in all of Eastern Europe, it is also an event that is essential to the UCI World Tour’s mid-summer calendar,” says General Director for the Tour de Pologne Czeslaw Lang.