Whilst all eyes are set on the Tour de France at this moment, several other races are held around the world. From Tuesday to Monday, a part of the peloton will be in Poland for seven days as the 73rd edition of the Tour de Pologne is scheduled. This stage race, which is part of the WorldTour, is normally held in August. Because of the Olympic Games in Rio, the race is scheduled one month earlier this season.
Lotto Soudal sports director Mario Aerts says:
“I don’t think that this change will have a big influence on how the race will develop. This change has a bigger influence on the riders though. Normally, this is a rather calm period for riders who aren’t racing at the Tour. Now it’s a huge adaption for our riders with the coming Olympic Games in Rio and the Tour de Pologne during the Tour.”
The first two stages will most likely end with a bunch sprint. The stages are short, they contain two climbs and the riders will cover a few local laps in both stages. Day three will be something different though. The peloton has to ride 240 kilometres and needs to surmount three tough climbs. After that a transition stage is scheduled. The next two stages will be very important for the positions on GC. During the fifth stage, the riders have to climb seven mountains of the first category. The sixth stage is even harder as fifteen climbs are on the menu that day. Finally, the individual time trial of 25 kilometres in and around Krakow will determine the positions on GC.
Mario Aerts says:
“The course is very similar to last year. The first two stages are almost the same and they offer a chance for the sprinters. The local lap and the finish in the first stage are slightly different though. Day three will be a different story. The positions on GC won’t be determined this day, but you can lose the race here. In my opinion, the GC group will be reduced towards the end of the stage. After that, a transition stage is scheduled and maybe the break has a chance to survive. The heavy part of this race is situated in the final three stages. Stages five and six will certainly demand a lot of energy from the riders, it will be really hard days in the saddle. Several parts of the climbs are very steep, you can't underestimate them. Finally, the closing time trial can be important regarding to the positions on GC.”
Bart De Clercq finished second on GC during last year’s edition of this hard stage race. He also won a stage and wore the leader’s jersey one day. The Belgian climber will be extra motivated.
Mario Aerts says:
“I think that we start with a very strong team. It’s a nice mix of young and more experienced riders, that’s an advantage in my opinion. Rafael Valls hasn’t raced for several weeks so we have to wait how well he will perform already. Tiesj Benoot is able to show himself in a break and maybe he can try to win a stage. Maxime Monfort is preparing himself for the Vuelta so he can test his legs in a few stages. Jasper De Buyst will be our leader for the sprints. Riders such as Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot already proved that they can be part of a sprint train. But Jasper is someone who can sprint on his own as he’s a very good track cyclist. The sprints in the Tour de Pologne are often a bit hectic so Jasper’s abilities on the bike are a true asset.
“We can also aim for a good position on GC with two or three riders. Bart De Clercq and Tim Wellens will be the main leaders, but also Louis Vervaeke could obtain a nice result. Louis and Bart are still in the pre-selection for the Olympic Games in Rio so they’ll certainly try to show themselves. Bart was also a bit disappointed because he wasn’t selected for the Tour and he did a great job during last year’s edition of this race. He’s definitely going to try something. Finally, Tim said that he really aims for a good position on GC. He’ll certainly get the opportunity to do so. I have a lot of confidence in this team and I’m sure they will perform well next week.”
At the moment Bart De Clercq is training in Italy to prepare for the Tour de Pologne.
“I was disappointed not be selected for the Tour, but I have new goals now: the Tour de Pologne and Vuelta," he says. "I am motivated to perform well in both races. At the Tour de Pologne we start we GC ambitions. Last year I finished second overall. It won’t be easy to do as well, but I’m definitely aiming for a top ten result. The route is quite similar to last year, so we can expect a tough race again. To win the stage to Zakopane as I did last year luck will have to be on my side. I would be as happy to win another stage (laughs). We go to Poland with a very strong team, with different riders who could play a role on that terrain. We definitely have the possibility to make the race hard and then we’ll see day by day which one of us can aim for the best result.”
Roster Lotto Soudal:
Sander Armée, Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Bart De Clercq, Maxime Monfort, Rafael Valls, Louis Vervaeke and Tim Wellens.
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