Much has been made of the current golden generation of British and Colombian cyclists, but one nation that has gone under the radar is Poland.
In Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Poland has produced two of the most exciting young talents in the peloton. Majka became a household name this July by claiming two stages and the polka-dot jersey at the Tour de France, and is already being touted as a future yellow jersey winner.
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Kwiatkowski may have had a comparatively underwhelming Tour, but remains one of the best all-rounders in the peloton having won mountain stages, time trials and classics this year.
Of the two only Majka will line-up in Gdansk on Saturday, but home fans will be confident that their new star can compete for the overall win.
British hopes for success in the overall classification is less pronounced, with stage-race stars Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas (Sky) all missing through injury, commitments to the Commonwealth Games and disillusionment with the road respectively. But there’s still British interest in sprinter Ben Swift, who won two stages and the younger riders classification here back in 2012.
Swift will have plenty of chances to win stages in the first half of the race, which doesn’t feature any seriously difficult climbs. If breaks aren’t allowed to escape then Swift could challenge for stage one and two, which both look set to be relatively straightforward bunch finishes.
Although there’s nothing like the huge transfer from Italy to Krakow last year, before stage three the peloton will travel from Warsaw in the centre of the country to Kielce towards the south. The riders are appeased with another relatively easy day in the saddle, but the race nears the Tatra Mountains with an undulating stage four.
The final three days is where the overall classification will be won or lost. Stage five includes three successive accents of the category one Strbske Pleso, which is difficult enough to cause decisive time gaps between the favourites.
An even more difficult stage follows the next day, where riders will tackle five circuits of Bukowina Tatrzanska, featuring two category one climbs each lap. Time trial specialists will then have 25 kilometres against the clock in Krakow to make up time on the climbers in the tour’s final stage, to round-off what looks like an intriguing, well-balanced route.
Tour of Poland 2014: Stages
Stage one, Sunday August 3, Gdansk to Bydgoszcz, 226km
Stage two, Monday August 4, Torun to Warszawa, 234km
Stage three, Tuesday August 5, Kielce to Rzeszow, 180km
Stage four, Wednesday August 6, Tarnow to Katowice, 232km
Stage five, Thursday August 7, Zakopane to Strbske Pleso, 178km
Stage six, Friday August 8, Bukovina Terma Hotel Spa to Bukowina Tatrzanska, 2km ITT
Tour of Poland 2014: Teams
Ag2r La Mondiale
Trek Factory Racing
Tour of Poland 2014: TV Guide
British Eurosport will be broadcasting live coverage of the 214 Tour of Poland
Tour of Poland: Recent winners
2013 Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge)
2012 Moreno Moser (Italy)
2011 Peter Sagan (Slovakia)
2010 Daniel Martin (Ireland)
2009 Alessandro Ballan (Italy)
2008 Jens Voigt (Germany)
2007 Johan Van Summeren (Belgium)
2006 Stefan Schumacher (Germany)
2005 Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg)
2004 Ondrej Sosenka (Czech Republic)
Tour of Poland: Last year’s top ten (2013)
1. Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge in 31-58-07
2. Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 13 secs
3. Christophe Riblon (Fra) Ag2r at 16 secs
4. Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo-Tinkoff at 26 secs
5. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky at 51 secs
6. Eros Capecchi (Ita) Movistar at 51 secs
7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r at 1-14
8. Ivan Basso (Ita) Cannondale at 1-38
9. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana at 2-35
10. Chris Anker Sorensen (Den) Saxo-Tinkoff at 2-50