Less than a week after Chris Froome’s yellow jersey triumph, the nation’s other Tour de France hero, Bradley Wiggins, returns to the saddle in the Tour of Poland.
Wiggins has endured a difficult 2013 thus far. He abandoned midway through his season’s primary objective – the Giro d’Italia – after struggling on the descents and with a chest infection, and missed the Tour de France altogether, citing a knee injury as the cause.
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The Tour of Poland will therefore be his first race since the Giro, and marks an opportunity to get his season back on track. His main aim now is to win the world time trial championship in September, and he will look to build his form up during the week of racing in Poland.
The course looks as though it could suit him. Unlike recent editions, this year’s includes a time trial, a 37 kilometre effort from Wielicka to Krakow. As the last stage of the race, it could provide an opportunity for Wiggins to steal the race on the final day.
There are several other key stages before then, however. The race begins in the region of Trentino, with two stages tackling several climbs in the Dolomites, before transferring on a rest day into Krakow for stage three.
The route then takes the peloton around the south of Poland, before returning to Krakow for the final time trial.
Wiggins will have a strong team behind him, with Colombians Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao present to help him in hillier terrain, but in an experimental move the UCI have allowed just six riders per team, which will make the race difficult to control. Nevertheless, Sky’s other Brit riding, Ben Swift, will still be probably given freedom to add to the two stages he won in last year’s race.
In another inventive move, the organisers have included mid-stage bonus points to be contested every day. Wiggins and other GC contenders will need to be alert to these if they wish to contest for the overall win.
Tour of Poland 2013: Contenders
Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky
On paper, Wiggins looks well suited to the route, and the run of week-long stage races he claimed last year proves he is more than capable of winning. However, there are question marks surrounding his form as, having not races since May, he may be too rusty to compete for the overall.
Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana
Like Wiggins, this is Nibali’s first race since the Giro, but unlike Wiggins, the Italian has had a very successful season already. He enters the Tour of Poland on the back of consecutive victories in the Tirreno Adriatico, Giro del Trentino and Giro d’Italia. As such he will line up as favourite, but could also lack form following two months without racing.
Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo-Tinkoff
Majka is one of a number of emerging Polish talents. His top ten finish at this year’s Giro confirmed the 23 year old as a major talent, and he could contest for the honours in his home race. If he fails to find his legs, Lampre’s Przemyslaw Niemiec could give the home nation something to cheer about, though Polish Tour de France star Michel Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) does not line up.
Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Belkin
Belkin did not select Sanchez for the Tour de France despite his good form, but he’ll be seeking to make amends by riding well in Poland. The final time trial could see him contest the GC, and even if he does lose too much time in the mountains, he’s a good shout for a stage win.
Tour of Poland 2013: Stages
Stage one, Saturday July 27, Rovereto to Madonna di Campiglio (Italy), 184.5km
Stage two, Sunday July 28, Marilleva Val di Sole to Passo Pordoi Val di Fassa (Italy), 206.5km
Transfer, Monday July 29
Stage three, Tuesday July 30, Kraków to Rzeszów, 226km
Stage four, Wednesday July 31, Tarnów to Katowice, 231.5km
Stage five, Thursday August 1, Nowy Targ to Zakopane, 160.5km
Stage six, Friday August 2, Bukovina Terma Hotel Spa to Bukowina Tatrzańska, 192km
Stage seven, Saturday August 3, Wieliczka to Kraków, 37km
Tour of Poland 2013 on TV
British Eurosport will be showing live coverage and highlights for the 2013 Tour of Poland. Eurosport electronic programme guide.
Tour of Poland: Recent winners
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)
2003 Cezary Zamana (Poland)
Tour of Poland: Last year’s top 10 (2012)
1. Moreno Moser (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale in 30-15-49
2. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 5 secs
3. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky at 16 secs
4. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Katusha at 25 secs
5. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan at 28 secs
6. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale at 29 secs
7. Jon Izagirre (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 29 secs
8. Tiago Machado (Por) RadioShack-Nissan at 29 secs
9. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Argos-Shimano at 29 secs
10. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky at 29 secs