The Tour of Poland is one of the oldest races on the calendar but has changed a fair amount over the years and attracted a crop of major stars since 2005. You might recall the 2011 race which saw Marcel Kittel rise to prominence and a 21-year old Peter Sagan confirm his star potential.
In recent years the organizers have endeavoured to include more climbing than ever – though perhaps not as much as their lively profiles suggest – and the inclusion of a time trial has further skewed the race towards genuine GC riders.
The time trial has been taken away for 2017 but a selection of sharp hilly finishes has attracted a number of leading riders. Here are my quick picks for the overall GC.
The removal of the time trial has done wonders for the hopes of a number of climbers. In previous years the strong sprinters have done well in Poland but I can’t see any getting close to the win this time around. Peter Sagan is bookies favourite and is as short as 5/1. He’s got a point to prove but I just don’t expect him to be interested in the GC race on a route packed with this many climbs.
The Winner – Davide Formolo @ 18/1
16th, 9th and 4th in the last three editions, there’s little to suggest Davide Formolo’s return to Poland won’t be accompanied by another high place finish. My main concern is that a strong Giro d’Italia combined with the Dauphine and an expected Vuelta Espana ride may blunt his threat. Nevertheless, he clearly likes the Polish terrain which will stand him in good stead against a number of his debuting rivals. The Cannondale line-up is quite strong and the route will suit Formolo far more than his team mate Joe Dombrowski. Let’s not forget Formolo’s attack in Liege-Bastogne-Liege this year…
The Contender – Bob Jungels @ 80/1
The ridiculously talented Bob Jungels is way over-priced at 80/1. The bookies must be hoping he isn’t interested in the GC and if he is they could be in big trouble. Admittedly his 2017 season has so far followed the pattern of 2016 and he abandoned the Tour of Poland from 15th place last time around. He’ll also be hurt by the removal of the time trial; a discipline where he would have made major gains. However, Jungels remains a threat and is too powerful over hills to ignore at this price. He could benefit from strong teammate Peter Vakoc (who should also be involved).
The Outsider – Jan Hirt @ 150/1
Polish team, check, good climber, check, good attitude, check…
Jan Hirt is another serious eye-catcher from the Bet365 market. I’m sure he’ll be interested in this race with Team CCC unlikely to have any major aims for the rest of the season. He was a brilliant 12th at the Giro d’Italia and climbed to sixth into Solden in June to remind us of his obvious ability. He doesn’t win very often… but hopefully he can channel his Tour of Austria success into some sort of winning formula. I’m on him each way.
What Else To Look Out For – Sky’s super Dutchman and Movistar’s hidden gem
I would be expecting a big performance from Wout Poels if there weren’t questions about his form. Katusha’s double team of Ilnur Zakarin and Simon Spilak should threaten but may find the climbs too gentle. Lastly, I want to see how 200/1 shot Winner Anacona approaches the race. Movistar always like to be involved!
Seven Word Stage Previews:
Stage 1 – Short, flat loop of Krakow. Angry Sagan?
Stage 2 – Nowhere near as hilly as it looks
Stage 3 – Two climbs twice and an uphill finish
Stage 4 – Comfortably the longest stage. Pretty flat finish
Stage 5 – More hills but nothing too hard. Sprint?
Stage 6 – Ridiculous looking profile but some hard climbs
Stage 7 – Queen stage. Short and full of climbs