The 74th edition of the Tour de Pologne will take place between Saturday 29 July and Friday 4 August. The WorldTour race is ideally suited for riders who want to start the second half of the season after a rest and training period. Four out of seven stages are shorter than 150 kilometres and the course is versatile. There are three chances for sprinters, one for puncheurs and also three stages where the climbers have opportunities. There are no high-mountain stages, though, in the Tour de Pologne. Only in the sixth stage, the riders have to climb to a height of over a thousand metres.

The opening stage, with start and finish in Krakow, is a warm-up for the riders. The 130-kilometres stage is the shortest of the Tour de Pologne. There are a few hills at the beginning of the stage, which will most likely end in a sprint finish. There are more hills in the finale of the second stage, but a sprint finish cannot be ruled-out. Stage three offers a first chance for the GC contenders, with four category one climbs in the second half of the race. The next stage is suited again for sprinters, since the 240-kilometres stage is almost completely flat, but exceptionally long. This monstrous stage is followed by a shorter one of 130 kilometres. The category two climb at ten kilometres from the finish makes this stage ideally for puncheurs. The concluding two stages will be decisive for the GC, since the finales of both stages contain multiple first category climbs.

Mario Aerts, sports director Lotto Soudal: “We start the Tour de Pologne with a versatile team. We can compete in the sprint stages with Jens Debusschere, but we also have several riders who can keep up with the best in the mountain stages. Most importantly, we have Bart De Clercq, Maxime Monfort and Rafael Valls, but also Tomasz Marczynski and Sander Armée can handle this course.”

“Our goal during this Tour de Pologne is twofold. Firstly, we will try to obtain a stage victory with Jens Debusschere, something we can hopefully accomplish in the first two stages already. Next to that, we aim for a top ten spot with Rafael Valls. He has proven that he is capable to do so in the Tour Down Under and the Critérium du Dauphiné. It’s usually no problem for Rafael to set a good result after a training period. In stage three, it will become clear already which riders will be GC contenders. This stage ends on a steep hill where it’s certainly possible to make some time differences. The final two stages, however, will be the most decisive for the GC.”

“This year, each team only starts with seven riders, which causes that every team has one rider less to control the race. This might lead to a more attacking race strategy, even though the weather conditions will also play their part. For the moment, very hot weather is forecast, which might result in stages that will be closed longer.”

“Four of the seven stages in this Tour de Pologne are shorter than 150 kilometres. This is positive for our riders, who all return to racing after a training camp. This will be high-intensity stages, which is a good way to gain race rhythm, from which they can benefit in the races to come. Despite the fact that this is the first race in a long time for most riders and that all seven go to the Vuelta, this stage race is not just an ordinary preparation race. It’s a WorldTour race and we will try to our upmost to obtain a nice result, just as the previous years (Tim Wellens won last year and Bart De Clercq finished second in 2015).”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Bart De Clercq, Jens Debusschere, Tomasz Marczynski, Maxime Monfort, Rafael Valls and Jelle Wallays.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Marc Wauters

Stages

Stage 1 Saturday 29 July: Krakow – Krakow (130 km)

Stage 2 Sunday 30 July: Tarnowskie Góry – Katowice (142 km)

Stage 3 Monday 31 July: Jaworzno – Szczyrk (161 km)

Stage 4 Tuesday 1 August: Zawiercie – Zabrze (238 km)

Stage 5 Wednesday 2 August: Olimp Nagawczyna – Rzeszów (130 km)

Stage 6 Thursday 3 August: Wieliczka-zoutmijn – Zakopane (189 km)

Stage 7 Friday 4 August: Bukovina Resort – Bukowina Tatrzańska (132.5 km)