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62nd Tour of Poland - ProT

Poland, September 12-18, 2005

Final test before the Worlds

Quality field for crucial Pro Tour round

By Daniel Marszalek

2004 winner Ondrej Sosenka on the way to a stage victory that give him theoverall win
Photo ©: Christine Krueger
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In 1992 the Tour of Poland (originally called Wyscig Dookola Polski) was a moderate-sized race of just regional importance organized for amateurs. Thirteen years later it's a fully professional event with the twenty best trade teams in the world obliged to start. Since Czeslaw Lang (the first professional cyclist from Poland, and a member of several Italian teams including Gis Gelati, Carrera, Del Tongo and Malvor between 1982-1989) took over the charge of this race it has slowly progressed from an open race (between 1993 and 1995) via professional event of fifth (1996-97), fourth (1998-99), third (2000-01) and second (since 2002) category status before making the great jump to the highest level this season when it become part of the Pro Tour. It's now among the ten most important week-long stage races on the international calendar.

This status will be already seen in the quality of the field that will compete in the 62nd edition of the Tour of Poland. Four of the top 10 men on the individual Pro Tour ranking will be present including series leader Italian Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas); number four, Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile); number six, American Bobby Julich (Team CSC) and number eight Italian Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner). In Vuelta a Espana at the moment, only the last two riders from the ProTour top 10 list are riding.

With at least 50 points at stake and a 48 point difference between Di Luca and Vinokourov, The Tour of Poland, as the stage race on the Pro Tour calendar might be a very important race for the final standings of this competition.

The 2005 Tour of Polands will start Monday, September 12 in Gdansk on the Baltic Sea coast and will finish on Sunday, September 18 as it has since 1999 season in Karpacz, a ski-resort in the Karkonosze mountains. Gdansk will host the "grand depart" on Dlugi Targ Street, famous for its magnificent renaissance architecture, for the fifth time in a row. This time the race start comes almost exactly 25 years after the creation of the "Solidarity" freedom movement in the very same city.

The race course keeps with the Tour of Poland's "modern tradition", with a north-south direction; about 1200 kilometers long (1246.5km to be exact - 18km less than in 2004); and divided into eight stages scheduled for seven days.

The first four stages are generally flat and considered to be a sprinters' paradise. Each of them (in Elblag, Olsztyn, Bydgoszcz & Leszno) will finish with four or five street circuits about 7 kms long, giving cycling fans in these towns a better chance to watch the stars of the world peloton. With so many chances to shine many speedsters are coming to Poland to test their legs before Madrid's World Championships including Daniele Bennati (Lampre), Baden Cooke and Bernhard Eisel (both from Francaise des Jeux), Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner), Robert Hunter (Phonak), Jaan Kirsipuu (Credit Agricole), Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis), Luca Paolini and Filippo Pozzato (both from Quick Step). Intel's Adam Wadecki (current road race champion of Poland) and Jaroslaw Zarebski will form Polish opposition to such a quality field.

As usual true hills in this race will start on Friday during the long fifth stage to Szklarska Poreba. On that day riders will first have to tackle Kapela pass at 135 km, and then four more hills at the beginning of each 11.7km-long loop around Szklarska. There is also an uphill rise to the stage finish on which Italians Franco Pellizotti, Ruggero Marzoli and Rinaldo Nocentini were the quickest in the last three years. Typical sprinters will find this stage too hard for their liking, but all-rounders who are quite fast and can still get over minor hills should be in their element.

However everything will probably be decided on weekend. Saturday's sixth stage is by far the hardest. It should be the best opportunity for riders like Di Luca, Vinokourov, Julich, Rebellin or other overall contenders as Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Juan Carlos Dominguez and Fabian Jeker (both from Saunier Duval), Cadel Evans (Davitamon), Serhei Honchar (Domina Vacanze), Serguei Ivanov (T-Mobile), Jörg Jaksche (Liberty Seguros), Vladimir Karpets and Alejandro Valverde (both from Illes Balears), Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo), Inigo Landaluze (Euskaltel), Jaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) and already twice second in 1999 & 2001 Jens Voigt(Team CSC) to decide about the race outcome.

Although it's only 153 km long this stage consist six 21.7 km laps around Karpacz with 450 meters of total elevation on each of them plus a nearly 5 km long final ascent to Orlinek station with some additional 320 meters of climbing. Last year this stage was remembered for the fine efforts of two young Polish riders Przemyslaw Niemiec (Miche) and Marek Rutkiewicz (now Intel-Action). Niemiec' epic long break secured his win in climber's competition and Rutkiewicz won this queen stage and took the leader's jersey for a while. Niemiec and Rutkiewicz should be prominent riders in this year's race too, but Intel-Action can also count on its experienced trio of Cezary Zamana (winner from 2003), Piotr Wadecki (second in 2000) and Tomasz Brozyna (winner in 1999) who just recently dominated Hessen Rundfahrt with 1st, 3rd and 6th place overall.

Sunday's morning short stage (61 km) is scheduled on much the same course but with just two full laps around Karpacz plus an uphill finish to Orlinek station. Despite such short distance it can be decisive though, as Frenchman Laurent Brochard (now Bouygues Telecom) proved in 2002 and it can be at least be a vital step to a final victory as it was last year for Czech giant Ondrej Sosenka. Finally just to secure high drama right to end of the race on Sunday afternoon there is still a 19 km long time trial starting in Jelenia Góra and finishing on the already very well known ascent to Orlinek (800 meters a.s.l.). Current Athlete's world hour record holder Sosenka won this trial three times in last four years, but course record belongs to very promising Spaniard Alberto Contador who clocked a time of 30:29 in the 2003 season.