2022 Tour of Poland Stage 1 Preview

Kielce > Lubin 218.6km

The opening stage is a long day in the saddle, almost 220km. Most of it will likely be spent at an easy tempo as the break will be weak and everyone will be happy with a sprint finish.

Weather

Cloudy and warm. There is a risk of a thunderstorm, but the current forecast suggests it will arrive after the finish.

Finale

Not overly technical, but there are still some points where positioning is vital. At 3km to go, the road goes downhill, and the speeds will be very high. This leads into a very tight right-hand turn with 2km to go. The good news for those out of position is the next kilometre is on a wide road, where it’s possible to move up the bunch, then comes a right-hand turn with 900 to go. This corner sends the peloton up a little kicker, it might be short, but some of the gradients are pretty steep. At the top of this little drag comes the final corner with around 200 to go, and the final sprint is a tailwind.

Tactics

Nothing fancy needed for this stage. Let a small break get up the road, featuring riders from the Polish national team, and settle back for a long day in the saddle. I would want a good position with 5km to go, being near the front for the downhill section is important. 

I do like the little kicker inside the final kilometre. If any of the sprinters fail to hold their position, it’s game over. This is a chance for a team to hit the front with pace, ensuring a top position for the final corner. To win the race, you really need to be in the first four or five wheels at this point.

Contenders

Olav Kooij – lightning fast, the youngster has everything it takes to be the fastest sprinter in the world. Jumbo-Visma only have six riders, so they need to carefully manage their resources in the finale of the stage. What they do have is a lot of power in the sprint train, Van Der Sande, Van Dijke and Teunissen look like one of the best trains in the race. For me, he starts as the man to beat.

Arnaud Démare – after a hugely successful Giro, Démare can approach the final part of the season without pressure. He has most of his trusted sprint train, with Welten likely to be in position 3, a move that is needed as Sinkeldam will be leaving at the end of the year. They don’t always get it right, but more often than not they get Démare into a good position for the sprint.

Mark Cavendish – just four sprint wins so far this season, he’s not had the returns he would have hoped for. Cav will be leaving the team at the end of the year, destination currently unknown. In this race, he’ll have Cerny, Štybar and Van Lerberghe as his lead out men, that’s an okay sprint train, but not the best in the race. We’ll have to see how he goes in the final kilometres.

Phil Bauhaus – just one win this season, but he has gone close on several occasions. As usual, Bahrain don’t arrive with a long sprint train for him, that’s one of the issues he has in the closing moments of stages. Far too often, Bauhaus finds himself without help and too far back to threaten for the win.

Kaden Groves – he’s had a good year, taking two wins, including his first at world tour level. With O’Brien and Edmondson to help him, he should be in the mix come the end of this stage, but he doesn’t have the strongest train in the race. 

Sam Bennett – he’s had to come to terms with missing out on selection for the Tour de France, so we’ll have to see how he responds in the coming races. With just one win this year, I understand the decision the team took, but I do feel sorry for Sam. In this race he has a very strong train to support him, Mullen, Archbold and Meeus should get him into a good spot for the sprint, then it’s over to him. I would be pleased to see him respond by taking some wins this week.

Pascal Ackermann – another fast man who’s not had a season to remember, taking just one win so far. It seems like a long time ago when he was touted as the next big thing. Fingers crossed the German can hit some form between now and the end of the year.

Prediction Time

I’ll take a win for the fastest man in the peloton. It’s a day for Olav Kooij, and I can confirm that Jumbo-Visma haven’t paid me to say so.

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