It’s the 80th edition of the race and the organisers have decided to mix things up a bit. The route isn’t the hardest, just one proper GC day, a short TT, plus lots of bonus sprints. I think they’re hoping for small gaps, which should encourage attacking racing.
The opening stage is a standard sprint stage, but there’s a bonus sprint after just 13km, which could interest a fast GC rider.
Scenario – bunch sprint on a race track.
This is the “big” GC day, but it’s not that big. There’s another bonus sprint early in the day, but all eyes will be on the final 3.65km which averages 7%. The hardest section of the climb is the opening 1.3km which averages 11%, this is where the damage will be done.
Scenario – GC day, but not with big gaps.
The third stage is one that will interest breakaway riders, as the start of the stage is lumpy. There’s another uphill finish, this time it’s 900m at 8.2%, so there shouldn’t be big gaps on GC, but the bonus seconds at the finish will be important.
Scenario – uphill sprint from a reduced bunch.
Another day for the quicks. There is a relatively early sprint, the GC position will dictate whether teams want to go for it before letting the break form.
Scenario – bunch sprint.
It’s the usual lap circuit in Bielsko Biala, but the stage is hard before the peloton get there. With 3168m of climbing, this is the toughest stage in the race. It’s normally a sprint from a reduced group, but this year could be a little different.
Scenario – reduced sprint but expect GC attacks.
A 16.6km ITT, which will decide the winner of the race.
The final stage is another for the sprinters.
Scenario – bunch sprint.
Ineos – they arrive with a very strong team, picking a leader is hard. Kwiatkowski would love another crack at his home race, he won here in 2018. He comes with “Tour Legs” and has a fast sprint which will be important for all the bonus sprints, and he’ll like the uphill finishes. If not Kwiato, Ineos also have Thomas, Sivakov and Arensman as options. All of them can do an excellent TT, which will be very important in the GC fight.
João Almeida – comes here as a former winner, riders always like returning to races where they’ve tasted success. He’ll see the TT as his chance to not only take a stage win, but also the overall title. He’ll need to be careful in the uphill finishes, sometimes he takes a while to get into his stride, and as the finishes are quite short, he doesn’t have time to ride himself into the climbs.
Brandon McNulty – after winning his national TT crown, he’ll fancy his chances of doing something in this race. McNulty is good in an uphill finish, this route is one that is suits for him, I think he’s got to start as one of the main favourites.
Matej Mohorič – another who’ll be hoping for “Tour Legs.” He took a brilliant win in the final week of the Tour, but the TT is a slight concern. He’s decent in this discipline, but likely to lose some crucial seconds to some of his main rivals for the race win.
Lennard Kämna – I don’t think it’s an ideal route for him, but he’ll hope to use the TT to his advantage. He’s riding the TT in Glasgow, so you can expect him to be one of the men to beat in that stage. A very good day means he can challenge for the GC win. Sergio Higuita – perfect for the punchy finishes, but the TT could edge him off the podium.
Tobias Foss – he’s not had the best of seasons, but with the world championships fast approaching, you’d imagine he’ll be good in the TT.
Ilan Van Wilder – he’s not going to the Vuelta with Evenepoel, which is a good decision by the team. Van Wilder hasn’t complained about riding in support of his team leader, but it’s good to see him getting opportunities to ride for himself. He showed at the Giro, he’s capable of producing results in the biggest races, he comes here as one of the favourites. He’ll be good in the uphill finishes and should be one of the best in the TT.
Matteo Sobrero – another rider who’ll look at this race and see a big chance of taking the win. He’s an excellent TT rider, goes well uphill, and can sprint for bonus seconds. He ticks all the boxes for this race.
This is going to be decided by seconds.
I’ll take a win for João Almeida.