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Poland Preview Pronto

Poland_mediumHave we been here before?

What: A week, plus or minus, after the Giro Tour starts, we have the Tour of California Poland, a week long stage race that's the main alternative to the Grand Tour.

FSA DS Points? Better than Cali! This is a Cat 3 race so a nice haul of points are available including lesser jersey prizes.

The course: I'm not describing in detail the stages. Go to Cycling Fever or CyclingNews or some such to see the profiles. What I wil say is this: consider the past four GC winners of this race: Jens!, Ballan, D-Mart, and Sagan. Interesting group as all of them have some combination of climbing and closing ability. And that's what this race is: a race for those all-rounders, the riders who excel in medium mountain stages and who can win stages against a reduced field. A couple of the stages are flat bunch sprinty type stages but the deciding stages will shed the sprinters, not with some mega mountain but through a bunch of shorter sharp climbs where probably the stage winners will come home with a few others. In other words, a nice subtle race, a good alternative in the middle of Grand Tour season. Depending on my mood, this race has become one of my quiet favorites of the year.

Who's racing? Before I get to the teams, keep in mind that normally this race inhabits that interlude between the Tour San Seb and Vuelta but with the Olympics this year, it moved up a few weeks and is billing itself as a great Olympic prep race. Which it most definitely is. We got 1000 kilometers of competitive racing for the participants, most of whom haven't pedaled much in anger for a good month or more so as opposed to the TdF riders, these guys might not be so exhausted at the end of this race.

But as we know, prep races mean different things to different riders. Some riders will go at this race hard, others are just looking to get the miles in, And of course most of the riders here won't be at the Olympics. For a few of those guys, some of them (younger riders, Polish riders) are targeting this race as a highlight to their season. Other riders are using this as Vuelta prep-though not as many as normally since the race is earlier. Okay, to the teams!

BMC- Serious team here. First, does this team have a limitless number of Classics riders? I think so. Also, if you had to pick an older rider who most resembles the President of Fastvakia, you could a lot worse than finger Thor Hushovd, right? And, yeppers, The God of Thunder is back! Ride that Chicken Thor!

Weirdly enough Thor has never ridden Poland before. But his teammate Alessandro Ballan has and he has to be considered a pre-race fave. Or maybe Greg Van Avermaet. Or Marco Pinotti. The helpers on this team (Santambrogio, Frank, Wyss, Kohler) make this a seriously deep team for this race. Someone here is gonna be top 5, minimum. Who though?

Liquigas- BMC has the experience. Leeky's bringing the kids: Moser and Capechi for the overall and Viviani for the sprints. Ted King and Tim Duggan are here too.

OPQS- Boonen's targeted this race for his Olympic prep. Could Terpstra be interested in trying for the GC?

I'm not going through every team here, but a couple others of note:

Katusha- Ignatiev, Kolobnev, and Kristoff could figure into the overall while Selig and Porsev will sprint.

Astana- Ahh. Seems like a nice course or Kreuziger, doesn't it? Gasparotto is here too and so is Gavazzi.

Saxo- They got one Rafael Majka, who is a) Polish and b) was hyped pre-season by Riis as a Giro dark horse. he was injured for the Giro so one can see him at least try to be in the mix.

Vacansoleil- Leukemans could get his year on track with a showing here.

Rabobank- Leeky is not the only team with the kids: Kelderman and Slagter are here along with Boom, Bos, Brown, Breschel, and Bling.

Radioshack- Someone here has gotta figure by the end: Bakelants? Machado? Gerdemann? Wagner? Benna is here to lend grace to the sprints.

Sky- Uran and Henao beging their Vuelta prep plus Ben Swift is here. Nordhaug too.

I could go on and on...

Visconti, Madrazo, and J Moreno for Movistar, Howard for Orica, Meersman for Lotto, Haussler, Le Mevel and Wegmann for Garmin, Demare is sprinting for FDJ, Nocientini and Elmiger for AG2R, Degenkolb and Geniez for Argos, Igor Anton for Euskaltel, Pozzovivo for Colnago, Gatto for Faranese Vini, etc.

Point is there's a bunch of riders who could, if they are on good enough form and are motivated, win this sucker; on paper more riders could win here than practically any other stage race. That's cool. So back to FSA-DS; who you got?

One more thing: We will have Live race threads in the Fanposts, not on the front page. Also we don't have any live threads set up so whoever gets there first just start a live thread on your own.