The race has opted to be part of an experiment to use smaller teams – there are only seven riders per team – and many stages have been shortened, with the average distance at 160km per day. There is one long stage, the 238km fourth stage to Zabrze, but several shorter, punchy courses and a new uphill finish.
“We’ve designed the race to be as spectacular as ever; the stages aren’t too long and there is also the new project of 7 riders per team,” race director Czeslaw Lang said. “There won’t be the final time trial, but instead the last leg will be entirely in the mountains, with the two hardest stages in Zakopane and Bukowina Tatrzanska.
“In the first part there will also be space for the sprinters, but in the third stage there is already a never-before-seen arrival, on a stretch featuring gradients up to 20%, which could turn out to be a launching pad for anyone who wants to try and fire up the race.”
Defending champion Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) has opted for the Clasica San Sebastian this year, but there is still a strong field. Among the contenders is Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), who has only raced once since finishing third in the Giro d’Italia, but has been doing some intensive mountain training camps in preparation for the Vuelta a España.
“We’ve been training really well. We’ll have to see how my leg responds after the last intense workouts we did,” Nibali said. “The route is interesting; there will definitely be some surprises, which perhaps I can’t foresee, but we’ll have to show up ready to take on whatever comes our way.”
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