Tratnik will be challenged by some big names, Laporte and Jakobsen are favourites for sprints

Tratnik will be challenged by some big names, Laporte and Jakobsen are favourites for sprints

Tour of Slovakia can look forward the attractive mass sprints, but the battle for overall victory will also be amusing. Jan Tratnik will have a lot of work to do to defend his last year´s victory. Against him will be strong names from this year´s Giro d´Italia and Tour de France.

 

Our traditionally biggest stage race in our country will start in an non-traditional time. Organizers of Tour of Slovakia swapped the time-tested date in June to the new date in September, which means that the race ends just before the world championships in Innsbruck. This fact contributed to the attractiveness of the race, which World Tour teams with their big candidates for the rainbow jersey will  attend for the first time.

 

Up to three sprints possible

 

As in the close past, even in this year the programme of Tour of Slovakia consists of five competing days. First will be a short, not too technical prologue in Poprad, which will create some gaps between the favourites for the overall win. The opening prologue was proven to be a good choice in the previous two years, but in comparison to the last year´s one, Poprad prologue will be shorter, as two kilometres were removed.

 

On the next day will be one of the most deciding stages of 62nd year and attractive finish at Štrbské pleso. Riders will have to go through seven mountains, from which six are in the first category. These hills will sieve the most resilient cyclists and it can be expected that the peloton will break into smaller groups. The first stage will have a say in the fight in general classification, but also in the competition of the king of mountains.

 

The next three days will be dedicated for the sprinters. Although the terrains of second, third and fourth stage are not very similar, they have one thing in common: a not too difficult finish, which will be controlled by sprinting teams and breakaway riders probably won´t get a shot at stage victory. A last-minute change happened in the startlist and Slovakia can welcome an elite sprinter of Cofidis, Christophe Laporte, who at this year´s Tour de France was chosen over Nacer Bouhanni. Frenchman will have to sprint most importantly against Fabio Jakobsen, the rising talent of Quick-Step Floors.

 

The duel between the world and continent

 

The most important role in the 62nd year of Tour of Slovakia will be played by riders of Quick-Step Floors and Bora-Hansgrohe. Both World Tour teams have sent us strong rosters, in which the names that stand out the most are Julian Alaphilippe, king of mountains at this year´s Tour de France and a fresh winner of Tour of Britain, Bob Jungels or Felix Großschartner, who in the actual season took part in Giro d´Italia and in the young rider classification took the sixth place.

 

They will be challenged by some strong continental rosters. Bardiani - CSF with Giulio Ciccone, Dutch Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij with legendary Pieter Weening or Polish CCC Sprandi Polkowice with a defending winner of last year´s edition of the race, Jan Tratnik, they all have come to Tour of Slovakia. Belgian representation has also sent a very strong team, which includes Serge Pauwels, Dimension data rider, and Ben Hermans from Israel Cycling Academy.

 

Mini-fight will be also between the Slovakian riders. Up to seventeen Slovakians will attend the start of Tour of Slovakia, which is in comparison to the last year a raise from thirteen to seventeen riders. Besides Dukla Banská  Bystrica we will greet Slovak representation with Matúš Štoček, Miklos Szabó from Pannon Cycling Team and also Erik Baška and Juraj Sagan from Bora - Hansgrohe. Juraj is the hottest candidate for the best Slovakian rider jersey in national colours (white, blue, red).

 

photo: © Quick-Step Floors Cycling Team / Getty Images