środa, 9 kwietnia 2014

Twitter - a chatter or a news source?

The discussion we had today on Twitter prompted me to write a couple of words about Twitter itself. As 140 characters is obviously not enough to share my opinion, I decided to puff away the dust from my blog and put my fingers on the keyboard. 

What's the big fuss all about? Well, if you haven't seen it, Michelle Cound, Christopher Froome's fiancee tweeted yesterday about putting up with all the pressure and doping questions being asked. The discussion is, however, focused on this one:

"Maybe an "ex" doper can win the tour this year, at least he would be qualified to answer all the doping question."

She later said she didn't have Contador in mind: "I didn’t make any reference to Contador, nor did I intend to. I was on an overnight flight on Monday."

I checked. Only Spanish media wrote articles on it. Not surprisingly - the reference is clear, naming another "ex-doper" from Spain, that is one of the main contenders for 101st edition of Tour de France, is as easy as keeping up with Froome riding away from Quintana on Mt. Ventoux.

Our Twitter discussion ended up evaluating Twitter as a valid and trustworthy source of information. For me - it is - as long as you know your sources, you understand the context and as long as you can verify the information.

First, look at examples I've got in my mind:

1) Every team has a website. They upload race reports and quotes after each race/stage. When riders are racing in Catalunya (WT event) and some smaller races in Italy, press officer or content manager is not teleporting and covering two races on site. I'm sure Twitter tickers and updates from local people come very handy.

2) Settimana Coppi e Bartali. No tv coverage, only live ticker on the website and Twitter. Peter Kennaugh wins, BBC writes a story on it, even quoting his tweet. Good for them, they found the right source and used it. What's wrong with that?

3) Women races - no live tv coverage, only a small number of people tweeting live. Of course, you have press releases and they often talk to riders afterwards, but initial reports and posts on Facebook (generating entries and money) are based on Twitter reports.

Twitter live-tickers are a great thing and help us all very much, no doubt about that. Getting the right source is important and if you talk to people who tweet and know more than others, you get the bigger picture. You just have to pick your sources carefully. Often Twitter may be a start - then you switch to emails or other ways of communication, where you elaborate on unclear issues.


I am not a journalist. I don't intend to call myself one. But I've been writing about cycling for some time and what I know is that you're responsible. Responsible for what you publish. Also on Twitter, especially if you're followed by hundreds or thousands of people. And there are many out there who use it to provide accurate news - either by tweeting or by posting links to their blogs/websites.

Now, we have Michelle and her tweets. Of course, she is close to Britain's cycling star so everything she says will be checked and some will try to make a story. So tweeting about "ex-doper" etc. is not the wisest thing to do.

On the other hand, I can understand her - he's been an outstanding supporter of Chris and it must be hard for her, putting up with all the nasty things people write and all entourage. I also understand that fans don't want to be fooled again and will be questioning some performances. But the way some of them express their opinion is, how can I put that politely, inadmissible. No wonder people close to a rider get upset. Well, we cannot do much about it, that's the Web, anyone can tweet.


Whether we like it or not, Twitter has become a serious source of information. Over past years we've seen it growing to importance - during Arab Spring, different conflicts around the world or sport events. But it needs to be handled carefully. Especially if you happen to be well-known. If you're following people to obtain information, you talk, exchange views, after some time you know what they think on the subject (in that case - cycling), when they take the piss out of something, when they are dead serious. And you see that somebody is upset and is tweeting just to shout it out.

I haven't seen any English-speaking media publications on those tweets so far, hope it stays that way. You just don't use emotionally written 140-character messages to make a story. It's wrong. Not professional. No, you just don't do it, if you ask me.

So you (journalist, blogger, whatever you call yourself) just have to be responsible. It's hard. Choosing and selecting. Knowing who you can trust and who needs double-checking. What is appropriate and what is not.

With reporting cycling, today everything seems easier. Over past years things have changed - remember times when looking for a startlist was taking hours, profiles of smaller races were a mystery and finding a live ticker was bordering on a miracle? Today everything can be found - easier, faster - and not only thanks to Twitter. But the abundance of sources and data also means you have to double-check and be careful when it comes to putting something online. Sometimes, one hasty move can do a lot of harm, even if it's not your intention.

niedziela, 22 września 2013

Pre-Florence 2013: An interview with Łukasz Wiśniowski

Short interview with Łukasz Wiśniowski (Etixx-Ihned) who is one of three Polish U-23 riders in Florence. Łukasz is taking part in team time trial today, tomorrow he's set to ride ITT and on Friday he'll be facing 173-km route and its difficulties among best young riders in the world. 

Łukasz won 40-km time trial during Polish Nationals, he is the current holder of both time trial and road race titles in U-23 category in Poland.  Other results: 1st stage 1 Thüringen-Rundfahrt (U-23), 4th Boucle de l'Artois (2.2).

photo credit: Etixx-Ihned/Facebook

Łukasz, you taking part in thre races - team time trial, U-23 individual time trial and U-23 road race. This is a lot, especially taking into consideration that the time trials are not separated by a rest day.  What's the plan?

I think every start is important, these are the Worlds. The plan is to focus on individual time trial and road race because - let's face it - we have no chances in the team time trial.

The third start [team time trial] wasn't really on your schedule, was it?

Well, I knew that it's possible our team gets invited to take part in it but I wasn't selected to ride. Guys who aren't doing individual time trial the next day were supposed to compete but unfortunately some of them got sick and there wasn't much choice.
Road race and time trial. In which one of these you think you can perform better?

I hope to do well against the clock, especially since I crashed in the time trial during European Championships. The route is flat so it's perfect for me.

Yeah, the time trial is flat but it's also 43,5 km long. Much longer than in the previous years. In fact, I don't think U-23 riders have ever faced such a long trial.

Good to know. My hope is that the team time trial helps me prepare for the individual time trial and gets me into the right gear.

Kind of a warm-up?

Yep, exactly.

You crashed during European Championships, there's no sign of the injury now, I imagine.

Well, the sign won't disappear that quickly but it absolutely does not affect my performance. I caught a cold a couple days ago and had to do a short break in training, I missed one of the races because of that. But it's fine now. The motivation is there and we'll be fighting.

czwartek, 19 września 2013

Analysis: Poland for UCI Worlds 2013

UCI World Championships - Florence 2013: This year Poland is allowed to choose 9 riders for the elite men road race. Polish Cycling Federation announced the names of the riders going to Florence yesterday - there are few suprises and a lot of questions without an answer.

Here is a short preview, full squads with my comment. I'm not writing all the results when talking about riders - you can easily find them all taking a look a at ProCyclingStats website.

Poland was ranked 8th among nations represented in World Tour racing in UCI nations ranking on August 15 and can take a 9-man squad to Florence. Such a high place is a result of achievements of only three riders - Rafał Majka (7th Giro d'Italia, 4th Tour de Pologne), Przemysław Niemiec (6th Giro d'Italia, top10 placings in Tirreno-Adriatico, Volta a Catalunya, Giro del Trentino) and Michał Kwiatkowski (4th T-A, 4th Amstel Gold Race, 5th Fleche Wallonne, 11th Tour de France).

Elite men:

Road race: Maciej Bodnar, Maciej Paterski (Cannondale), Michał Gołaś, Michał Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Rafał Majka (Team Saxo-Tinkoff), Tomasz Marczyński (Vacansoleil-DCM), Przemysław Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), Sylwester Szmyd (Movistar Team), Bartosz Huzarski (Team NetApp-Endura). 

Time trial: Bodnar and Kwiatkowski.

Best Polish riders, probably the best line-up for this moment. All the best riders together in one team. Chance of scoring a decent result? Or too good to be true?

Originally I wanted to write that Kwiatkowski, Majka and Niemiec are feeling tired after the racing they did this year. Today it's not entirely true - as we saw yesterday in GP de Wallonie - "Kwiato" is in good shape and it's hard to predict anything. Like somebody once noted - his limits are yet to be determined and he doesn't know them himself.

Kwiatkowski is focusing on the time trials - he's been chosen as the last warrior of Omega Pharma-Quick Step and on Monday morning he'll ride off the ramp to defend the World Champion title with his teammates. Then, he wants to perform at the highest level in the individual time trial. The course is flat - if he's feeling well, he can possibly perform as good as he did during Tour de France. Road race? Michał wasn't sure about his role himself when we talked after le Tour and neither am I today.

Majka did Giro and Vuelta this year, taking respectively 7th and 19th place and may be a little tired after all this. Remember, he crashed during Tour de Pologne and hurt his leg - that didn't help him at all. Niemiec rode Giro, Tour de France and Tour de Pologne - his disposition remains unknown. They both know every piece of Fiesole - but that's not going to help much when you don't have the legs.

Szmyd and Marczyński are not in the perfect shape - Marczyński suffered from cold during Vuelta and was forced to withdraw. He's been struggling with cyst at the begining of the season, came back in May, then won mountains classification of Tour de Pologne but failed to peak during Vuelta. Szmyd was satisfied with his legs after Spanish Grand Tour and could play an important role with his experience, nevertheless the route is not suitable for him. Same goes for Bodnar - Polish time trial champion - his experience and power can prove helpful on such a long and demanding route of the road race.

Gołaś, Paterski and Huzarski. They are quite fresh, did only one Grand Tour this season and are performing strong but with no luck. Gołaś is doing well in the UK, he finished 5th on stage 2 of Tour of Britain, dealt with time trial and today he sprinted to 2nd in Caerphilly. Paterski fought in Eneco Tour, placing 3rd on stage 6. Huzarski rode Vuelta, marking his presence with countless attacks and breakaways, missing closely a stage opportunity on Aramon Formigal and taking 3rd, just behind Warren Barguil and Rigoberto Uran. (in fact, I think he's really happy about his performance)

Who's going to be the leader? Time will tell, I think a lot depends on Kwiatkowski's disposition after the time trial.

Elite women:

Road race: Paulina Brzeźna–Bentkowska (TKK Pacific Toruń), Eugenia Bujak (GK Żyrardów), Małgorzata Jasińska (MCipollini Giordana), Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Rabobank-Liv Giant), Katarzyna Pawłowska (GSD Gestion Kallisto), Maja Włoszczowska (Giant XC Pro Team); reserve: Paula Gorycka (4F Racing Team);
Time trial: Bujak and Pawłowska.

Pay attention to Kasia Pawłowska - she's had a really impressive season, taking a lot of high places in international races and winning Tour Féminin en Limousin. Watch out for Kasia Niewiadoma - new Rabobank-Liv Giant trainee (perhaps more than that in the near future?) - she did Boels Ladies Tour with Rabo and won young rider's classification, taking 10th place in the GC. Ah, she doesn't know the meaning of the word "give up", so expect her to fight.

Best female riders in Poland. Yep. Wait, check again. Take a closer look. Isn't it Maja Włoszczowska? The MTB rider? Yeah, that's the problem. Włoszczowska used to race on the road - she was even a Polish National champion a couple years ago. I may be wrong but as far as I know she didn't do ANY international road race this year. She wasn't present at Polish Nationals. Nothing. She recovered from foot injury and came back to MTB racing, taking 2nd in CX World Champioships. Enough to be selected? I doubt that. There are a lot of riders (like Monika Brzeźna from Pacific Toruń - 2nd in Polish Mountain Championships, 1st in women team time trial) who would love to go and who, by hard work and results, proved that giving them a chance won't be a mistake.


Road race: Emanuel Piaskowy (TKK Pacific Toruń), Patryk Stosz (TC Lasocki Chrobry Głogów), Łukasz Wiśniowski (Etixx–Ihned), reserve: Bartosz Warchoł (TKK Pacific Toruń);
Time trial: Szymon Rekita (Sestese) and Wiśniowski.

Wiśniowski seems to be the strongest out of them but he's doing 3 races - team time trial, individual time trial and road race. Hard to say, depends on the strategy, I haven't talked to him yet. Piaskowy should do well, he finished 11th in Tour du Jura (1.2) a couple days ago. Stosz is a good climber, very good I'd say but is too much of a hothead. If he chooses the right moment to attack, there's a good chance they won't see him untill the finish. There's also a good chance that Eddy Merckx pays me a little visit this afternoon...

No Przemysław Kasperkiewicz in the time trial? That was a little suprise in Poland - he did well in Polish Nationals - 2nd in U-23 time trial, then several top10 and top3 places in Dutch races, 1st place in Ronde van Ransdaal, 6th in Carpathian Couriers Race. He wanted to go but wasn't selected. Shame.

Junior Men:

Road race: Mateusz Kazimierczak (GKK Opty Mazowsze Grodzisk Mazowiecki), Piotr Konwa (4F Racing Team), Patryk Krzywda (KTK Kalisz), Michał Paluta (LKS POM Strzelce Krajeńskie), Gracjan Szeląg (KK Tarnovia Tarnowo Podgórne), reserve: Mikołaj Gutek (Mayday Lublin);
Time trial: Konwa and Paluta.

Strong team. Krzywda, Paluta and Szeląg all seem to understand themselves and can work as a team. Just like they did in Grand Prix Rüebliland, where Gracjan finished 4th, despite having a cold and racing a lot before. Paluta could do well in the time trial; if Szeląg has the legs, he can be pretty dangerous in the road race. I feel that the major drawback is the absence of Tobiasz Pawlak - 2nd in Junior Time Trial during Polish Nationals, 4th in Polish Mountain Championships.

What I don't understand is the presence of Piotr Konwa on the team. He races mainly MTB, doesn't have great results on the road and there are at least few guys that deserve to be selected. Konwa has no results in time trials. The one in Florence is almost 26 km long. No results whatsoever, I'm not counting the 7km time trial of Le Trophée Centre Morbihan, where he came in 6th.

Junior women:

Road Race: Bogumiła Dziuba, Agata Drozdek (BCM Nowatex Ziemia Darłowska), Natalia Nowotarska, Nikol Płosaj (UKS Jedynka Limaro Kórnik), reserve: Łucja Pietrzak (Koźminianka Koźminek);
Time trial: Dziuba and Drozdek.

Possibly the best junior team Poland can put forward.

I'll be talking to riders before and after the races so if I find a minute or two, I'll share it here.

piątek, 2 sierpnia 2013

Quotes after stage 5 of Tour de Pologne 2013

Remeber the new classification in the Polish race? UCI thought of making the event more attractive and created a special classification. Just to remind you - riders take points on the climbs and intermediate sprints. Points for other classifiacations are counted as they always have been. But for each of the climb and sprint top3 gets points (3-2-1). At the end of a day they sum it up and the rider with highest daily score gets 30 seconds bonus. 2nd gets 20 seconds and 3rd gets 10.

Ion Izagirre after stage 4 was 9 second down on Rafał Majka (Team Saxo-Tinkoff), the race leader. Basque rider took 3rd and 10 seconds bonus and so he is now the leader.

Majka: I lost the jersey but it doesn't change anything for me. I'm concentrated on tomorrow's stage. I've been riding in leader's jersey for 3 days, today it's a matter of 1 second. we'll see how it plays out, 1 second could be a enough but it's not much. I fought to defend the lead but Izagirre took points on the climbs and sprints and succeeded. The race is hard to control, there were moments when I really didn't have the legs to chase. But I will be fighting to win Tour de Pologne. Izagirre is not a rider that gives up, he's strong and will also be fighting for the win.

Tomasz Marczyński (Vacansoleil-DCM) became mountains classification leader after long breakaway and taking points on five climbs. He has a slim, 2 points, lead over RadioShack-Leopard's Thomas Rohregger. Marczyński won four categorized climbs yesterday and is looking forward to stage 6 with 10 first category climbs.

Tour de Pologne is the first test for 29-year-old who has just recovered after the operation he underwent in March. Tomasz is preparing for la Vuelta where he hopes to repeat his performance from 2012

I just wanted to try something, to attack - Marczyńki said after the stage. That's me - when I'm in a breakaway - there's always an objective, I'm not riding there for the sake of doing it. Today the goal was to take the jersey. Before the penultimate climb I didn't believe it's going to happen - the peleton brought us back and I wasn't really at the front. I managed to make one more effort and sprinted for the points. 

I've already achieved more than I wanted in  this race. My shape is getting better and better. After Tour de Pologne I'll take a couple days of rest. My next race will be Tour de l'Ain, then again some rest and easy training rides. And the Vuelta.

Marczyński finished 13th in Vuelta a Espana in 2012.

TdP 2013: Franczak fought WT riders despite early crash and swollen hands

BMC's Thor Hushovd won stage 3 of 70th Tour de Pologne, claiming his 4th victory of this season. Norwegian champion did a brilliant job, using his longtime experience and outsprinting Mark Renshaw and Steele von Hoff on the roads of Rzeszów.

It was good to see Michał Gołaś finishing 7th but when I saw the bunch taking the final corner, I already knew the rider I'll be talking to. Polish National Team is participating in the race and they have only one man who is capable of fighting in the sprint.

21-year-old Paweł Franczak finished 16th in a bunch sprint. Many people will say: "Oh, 16th, really? Nothing to talk about. "Mostly true - the place is not impresive, there aren't many top sprinters here butI think he deserves to be mentioned.

Franczak has never competed in such a race. He is currently racing for Polish Continental team Wibatech Brzeg, taking part in races on Polish roads. This year he won the last stage of Carpathian Couriers Race, finishing this international U-23 event with powerful sprint and beautiful victory in Tarnów. In June he took 4th in Polish Nationals in U-23 road race, participating in the action of the race along with Łukasz Wiśniowski.

Considering his lack of experience and  to such races, he did pretty well. His first reaction: The weather has really put us through the wringer. I was feeling good, I even managed to get involved in one of the early breakaways - together with Łukasz Bodnar we bridged to attacking riders but the peleton didn't want to let us go.

Franczak, who has never participated in such a race, at such a high level, tried to save a much energy as possible during first two stages. Mountain roads of Dolomites are not the terrain for him, as he prefers to focus on classics or hilly stages. 21-year-old spent some time in grupetto and finished the first part of the race unscratched. Polish roads and two flat stage seemed to be much more suitable for him. Unfortunately, the crash ended his plans of a good position in the final sprint. When I called him after the  stage, he was waiting for the tests results in the hospital.

I wasn't lucky - slippery roads and nervous moves in the peleton caused a crash. I went down, got a lot of bruises. My hands were in terrible condition, really. I was even thinking of abandoning the stage - it looked awful and hurt so much that I thought several fingers are broken - Franczak told me.

I really wanted to get to the finish - participating in this race is a  dream come true for many Polish riders. I managed to get to Rzeszów. The pace was very high, the rounds technical and dangerous. I tried to stay at the front and despite pain take part in the sprint.  I finished 16th. Well, truth to tell, I'm disappointed. I know I had the legs to be in top10 but after the crash I was felling really bad, as I had problems with handling my bike. 

Franczak recovered well and even took part in a breakaway on the next stage. When we talked in Nowy Targ yesterday, he seemed much more optimistic and the hand injuries turned out not to be that serious.

wtorek, 30 lipca 2013

Two podium spots for Haba and Kasperkiewicz in one week

I thought it's a good idea to write something about two Polish U-23 riders, currently racing in the Netherlands. I mentioned them before in my summary of Polish Nationals but today's entry is only about them. I know, it's Tour de Pologne time and not many people are interested in small U-23 races but in my opinion it's worth writing about them, even in a diary form - talented riders don't come out of nowhere and some time ago there was hardly any young Polish rider racing in Europe. These days we watch Majka and Kwiatkowski scoring great results and building their position in pro peleton - perhaps in a couple of years more Polish riders succeed and will be able to spread their wings on the rough seas of professional cycling.

So today - two races and two stories - two WV De Jonge Renner riders - Przemysław Kaperkiewicz and Grzegorz Haba.

Sunday, July 21st

Grzegorz Haba finished 3rd in Kerniel Classic - Belgian one-day race. 21-year-old Polish rider survived the heat and twenty 5.3km rounds, participating in the crucial move and taking podium spot after the finish from a small breakaway.

Timothy Stevens (Team 3M) claimed victory and Sam Lennertz (United Cycling Team) sprinted to 2nd.

photo credit: Otwarte Drzwi/WV de Jonge Renner

I was feeling very good. 8 round before the finish line a small group formed and I was lucky to be there. We worked really well but 2 laps before the end the attacks started. I thought: "it's now or never, if I miss it, I may lose the sprint". When the attacks started again on the climb, I waited and launched my counter attack just before the summit - Haba described after the finish.
Haba was glad to race on such demanding and hilly route (2 hills, one about 500 m long and the other twice as long). The last lap was only 3.7 km long and the ultimate obstacle was the shorter climb. Only two guys managed to stay on my wheel, we broke clear and made it to the line. I was working very hard for the whole race, so I lacked in energy in the sprint and only took 3rd place. But I'm really happy with that, my legs were responding well and I deserved to be on the podium for the whole effort - he said with a smile.

Sunday, July 28th

Przemysław Kasperkiewicz won Ronde van Ransdaal, small race or criterium in Ransdaal. The event consisted of forty 2.3km laps and undulating terrain made it a selective and tough race for U-23 riders. Polish U-23 time trial silver medalist was active since the begining of the race, riding in the front group and launching an attack in the last 10 km. He then managed to win two-men sprint for the line, beating Bram Nolton (Craford Cycling Team). Sjors Roosen (Cycling Team Jo Piels) finished 3rd.  

photo credit: Otwarte Drzwi/WV de Jonge Renner 

We broke away after 5 rounds and there were 6 of us at the front. I thought it's a good situation - we were working together well and the whole action had the chance of succeeding - Kasperkiewicz told me after the race. 10 laps before the line we had 1:10 on the next group. I knew I have to attack earlier, and I did - 4 laps before the line. There was only one rider on my wheel in the final. Last corner was tricky - I needed to take it well and be in the first position to win.

Kasperkiewicz is slowly thinking about Florence and U-23 time trial. This win shows that I'm in good shape but it's far from my best. I'm training and preparing for the World Championships in Florence. I hope to be selected for the national team and represent Poland in Italy - 19-year-old declared.

Kasperkiewicz and Haba will be racing in Poland in mid-August - their team is set to participate in two classics - Memoriał Henryka Łasaka (10.08) and Puchar Uzdrowisk Karpackich (11.08).

sobota, 27 lipca 2013

Tour de Pologne 2013: stage 1 preview

Tour de Pologne or Tour of Poland starts today and it's time to upload some more info about the stages. I decided not to write the whole preview (I already did in Polish) but to post basic information about every stage plus some interesting stories about places the race visits. I will be reporting some of the stages on site, so I'll try to do kind of a coverage - quotes and stuff like that. 

As I'm sure you already know, 2013 Tour of Poland is not exactly the race you'd expect it to be. It's 70th edition but the thing is that it starts in Trentino, Italy. Peculiar for a one-week race to start so far away from place of its destination, isn't it?  

Why Italy? Many reasons are given - longtime historical and cultural connection between both countries and desire to organize real mountain stages are the most obvious. Race director - Czesław Lang grew up as a cyclist in Italy and has always dreamt of visiting the country with his national race. Trentino region also benefits from the organization.

Many of you may not know that but by "longtime historical and cultural connections" date back to late 18th century, when, after the Third Partition in 1795, Poland stopped exiting as a country and disappeared from maps for 123 years. In the wake of Napoleonic era, many people, including soldiers, emigrated to France, Belgium and Italy. In Italy Polish army was formed and so called "Polish legions" fought on Bonaparte's side, hoping that when Austria, Prussia and Rusia lose the war, Poland will be rebuilt. Polish national anthem was composed in Italy and there are several references to this moment in the lines of Dąbrowki's Mazurka. The line "from the Italian land to Poland" is used by the organizers as race motto.

There's also one more connection between two countries - pope John Paul II who lived in Italy for many years and contributed to the growth of interactions between both nations.

Winning a mountain stage today, at the very begining of the race, is cool, there are a lot of riders in the peleton who would like to do so. But remember, teams only have six riders, so, in my opinion, if somebody is thinking about standing on the podium in Kraków, he won't be really eager to take the jersey on today's stage. Leading the race means responsibility and puts rider (and his team) in the position where they have to chase the break down and control the race - the task that is not so easy when you have 6 riders and tough mountain stage ahead.

The Route

Stage 1 starts from Rovereto and it's not a typical stage of Tour de Pologne we used to see in recent years. In fact, it looks more like a stage of Giro d'Italia or Giro del Trentino and whether you like it or not, it's going to be a challenging day, one of the key points of the race in the fight for the general classification.

The first climb of the day - Fai della Paganella (10,8 km; 7%) - emerges after almost 50km section. The profile shows only three categorized climbs but when you look at the second part of the stage, you'll see Passo del Ballino - uncategorized ascent, also around 10km long, leading to the 2nd category climb of Passo Durone (5 km; 6.1%). The ultimate challenge is a well known climb of Madonna di Campiglio (8,5 km; 6.7%, max. 10%), where riders will battle for the stage win.

There are three intermediate sprints and one "special sprint" on today's stage - the first one is on a flat section before Fai della Paganella, the second one is on the descent and the last one will be contested at the foot of the last climb. 

Main contenders

With new race rules and six riders per squad it's extremly hard to pick today's winner. The difficulty of the stage and mountain finish should be suitable for climbers and all-rounders. Vincenzo Nibali could be in the mix, as he has the chance to fight in front of his fans from Italy. Colombians - Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao cannot be underestimated when it comes to mountain finishes. Depending on their legs and state of preparations to the main goals of the second part of the season, we may witness another Colomian charge on the slopes of Italian climbs.

When it comes to picking a winner, I wouldn't rule out Simon Spilak and Darwin Atapuma, my today's favourite, however, comes from Switzerland and has recently won two stages of Tour of Austria.

There are also Polish riders who climb well and I won't be suprised if one of them gives it a go today. Rafał Majka seems to be in pretty good shape - he's preparing for the Vuelta but promised to fight. Movistar's Sylweter Szmyd wasn't selected for the Tour de France squad and now wouldn't mind trying some kind of solo action on the last climb.

The stage starts pretty late - 1:30pm and the riders are expected to cross the finish line between 6:21 and 6:45pm. Such late hours are nothing new - I presume that it's all because of the number of people watching - 7:30pm is an hour of daily news program in TVP (Poland's main public broadcasting corporation) that is also responsible for the coverage of the race.