2013 Tour de Pologne: Race organisers trial changes

Matthew Boulden Roar Guru

By Matthew Boulden, Matthew Boulden is a Roar Guru

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    Commencing this forthcoming weekend, the Tour de Pologne is primed to present seven interesting days of racing.

    However, the reportedly strong startlist, including 2013 Giro d’Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali, and an interesting race route, are not the major talking points of this edition.

    This is because race organisers Lang Team are co-operating with the UCI to trial two different pilot projects during the 70th edition of the Tour of Poland.

    Perhaps the most significant, and least complicated difference is the change in squad sizes, with the teams now only able to bring six riders. The suggested response to the current dominance of Sky Pro Cycling has often been to reduce the sizes of teams, with the added side effect being the possibility of inviting more teams to participate in the race.

    These discussions have often been spurred on by the excitement and unpredictability of the Olympic men’s road race, where squad sizes are as low as five, with the United Kingdom’s failure to control the breakaway for outright favourite Mark Cavendish, leading to a surprise gold medal victory for Alexandre Vinokourov a prime example behind people’s reasoning.

    The Tour de Pologne shall also experiment with the UCI’s “Race Appeal” project, which has the potential to encourage more aggressive riding. During each stage, the cyclist who has accrued the highest points total from the intermediate sprint and King of the Mountain contests shall receive a significant time bonus in the general classification.

    There are three levels of time bonus on offer; with 30 seconds to the highest scorer, 20 seconds to the second highest scorer, and 10 seconds to the third highest scorer. There are a few quirks to the ‘Race Appeal’ system when ties are involved. However, usually only the three highest points scorers will receive time bonuses.

    As an example, should two or more cyclists be tied for the third highest points total, then more than three cyclists claim the allocated time bonuses. However, should three cyclists tie for first position in the competition, they all receive the 30-second time bonus, but no cyclists receive the 20 or 10-second time bonuses.

    Another situation to account for involves two cyclists tying for first, which means that any cyclist coming second in the competition standings would actually receive the 10-second time bonus and not the 20-second time bonus.

    There are a variety of situations to consider during each stage, but hopefully this short explanation helps explain some of the mechanics behind the ‘Race Appeal’ project.

    With the UCI looking to establish its ‘Race Appeal’ project as a permanent rule fixture at UCI World Tour races from 2014, the Tour de Pologne presents itself at an opportune moment to observe and analyse the affects of the new ‘Attractivity Contest Classification’, before it potentially becomes a permanent addition to cycling.

    In theory, it has the potential to provoke a whole new series of tactical battles between different general classification teams and their rivals. Whether the risk-reward factor will be high enough to coax a greater number of daring attacks out of the general classification favourites is debatable.

    However, how great would it be to see daring attacks from further out than the last two or three kilometres carry some reward for those cyclists who dare to excite.

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