Tour of Slovenia ready for 30th birthday bash
Slovenia's biggest cycling race, the Tour of Slovenia, is celebrating 30 years this year. With Slovenian cycling making waves on the world stage, the race has attracted increasingly strong international fields in its mid-June slot. The organizers are promising another hotly contested affair with a palette of hilly stages this year.
"We have put together a route of 833 kilometres which will provide a lot of interesting racing over the five days. The fight for the general classification should start on the first day and last all five stages," race director Bogdan Fink told the press on 12 April.
The race has been increasingly successful in drawing some of the biggest names of world cycling to Slovenia's roads. Home-grown star Tadej Pogačar led the charge in the past two years. His participation this year is still up in the air although he has included it in his initial calendar.
To appeal to the big names, the race has again put together a colourful route catering to a wide variety of riders. Four of the five stages are hilly with the possibility of early breakaways, the second meanwhile offers an opportunity for sprinters to dominate.
The race will start in Celje and head to Rogaška Slatina on the first day, where a small group could sprint for the win. The second day starting in Žalec in central Slovenia is mostly flat with some hills sprinkled in as the riders head to Ormož in northeastern Slovenia.
The riders will head to central Slovenia for the third stage from Grosuplje to Postojna, which will feature three categorized climbs and set the stage for the fight for the green jersey.
But day four promises to be the stage where the general classification is expected to be decided. The stage will take riders from the capital Ljubljana to the picturesque hilly areas of the Soča Valley, which had made an appearance in last year's Giro.
The final third of day four will feature two climbs to Mount Kolovrat at 1,084 metres above sea level, with the riders being asked to contend with 3,000 metres in climbs on the stage. "This will be a true royal stage," said Slovenian rider Domen Novak, Pogačar's teammate at UAE Team Emirates.
The riders will head from Vrhnika to Novo Mesto on the final day in another stage that features early and late categorized climbs that could test team tactics.
While final rider participation will hinge on health and form timing, the organizers are confident that they will see a strong field of riders that will fight it out for the green jersey on Slovenia's roads.
The Emirati team will be one of four from the World Tour to attend. Joining them will be another team with a strong Slovenian presence, Bahrain Victorious, along with Australia's Jayco Alula and Bora Hansgrohe.
Riding for Jayco will be Slovenian rider Luka Mezgec, who has also confirmed the return of the team's Dutch star Dylan Groenewegen to Slovenia. "The Tour of Slovenia has become a great place for teams to test their strategy for the Tour de France and we will again be doing our syncing here," Mezgec told the press.
On the back of its increasing international appeal, the race is again looking to make noise abroad, securing two hours of daily broadcasts on Eurosport. It expects to have an audience of ten million viewers over the five days.
The Slovenian Tourist Board will run a series of promotions before, during and after the race. To coincide with the Giro, the Tour of Slovenia and the Tour de France, it plans to run a total of 230 ads to promote Slovenian tourism in May, June and July.