Tour of Slovenia with a touch of green
Ljubljana/Koper, 15 June - The 24th Tour of Slovenia, which will start in Koper on Thursday and finish in Novo mesto three days later, will have a special green touch this year and will promote Slovenia's tourism. The most prestigious cycling race in the country will be broadcast live on Eurosport for the first time.
The race will feature four stages, with the first starting in Koper and finishing in Kočevje. The 159.4-km leg will be followed by a 169.9-km stage, which starts and finishes in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana.
The third, mountain stage, which is 167.7 km long, will take the competitors from Celje to the Rogla plateau and will feature two more ascents, while the final, 160-km stage, will start in Rogaška Slatina and end, as usual, in Novo mesto.
The race will feature as many as five members of UCI WorldTeam, the highest category in professional road cycling: Bora-Hansgrohe, Orica-Scott, Dimension Data, UAE Emirates and Bahrain-Merida.
Dimension Data will field one of the best sprinters in the world, Mark Cavendish of the UK. The former world champion and the winner of 30 stages in Tour de France is returning to competition after an illness.
Slovenian fans hope to see Cavendish in top form. He told a press conference on Thursday that he was healthy and that he had wanted to get back and compete in Slovenia because the "country is beautiful."
Jan Polanc of UAE Emirates will be Slovenia's main favourite. The 25-year-old, who won the Mount Etna stage in this year's Giro d'Italia, says he hopes that he has kept the top form shown in Italy.
"It's hard to say what the race will be like. I'll give my best," Polanc told the press, adding that the "race will be difficult, as fellow riders are very competitive."
The role of the main favourite is being given to Bora-Hansgrohe's Rafal Majka (Poland), a bronze medallist from the Rio Olympics and the best mountain climber in last year's Tour de France.
"We've picked this race because it's beautiful. I was here also in 2011. I'm happy that I'm here again. The stages are not easy. I have to test my conditioning," Majka said.
The race will also feature four ProContinental teams, nine Continental teams and the Slovenian national cycling team.
This year's Tour of Slovenia will be broadcast live by the pan-European sports network Eurosport for the first time, under a contract secured by the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) and its partners.
Eurosport will broadcast from Slovenia six hours per day, with around four hours dedicated to racing and the rest to Slovenia's natural wonders and landscapes, which the STO sees as an opportunity to promote Slovenia as a green tourist destination.
The race will also be broadcast by the national television and will run under the motto Fight for Green, with the leader of the race wearing a green jersey instead of a yellow one to highlight Slovenia's commitment to sustainable development.
The winner of the 24th Tour of Slovenia will get a special award - a 3-D printed replica of the oldest wheel in the world, which was found in the Ljubljana Marshes and is believed to be 5,200 years old.
* The stages:
1st stage - 15 June: Koper - Kočevje (159.4 km)
2nd stage - 16 June: Ljubljana - Ljubljana (169.9 km)
3rd stage - 17 June: Celje - Rogla (167.7 km)
4th stage - 18 June: Rogaška slatina - Novo mesto (160 km)