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Top riders return to Romania for
2018 Sibiu Cycling Tour starting in two weeks

Two weeks from now, top riders from all over the world will be back in Romania to compete in the 2018 Sibiu Cycling Tour. The race features five stages over four days including two mountaintop finishes and a team time trial, and 20 strong teams will take the start on the Piața Mare in the centre of Sibiu.


The parcours

For its eighth edition, the Sibiu Cycling Tour returns to the format last used in 2014. The traditional evening prologue in the Historic City Centre of Sibiu starts the race and is followed by two challenging stages with mountaintop finishes at Bâlea Lac and Păltiniș. The final day sees two half-stages, a short team time trial in the morning and a rolling stage finishing on the Piața Mare in the afternoon/evening.

Following the team presentation on Piața Mare on Wednesday, 4 July, the prologue is held on Thursday, 5 July. The 2.2-kilometre course is very similar to the one from 2014, running clockwise and starting on the cobbled Piața Mare, in front of the Sibiu City Hall and the Brukenthal Museum. A left turn after about 70 metres takes riders onto the asphalted Strada Mitropoliei, but only 200 metres later there is a right turn onto 120 metres on the cobbles of Strada Poștei.

After a right turn, the ancient round cobbles of the descending Strada Centumvirilor (120 m) will require good bike-handling skills before the Strada Alexandru Odobescu (130 m) takes the riders past the 16th-century Casa Altemberger and the 14th-century Turnul de Poartă on more regular cobbles.

A left turn after a total of 640 metres is followed by a right turn on Piața Huet only 30 metres later, passing the Lutheran Cathedral and entering Piața Mică (200 m), a cobbled square lined with restaurants. After a right turn, riders pass through the archway of the 13th-century Turnul Sfatului and reach the city's main square again.

After racing alongside the northern and eastern sides of Piața Mare (220 m), a left turn takes riders onto the asphalt of Strada Arhivelor and Piața Schiller. A right turn after 200 metres marks the start of the cobbled Strada Tipografilor (140 m). After a left turn and 40 metres on the asphalted Strada Alexandru Papiu-Ilarian, a right turn takes riders onto the cobbles of Strada Cetății (300 m) along the 14th-century city wall and passing the Turnul Archebuzierilor.

The final sharp turn of the prologue comes with 430 metres remaining and takes the riders onto the cobbled Strada Nicolae Bălcescu, a pedestrian zone with shops and restaurants, before they reach the finish on the Piața Mare after 2200 metres. With seventeen 90-degree turns and several road surface changes, this prologue tests the peloton's bike handling and acceleration and is a popular opener for the race.

On Friday, 6 July, stage 1 takes the peloton onto the Transfăgărășan Road up to the glacial lake Bâlea Lac for a mountaintop finish at an altitude of 2040 metres. After the sign-in and ceremonial start on Piața Mare, the flag for the short, but crisp 91.2-kilometre stage is dropped when leaving Sibiu at the Zoological Garden.

The road immediately goes uphill for a category C mountain sprint at Cisnădioara after only 6.3 km, so the race will be on from the first kilometres. After the first intermediate sprint in Tălmaciu., the riders descend into the Olt river valley where intermediate sprints are held near Avrig and Cârțișoara.

After Cârțișoara, the special-category climb to Bâlea Lac slowly, but surely starts; the final third of the stage is entirely uphill. The first kilometres are still very gentle, but once the road enters the forest, the Carpathian Mountains start for real. The last 25 kilometres climb at an average 5.8 percent, and the steepest parts are up to 12 percent. Even more than the gradient, though, it is the length of the climb that will separate the best climbers from the rest of the field.

With rocky cliffs right up to the side of the road and a number of galleries, the Transfăgărășan Road climbs through a stunning mountain landscape. The first rider to reach the Bâlea Căscada waterfall halfway up the climb, 13.9 km from the finish, is awarded the GP Kendrion special prize. Above the tree line, the valley opens up to form a huge natural amphitheatre. The riders will be able to see the finish for the last seven kilometres, but still have to climb numerous hairpin turns. The final kilometre, climbing at more than seven percent, is a last hard test and means that only the strongest climbers can hope to become the successor of last year's stage and overall winner Egan Bernal.

Stage 2 on Saturday, 7 July, is the longest of the race at 185.4 kilometres. After the sign-in and ceremonial start on Piața Mare, racing gets underway southeast of the city centre at the Shopping City Sibiu mall. The peloton will pass Avrig and climb out of the Olt river valley on the C-category climb of Săcădate to reach the rolling landscape in the eastern parts of Sibiu County. There are intermediate sprints in Nocrich and Chirpăr and a C category mountain sprint in Vard before the race turns west again via Avrig and Veștem. The third intermediate sprint of the day is held in Cisnădie, the winner also getting the GP Swoboda special prize. Then, the road kicks up for another mountain sprint (category C) at the top of the Cisnădioara climb. Continuing through Rașinari, the Păltiniș climb is approached from the east, a route last used in the 2013 edition.

The final climb to Păltiniș has a length of 14.5 km, climbing with a 5.5-percent average and rising up to 11 percent on the steepest parts. The GP IFM special prize is awarded to the first rider at the Dealul Călugărul crossroads just two kilometres into the climb, encouraging early attacks. The first nine kilometres are a steady five-percent climb with a few steeper ramps thrown in. The road then flattens out a bit to between two and three percent for four kilometres before the road rises to more than six percent again for the final 1500 metres.

Sunday, 8 July, starts with stage 3a, a short, 9.6-kilometre team time trial. Starting at the outskirts of Cisnădie, the teams will be tested by the Cisnădioara climb – there is a time check at the top, with the fastest team winning the GP IndSoft special prize -, followed by a fast descent and a flat stretch from Dumbrava to the finish line at the Sibiu city limit near the Zoological Garden. This is the last opportunity to change the general classification; after two hard mountain stages, this team time trial will ensure that only a rider supported by a strong and cohesive team can win the race overall.

The final stage 3b in the afternoon of Sunday, 8 July, starts and finishes on the Piața Mare in the centre of Sibiu. With three mountains sprints, all category C, and one intermediate sprint on its 152.8 km, this stage will see a fight for the white mountain jersey as well as the blue sprint jersey. The real start will be just north of Sibiu, and the climb of Șura Mare followed by another unclassified climb is a first springboard for attacks.

Ruși hosts the only intermediate sprint of the day, and on the long flat stretch that follows the race will pass through a.o. Șeica Mare, Copșa Mică, Mediaș, and Biertan. Next up is a climb with five switchbacks south of Richiș, also awarding the GP KUKA special prize. The last categorised climb near Bârghiș comes soon afterwards.

18.6 km from the finish, the village of Cornățel with its reactivated narrow-gauge railway hosts another special prize sprint for the GP Shopping City Sibiu. Afterwards, the road climbs to Dealul Dăii and then descends towards Sibiu. The last five kilometres are mostly on large roads and will favour the sprinters' trains, but the final kilometre may spring a surprise: After a left turn with 500 metres to go, the road surface turns to cobbles for a short stretch and continually climbs at three percent to the finish on the Piața Mare.


Jerseys and trophies

There will be four classification jersey to fight for in the race, supported by the race's loyal sponsors.

The yellow jersey for the overall race leader will be presented by a different sponsor each day. ODU will award the yellow jersey to the winner of the prologue, CON-A presents the jersey to the race leader at Bâlea Lac. Ballan Echipament Sportiv produce all the jerseys and award the yellow jersey after the stage to Păltiniș. The yellow jersey after stage 3a is sponsored by Regiune Gastronomică Europeană Sibiu 2019, and the yellow jersey for the overall winner after stage 3b will be presented by Dulciuri Feleacul.

The white mountain jersey for the best climber is sponsored by Joyson Safety Systems. The rider who picks up the most points at intermediate sprints will be rewarded with the blue jersey sponsored by Marquardt. And the best-placed rider under 23 years will get the orange jersey, sponsored by Continental.

In addition to the four jerseys, three trophies will be awarded each day. The rider with most stage finish points gets the Green Jersey Trophy sponsored by Boromir; the best-placed Romanian rider is rewarded with the Red Jersey Trophy sponsored by Bilstein. Finally, the best team gets the Grey Jersey Trophy sponsored by My Smile In A Box.


20 teams ready to race

Twenty teams from all over the world will come to Sibiu to race, including three Professional Continental teams, 14 Continental teams, and two national teams.

Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec return to the race as defending champions, having won two stages and the general classification with Egan Bernal last year. Fielding a team around Colombian climbing talent Ivan Ramiro Sosa, winner of the 2018 Tour of Bihor, and Giro d'Italia finishers Francesco Gavazzi and Fausto Masnada, this Italian team will be a contender for every stage and the overall classification.

CCC Sprandi Polkowice has been a part of the Sibiu Cycling Tour peloton since 2013. The Polish team has won the race overall twice and podium two more times, winning four stages in the process. This year, they bring a balanced squad around sprinter Marko Kump and GC rider Mateusz Taciak to Romania.

Russian team Gazprom - RusVelo is a new addition to the Sibiu Cycling Tour, supporting young climber Ildar Arslanov with an experienced squad including former Russian champion Dmitry Kozonchuk.

Two Italian Continental teams will bring their strongest riders to the race. It will be the fourth participation in a row for D'Amico Utensilnord and last year's seventh place, Ettore Carlini, while Sangemini - MG.K Vis - Vega is a new addition to the race, lining up with a.o. Paolo Totò.

The Slovakian riders of Dukla Banská Bystrica have won two stages in Sibiu in the past and return hungry for more. Elkov - Author from the Czech Republic come to Sibiu for the first time and bring a strong squad led by world-class timetrialist Jan Bárta, Josef Černý, and Jiří Polnický.

Delta Cycling Rotterdam is one of two Dutch Continental teams; they bring a young squad of mostly U23 riders, and the team's mission is to grow cycling both competitively and as a mode of transport. The other team from the Netherlands is Monkey Town Cycling Team who have been part of the Sibiu Cycling Tour in various guises since 2014, winning a stage in that year with Marco Zanotti.

After putting two riders on the podium and winning the team classification in 2017, Akros – Renfer SA now focus on rider development, bringing a squad of mostly U23 riders from Switzerland. Bike Aid is a German team that races all over the world and gives African riders a chance to compete in European races. They bring Kenyan rider Suleiman Kangangi and Eritreans Meron Teshome and Meron Abraham to Sibiu this year in addition to three experienced Germans. Massi - Kuwait from the eponymous Middle Eastern country are another new team at the race, lining up with a mix of Spanish and Kuwaiti riders. Amore & Vita - Prodir, registered in Albania, bring a squad of Italian and Latvian riders for their first participation, but their leader will be last year's runner-up, Swiss Colin Stüssi.

Team Illuminate from the United States won a stage in their first participation last year and return with a squad around sprinter Martin Laas and Colombian climbers Félix Barón and Camilo Castiblanco. Inteja Dominican Cycling Team debut in the Sibiu Cycling Tour with a balanced team around Diego Milán and Francisco Mancebo. Polish team Wibatech Merx 7r also come to the race for the first time.

New Romanian Continental team MSTina - Focus brings a mix of Italian and Romanian riders in their first participation. Team Novák, on the other hand, has been in every edition of the Sibiu Cycling Tour. The orange team will field strong Ukrainian and Moldavian riders in addition to its Romanians led by Paralympic champion Carol Eduard Novák who is also the president of the Romanian Cycling Federation. A Romanian national team unites those Romanian cyclists who are not part of another participating team. Finally, there will also be a Moldovan national team with the best riders from Romania's neighbouring country.


2018 Sibiu Cycling Tour parcours

5 July    Prologue: Historic City Centre of Sibiu, 2.2 km
6 July    Stage 1: Sibiu - Bâlea Lac, 91.2 km
7 July    Stage 2: Sibiu - Păltiniș, 185 km
8 July    Stage 3a: Cisnădie - Sibiu TTT, 9.6 km
8 July    Stage 3b: Sibiu - Mediaș - Sibiu, 152.8 km

Teams participating in the 2018 Sibiu Cycling Tour

  Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec
  CCC Sprandi Polkowice
  Gazprom - RusVelo
  Akros - Renfer SA
  Amore & Vita - Prodir
  Bike Aid
  D'Amico Utensilnord
  Delta Cycling Rotterdam
  Dukla Banská Bystrica
  Elkov - Author
  Inteja Dominican Cycling Team
  Massi - Kuwait Team
  Monkey Town Continental Team
  MSTina - Focus
  Sangemini - MG.K Vis - Vega
  Team Illuminate
  Team Novák
  Wibatech Merx 7r
  National Team Romania
  National Team Moldova

Sibiu Cycling Tour palmarès

2011      Vladimir Koev (Konya - Torku Șeker Spor - Vivelo)
2012      Victor de la Parte (SP Tableware)
2013      Davide Rebellin (CCC Polsat - Polkowice)
2014      Radoslav Rogina (Adria Mobil)
2015      Mauro Finetto (Southeast)
2016      Nikolay Mihaylov (CCC Sprandi Polkowice)
2017      Egan Bernal (Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia)
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