• Brändle and Badilatti to feature in Romanian race

  • Technical prologue and two mountaintop finishes

Imagine two cyclists meeting up and deciding to start their own professional cycling team. Six years later, that team is in the WorldTour.

Now imagine a group sitting around in Romania, watching the Tour de France on tv, and saying “why don’t we put on a race?” And they did just that, starting in 2011.

With such similar roots, it seems only logical that Israel Start-Up Nation makes its debut in the Sibiu Cycling Tour.

The first two editions of the race were UCI ranked 2.2, moving up to 2.1 in 2013. The race traditionally has a prologue, two flat stages and two mountain stages, all in and around the city of Sibiu, in the Transylvania region of Romania.

For the first time, the race can boast of two WorldTour teams taking part, Israel Start-Up Nation and Bora-Hansgrohe.

Mixed squad in first race back

The race’s two mountaintop finishes – one road stage, one MTT – will most likely decide the overall winner, and we are going with our Swiss climber Matteo Badilatti for that challenge. He got off to a good start in the first part of the season, finishing 13th overall in the Tour Colombia and second in the KOM ranking at the Tour of Antalya.

Matthias Brändle will focus on the prologue, a difficult city course that should be ideal for the former Hour World Record holder. Rudy Barbier, who brought in the team’s first season win at the Vuelta a San Juan, will go for it on the race’s two sprint stages.

They will be ably supported by Guy Sagiv, Mikhel Raim and Daniel Turek, on loan from the Israel Cycling Academy Team.

“The whole team is motivated after sitting out so long,” says DS Rene Andrle. “Everyone is happy to start up again.”

The route: from a difficult prologue to two mountaintop finishes

The race opens the evening of Thursday, July 23, with a very technical 2.5km prologue in the historic center of Sibiu. The traditional course passes by everything from the old City Wall to medieval houses to mid-century Socialist buildings. The course itself is highly technical with multiple turns, many of them on cobblestones both old and new.

It will be a race for those who can handle their bikes well and can accelerate again and again, with riders expected to be on road bikes. Definitely a stage for Matthias Brändle to target.

Stage one on Friday takes the peloton up to the first mountaintop finish. The 183 km course leaves Sibiu for a loop to the west before heading east to the mountains. It is a lumpy course, with two smaller ranked climbs in the first third. The road then starts heading up with about 25 km to go, on its way up to the finish at Balea Lac, an HC climb.

The long climb has an average gradient of 6.1% with a maximum of 9.2%. It starts out in lovely forest and then snakes its way up above the tree line. By the way, hope the guys wear something warm as it is not unusual to still have patches of snow at the finish even in July!

This stage can be a definite break or make when it comes to the final classification.

Saturday’s stage 2 goes back to the flat. It’s a toss-up – will it end with a bunch sprint or will a break group stay away to take the win, as has happened the last two years? There are two small climbs near the end of the 179.8 km with start and finish in Sibiu.

There is double action on Sunday. The morning features a challenging mountain time trial. It is “only” 12 km long with an average gradient of 5% but sections of over 10%. There is climbing right from the very start in Curmatura Stezzi all the way up to Arena Platos Paltinis. We can pretty much expect the overall race winner to be assured in this stage.

That afternoon things wind up with a lumpy 102.6 km from Sibiu to Sibiu. Covering laps of various circuits, it ends with a slight climb on cobblestones.

Corona and Sibiu

With an increase of Corona cases in Romania, a few teams have dropped its participation, even though officials note that the Sibiu area has excellent numbers. Other teams and individual riders have had to cancel due to travel restrictions.

All riders and staff will be tested before the start of the race, as will all organization members. Everyone stays in one hotel for the entire race, reducing the chances of contamination. Spectators and fans will not be allowed in the start and finish areas.

“The race will follow UCI rules and we have our own rules,” DS Andrle noted. “We hope that everything will go well.”