“Once again we have prepared a course which will not only challenge the riders, but also show off the natural beauty and accomplishments of Azerbaijan,” said Farhad Aliyev, General Secretary of the Azeri Cycling Federation. “We look forward to some hard-fought stages and a worthy overall winner on Sunday.”
This year’s race features a number of top riders, including Vuelta a Espana winner Christopher Horner. His Airgas-Safeway team and Team Novo Nordisk are the first USA-based teams to participate in the race. A look at the starting list shows other top candidates, with Marco Kump (Adria Mobil) likely to dominate the sprints. The Slovenian, who rode for Saxo-Tinkoff for two seasons, has six wins on the season, all in bunch sprints.
Other riders in Baku with WorldTour experience include Francesco Chicchi (Androni-Giacattoli) and Aldis Kroupis (An Post-Chainreaction).
Three riders will be competing for the “Flame Jersey” for the best Azeri rider. Dual national champion Elchin Asadov, Maksym Averin and Samir Jabrayilov all ride for the Azeri team Synergy Baku Cycling Project. The race opens with the traditional stage from Baku to Sumqayit, with a bunch sprint expected. Hills and wind will feature on stage two, from Baku to Ismayilli. The third stage runs from Qabala to Shack and back to Qabala, with cobblestones along the way adding an extra challenge.
Stage four is new this year, 205 km from Qabala to Mingachevir, and another bunch sprint at the end. The race takes its traditional end with a city course through Baku, with climbs and cobblestones, a course which will also serve for the road race at next month’s Baku European Games.
For the first time, three stages of the race will be broadcast live around the world. Stages three, four and five will be carried live on Eurosport, which will also have half-hour wrap-ups of the first two stages.