2011 - Planning a Trip
Paris-Roubaix is one of those races whose reputation grows with age. more...
Spring Classics 2011
With the top riders taking the chance for a race with a promise of sunshine (in Paris-Nice) it’s a good time for spectators and “sportive-ists” to get their plans finalised for the upcoming Spring Classics. But it’s not just the classics that you should consider. The cycling agenda is full of events around and between the headliners. For example between Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders is the 3 Days of De Panne; normally with a class field - as the riders are in the region anyway. So this year that’s one that I plan to see for the first time.
As well as the races for the elite men there are also events for elite women, under-23 men and juniors - sometimes on the same day. For example this year on the weekend of 9-10 April there is the Ronde van Vlaanderen for U23s and the Paris-Roubaix for juniors and the cyclo-sportive - as well as the greatest pro classic; the race through Hell to Roubaix.
The Paris-Roubaix cyclo-sportive this year is being arranged by ASO [and Rapha?] on the Saturday. Ideal if you want to test the strength of some Rapha clothing. Update 3-Apr-2011: I have not checked out exactly why but the Challenge has been downgraded to a tourist ride that now stops at the Carrefour de l’Arbre. So no chance to finish in the velodrome this year.
There is also a mountain bike version of P-R but that’s not until Sunday 15-May-2011.
And on a practical travel issue - the latest developments in GPS gadgets mean that a personal or bike-mount unit can be loaded with the full route of, say, Paris-Roubaix so that you can negotiate even the most complex, farm-track-based route like a local. [I think I need to write something about how this actually works in practice..]
As you all must be aware the northern European spring is the traditional season for single stage classics. And the ones giving top billing for 2009 are probably already well known and planned for. So I have extended the list to include the less prominent womens, U23, junior and tourist versions where they exist.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad / Circuit Het Nieuwsblad (formerly Het Volk)
28-Feb Elite Women : Elite Men
01-Mar Elite Men
E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke
28-Mar Elite Men | 29-Mar Cyclo Sportive
Tour of Flanders / Ronde van Vlaanderen / Tour des Flandres
04-Apr Cyclo Sportive | 05-Apr Elite Women : Elite Men | 11-Apr Espoirs
08-Apr Elite Men
12-Apr Juniors : Elite Men | 10-May Mountain Bike | 31-May Espoirs | No Cyclo Sportive this year?
15-Apr Elite Men
Amstel Gold Race
18-Apr Cyclo Sportive | 19-Apr Elite Men
22-Apr Elite Women : Elite Men
18-Apr U23 Men | 26-Apr Elite Men
The other single day events that gain a UCI ranking of 1.1 during the spring in France, Belgium and Holland are -
4 Le Samyn (Bel)
18 Nokere-Koerse (Bel)
22 Campina Ronde van het Groene Hart (Ned)
22 Cholet - Pays De Loire (Fra)
25 Dwars door Vlaanderen / A travers la Flandre (Bel)
29 De Brabantse Pijl - La Flèche Brabançonne (Bel)
3 Route Adélie de Vitré (Fra)
4 Hel van het Mergelland (Ned)
5 GP de Rennes (Fra)
9 Grand Prix Pino Cerami (Bel)
13 Albert Achterhes Profronde van Drenthe (Ned)
13 Rund um Köln (Ger)
14 Paris-Camembert (Fra)
16 GP de Denain Porte du Hainaut (Fra)
19 Tro-Bro Léon (Fra)
26 Int. Ronde van Noord-Holland (Ned)
In addition there are plenty of top ranked stage races and single day events in Italy and Spain to watch - see your favourite web site or magazine.
The brothers Schleck made up half the successful breakaway group in the final kilometres - but their separate attacks failed to shed the other two. So Alejandro Valverde took the honours in the 94th edition beating the evergreen Davide Rebellin. Full story at cycling news....
Cunego’s decision not to go for the Giro this year has meant a change of fortunes. Not only did he win the Amstel Gold last week and take the Pro Tour jersey but he now starts as favourite at Liege tomorrow. Alejandro Valverde is second favourite followed by Frank Schleck, Davide Rebellin, Cadel Evans and Kim Kirchen - winner of the Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday.
Amstel Gold + Pro Tour Points
Lampre’s Damiano Cunego used his climbing strength to out sprint Frank Schleck and Alejandro Valverde on the Cauberg and take the 43rd Amstel Gold. The points from the win should also push to Cunego to the top of the ProTour rankings - and reduce the UCI’s embarassment with this ranking method thus far into the season.
Belgium took 1-2-3 in the U23 race today through Jan Bakelants, Romain Zingle and Jan Ghyselinck. The leading US finishers were Peter Stetina and Chris Barton who arrived within 4 mins of the solo winner - as did Isaac Speirs of Ireland. But no Australian or GB teams - or even individual riders - were entered it seems. In fact I need to find out if there any GB U23 team plans for the top European road races this year - surely an opportunity to improve performance without incurring vast expenses.
Amstel Gold Favourites
Davide Rebellin and Alejandro Valverde are joint favourites for tomorrow - followed closely by Cunego, Freire, Kirchen and Dekker. Certainly both Dekker and Kroon will trying hard for a home win after six years of “foreign” victors. And now that Michael Boogerd has retired - after 7 podium places in 7 successive years - the orange army will need a new star to cheer.
Amstel Gold Weekend
With a cyclo-sportive on Saturday and the Pro-elite race on Sunday there should be plenty for cycling fans to enjoy. Even the cold damp spring is not expected to reduce the numbers riding or watching. According to the organisers 12,000 are due to ride on Saturday and the event limit was reached three months ago.
For the race it seems that Nuyens, Bettini and Langeveld will be out through injuries and Greipel will be riding in the US - so the Pro Tour jersey may at last change shoulders. You can use the Internet from 10:00 to follow the race as a ‘Spectator’ via the event website...
Don’t Celebrate Too Soon
Mark Cavendish used his track experience and kept going for line - while Tom Boonen thought he had it sown up and was going for the victory salute. Result - no third win at the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen / Grand Prix de l'Escaut for Boonen but a repeat of last year’s win for Cavendish. Full story on line at your favourite news site - and even the BBC.
Hardest of the Hard
The cold and wet conditions for the Ronde were followed by relatively pleasant conditions for Gent-Wevelgem on Wednesday. But predictions are for a return to the wet for Sunday’s big one - Paris-Roubaix.
It is going to tough for any of the riders who put in the big efforts on Wednesday around the Flanders climbs and cobbles to Wevelgem. So it would be quite an achievement for the podium places to go to riders such as Oscar Freire, Wouter Weylandt, Erik Zabel, Luca Paolini, Stuart O'Grady, Roger Hammond, Hervé Duclos-Lassalle (son of Roubaix winner Gilbert), Filippo Pozzato, Thor Hushovd or even Mark Cavendish who were all contesting the final rush just two days ago.
However the online betting services still put Tom Boonen as favourite ahead of Cancellara, Flecha, Hoste, Hincapie, Ballan, Pozzato, Devolder, O’Grady, Hushovd and Nuyens. A very similar ranking to the Tour of Flanders odds. Certainly all these riders have good form - but so do many others. Riders like Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Philippe Gilbert, Sylvain Chavanel and Bernhard Eisel performed well and could upset the bookies. But any rain will make the race even more unpredictable and even on a “good” day luck can play as big a part as strength and determination.
Ronde van Vlaanderen
The start lists for both the Men’s and Women’s events are now available. More...
Women’s Het Volk
Twenty-five teams are on the start list for Sunday - including Team Swift Racing. The Belgian national team is the only non-trade team present so most teams and their top riders are expected. I spotted Oenone Wood, Judith Arndt and Kate Bates in the Team High Road squad plus Niki Harris as the British presence with De Sprinters Malderen. More....
Strong winds across the flat lands did as much damage as the cobbles and climbs in Saturday’s “Het Volk”. But Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) overcame the tough conditions to win - in the style of a champion - on his own.
And Steven De Jongh (Quick Step) made it a double for Belgium by winning the Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne on Sunday from Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank). But was Australian Matthew Goss (Team CSC) beating last year’s winner, Tom Boonen, for third place a pointer for the future?
What’s in Store for 2008?
Cycling’s recent problems will have put off some sponsors - and, for a time, some of the media. But the Belgian spring seems set for a good start to the season. All the traditional spring races look to be going ahead as planned - and with no forecasts of harsh winter weather (as yet). But even if the weather does make things that much tougher the Belgian public can still be expected turn out in their 1,000s. The fact that the media has switched to the problems in other sports suggests that cycling has turned a corner; at least in the mind of the journalists.
Start lists for the Het Volk and K-B-K will be available soon - following the links below.
2008 Race & Sportive Schedules
At a time when the problems in pro-elite cycling should be the catalyst for greater unity it looks like the UCI will dig itself further into trouble by escalating the dispute with race organisers. Recent doping scandals have proved too much for some major sponsors. Rather than putting everything into improving the position of the cleaned-up sport we now have an escalating dispute at its heart.
As at today (2-Dec-2007) the world’s highest-profile classic, Paris-Roubaix, is entirely excluded from the UCI lists available online. Not just the Pro Tour selection but the full Europe Tour calendar! [Update 16-Dec-07 - the UCI lists have been updated to include Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix (and all the others) but they now have a status of “*” rather than the 1.HC they had before the Pro Tour scheme was bolted on]
To make up for no Paris-Roubaix the UCI have upgraded the mid-week Gent-Wevelegem to Pro Tour status. But this only makes the dispute with ASO and the other major tour organisers that much worse. Don’t forget that it was the UCI’s World Cup requirements that, not many years ago, excluded Gent-Wevelgem from the top ranking because it was not run at the weekend.
Cycling fans will ignore the fact that Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Paris-Roubaix, La Fleche Wallonne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, etc are not ranked HC in the UCI calendar. But it can only cause further damage to the confidence of sponsors. I have no idea who is right in this dispute. However a basic truth about bike racing is that races do not happen without organisers and, at this scale, sponsors. ASO and friends may not be right but they are the ones providing the events. Not just any events but events at the very top of the sport. If the organisers were to switch to some other sport, could the UCI organise a Tour, Giro, Vuelta, Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, etc themselves? I think not.
The following is a composite calendar covering the traditional Spring Classics not just for potential spectators but also cyclo-sportive riders -
2008 Omloop Het Volk / Circuit Het Volk
01-Mar Elite Men more..
16-Mar Elite Women
02-Mar Elite Men more..
2008 Tour of Flanders / Ronde van Vlaanderen / Tour des Flandres more...
05-Apr Cycling for All / Cyclo Sportive
06-Apr Elite Women
06-Apr Elite Men
09-Apr Elite Men more...
2008 Paris-Roubaix more...
13-Apr Elite Men
08-Jun Cyclo Sportive
2008 Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen
16-Apr Elite Men
2008 Amstel Gold Race
19-Apr Cycling for All / Cyclo Sportive / Toerversie
20-Apr Elite Men
2008 Fleche Wallonne
23-Apr Elite Women
23-Apr Elite Men
19-Apr U23 Men
27-Apr Elite Men
The leading Pro-Tour teams will probably be going for these additional events in March-
02 Clasica de Almeria ESP 1.1
05-09 Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia ESP 2.1
09-16 Paris - Nice FRA HC
10 Giro della Provincia di Lucca ITA 1.1
12-18 Tirreno - Adriatico ITA HC
22 Milano - Sanremo ITA 1.HC
23 Ronde van het Groene Hart NED 1.1
24 Rund um Köln GER 1.HC
24-28 Vuelta a Castilla y Leon ESP 2.1
26 GP Waregem BEL 1.1
29 E3 Prijs Vlaanderen BEL 1.HC
29-30 Critérium International FRA 2.HC
30 Brabantse Pijl BEL 1.1
With these other events between the traditional classics during April -
01-03 Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde BEL 2.HC
05 Hel van het Mergelland NED 1.1
05 GP Miguel Indurain ESP 1.HC
07-12 Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco ESP PT
13 Klasika Primavera ESP 1.1
21-27 Tour de Georgia USA 2.HC
29-04 Tour de Romandie SUI PT