The Classics have been dominated by Deceuninck Quick Step so far this year, can they continue their winning streak? The 13th running of the Strade Bianche takes place Saturday, and although it is only in its infancy compared to the other Classics, it's firmly establishing itself as a riders and fans favourite with some epic races over the last few years.
After the cobbles and the hellingen of the Omloop, the sprinters supposedly get their chance to shine on the second day of this weekend's double-header with the flatter parcours of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. The season proper starts this weekend as far as most cycling fans are concerned, with the arrival of proper racing in wind, wet, cold, frost and mud on the roads of Belgium with the 74th running of the Omloop.
Bergamo - Como. October 13th, kms. And so we come to the end of another season, and no better way to end it than with with the 'Race of the Falling Leaves', often one of the most exciting races of the year, Il Lombardia! The unstoppable Peter Sagan made it an astonishing hat-trick of wins with an amazing victory in Bergen last year, hanging in there over the final climb and winning the sprint from a reduced group of 26 riders.
Innsbruck, Austria. Wed 26th Sept, His performance in last year's TT was simply sensational, winning by almost a minute from Primoz Roglic. Sunday 23rd Sept, Sunweb caused quite the shock this time last year when they beat the hot favourites Sky, QuickStep and BMC with a stunning performance driven on by Tom Dumoulin, who also became the World TT Champion just a few days later.
The competition for the 'Maglia Azzura' for the King of the Mountains of the Giro is always a really hard one to call, as there are just so many riders who could have their eyes on this prestigious prize. Not only does the Giro have a very different and distinct leader's jersey compared to the ubiquitous yellow jerseys of so many other races, but it also has slightly unusual colours for the winners of the Mountains and Sprinters jerseys.
The course is varied and challenging, with eight summit finishes and two time trials. On to the 4th monument of the season, and one of the oldest races on the calendar, Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Alejandro Valverde stormed away with yet another victory in , and was hot favourite for this, up until his failure to win Fleche-Wallone on Wednesday..
It's a very different finish to the AGR with the finish line at the top of an extremely steep climb, where only the punchiest of riders have a chance. The 53rd running of the Amstel Gold Race starts in Maastricht Sunday, as focus switches from the cobbles of Flanders and northern France to first the hills of Holland, and then the Ardennes, culminating in Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday week.
This is a race for the puncheurs, with plenty of little hills, some cobbles, but almost always ends in a reduced sprint finish of some sort. No hills to speak of compared to Flanders, but lots more cobbles - Wed 4th April, kms. The sprinters get a chance to have some fun Wednesday in the Scheldeprijs, the traditional sprinters classic of the northern cobbled races.
Marcel Kittel has dominated this race in recent years, winning it five times in total now. The warm-ups were interesting to say the least but now it's the big one.. A change in the calendar sees the Dwars Door move from before the E3 and GW right in to the middle of the 'Flanders Week', with the organisers hoping that the change will bring a stronger field to the startline than in the past.
The Flanders festival of cycling moves on to Gent on Sunday for what is traditionally a Classic for the sprinters, in Gent Wevelgem. What a race we saw on Friday in the E3 Harelbeke, with QuickStep Floors bossing the race from start to finish to deliver an incredible win for Niki Terpstra. When does the season proper start? After the sunny stage races Down Under and in the Middle East, and an opening Flanders weekend that saw Valgren and Groenewegen take the spoils, we move on to the first major stage race in Europe with the 'Race to the Sun'.
The 12th running of the Strade Bianche takes place this weekend, and although it is only in its infancy compared to the other Classics, it's firmly establishing itself as a riders and fans favourite, with some riders even going so far as to say it's one of their favourite races of the year now.. Sat 24th Feb , kms. The season proper starts this weekend as far as most cycling fans are concerned, although we have seen some excellent racing and some superb performances already this year.
The Dubai Tour is now in its 5th year and stays at 5 stages again this year after it was extended from 4 stages for the edition. No real change to the formula though, desert sprint stages and a charge up the Hatta Dam to decide it. Geelong, Australia. I'm pretty certain we didn't get any prices quoted last year from any of the bookies for any of these races, and I wasn't sure whether I could be bothered to do a preview as a result.. The off-season certainly was interesting, wasn't it?
The Chris Froome AAF saga has kept us entertained for weeks now, with the real possibility that he will rightly lose the Vuelta and get a ban similar to Diego Ulissi on top. October 7th, kms. The 'Race of the Falling Leaves' is one of the most exciting races of the year, a fantastic climax to the season where the top climbers in the world do battle over a challenging course with 4,m of climbing in stunning countryside.
They tried a naked woman on a bicycle, so the only next logical step was to have cyclists riding on naked woman, using Belgian cover model, Phaedra Hoste. Look at that first rider! The horror! The winner might have to be kissed by an older women, rather than a voluptuous podium girl!
The organizers even had Germaine who happened to be an actress in a local theater group that one of the race organizers belonged to performing live on the podium that year. Amirite or amirite? They showed great restraint as none of the women were naked.
No need to repost the offending poster here. Ya know, maybe people can change. Perhaps a lesson was learned after the uproar. I now believe in the power of forgiveness and human transformation. The Katteberg replaces the Wolfenberg, but this comes at 21 kilometers into the race, so will have no effect. The Hogerlucht replaces the Broeke, but at 85 kms into the race, again, no effect.
The only real difference will be that the Berg Ten Stene 1, m at 5. The last decisive climbs remain the same - the Paterberg, Oude Kwaremont, Karnemelkbeekstraat, and Tiegemberg. I assume their profile drawing software took a wrong turn somewhere into Belgian cobble fantasy land.
Deceuninck - Quick Step have now won every single major one day race up until now. Late breaking news- they lost One Dog. Such a run is unprecedented. Naesen took a surprise 2nd in Milano-Sanremo as well as surprised on the hilly stages of Paris-Nice. He seems to be timing his peak at just the right time and looks primed to take his first big spring classics victory. If you were to rank riders based upon their average finishing position in all of their races this year, Van Aert would be champion.
His average finishing position is 7. For Van Aert, the strength is present, but perhaps the tactical game not as much, as he still seems to have a cyclocross mindset of just riding as hard as possible for as long as possible. His late drop and then catch of Alaphilippe and Lutsenko and then drop at Strade was exciting but predestined to failure and his work to shut down Trentin in the closing kilometers of MSR was again impressive, but probably helped win the race for Alaphilippe.
Was it just bad tactics, as some have said, or is there something else going on? As Conor mentioned in his preview of the potential winners of MSR, Sagan has only won a single race so far-- a stage in the TdU and had a disappointing late with no wins after the TdF and four second places at the Vuelta.
If cycling was fair, Greg Van Avermaet would have made a hat trick of Omloop victories this year, as he was clearly the strongest rider in the race. Instead he was beat by the strongest team. However, even though DQS prove that cycling is a team sport, sometimes the strongest rider does win, so you still have to rate Van Avermaet as a favorite.
Unfortunately, that Strade victory now feels less like a breakthrough and more like a confirmation that Benoot will finish in the front group often but only win occasionally.
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