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Analysis: Revised calendar finds space for everyone

A women's Paris-Roubaix is part of cycling's abbreviated calendar that sees monuments and grand tours elbowed into little more than three months.

Bike racing in the COVID-19 era now has a calendar.

There’s room for everyone in the revised WorldTour racing calendars released Tuesday, including a first-ever women’s Paris-Roubaix.

UCI officials rescheduled all the major races that were not canceled for 2020 in what are packed and ambitious men’s and women’s calendars.

If coronavirus conditions allow, men’s racing would resume August 1 with Strade Bianche, and run into mid-November with the Vuelta a España. Women’s racing also starts with Strade Bianche, and concludes with a three-day event in Spain in early November.

“We have drawn up a solid, attractive and varied new calendar that is as realistic and coherent as possible,” said UCI president David Lappartient. “This is a very important step that the entire cycling community, financially impacted by the pandemic, has been waiting for to move forward.”

There are some overlaps among some of the premier races, but all the major grand tours, one-day races, and monuments will be included into the compact calendar that officials will allow the sport to salvage something from what’s been an unprecedented race stoppage.

The big takeaways? Some races overlap, but all of the major dates have a spot on the revised calendar. The Vuelta was reduced by three days, while the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia will be held at full three weeks. The monuments and classics will be spread out before and after the Tour.

“We have to make the best of the possibilities offered by this new reality,” said Vuelta director Javier Guillén. “We have an optimal position on the calendar, and we hope to see an exceptional starting field.”

The women’s 2020 series will include 18 events, with 13 one-day races and five stage races. The Giro Rosa is set for September 11-17. The big news is the inclusion of a women’s Paris-Roubaix race, slated for October 25.

Teams and riders alike welcomed the news, but everyone remains on guard. Europe is only now starting to ease strict lockdown restrictions, and the final decision whether or not the calendar is fulfilled will ultimately lie with health and government officials.

“This calendar gives us a new goal to work towards,” said Tomas Van Den Spiegel, CEO of Flanders Classics. “Today the UCI provided clarity and that’s a positive. These dates are not a certainty, but still provisional. We will continue to monitor the situation and the final decision will of course depend on the measures that will be in place in our country at that time.”

Both schedules will give riders and teams at least some racing before heading into the season’s stage race highlights. The men will have a chance to race an abbreviated version of the Critérium du Dauphiné, while the women see several race days before the Giro Rosa in September.

“Riders need to race before the Tour,” said Ag2r-La Mondiale’s Stijn Vandenbergh. “You can’t have the Tour the first big race after so many weeks away from racing. The Dauphiné is usually already a very big race, especially for the French riders.”

In a few key tweaks, the UCI outlined some important changes for what will be an abridged racing season. For the men’s calendar, the WorldTour roster lists will remain at eight for grand tours, and seven for smaller stage races. That will put a kink in the plans of Mathieu van der Poel to try to race the Tour. There’s the option to reduce rosters from seven to six in one-day races on the men’s side.

Women’s rosters will be capped at five per event, in part to allow more teams to start as well as to ease pressure on teams. Women’s WorldTour teams will also be able to race in C1 events, and up to five in C2 events.

The UCI also confirmed a “steering group” made up of team doctors and other health experts to create mitigation measures and other guidelines teams and races can deploy when racing resumes.

Citing the financial strain, the UCI also said it will not charge registration fees for canceled events, nor will it charge rescheduling fees.

The UCI also said that other racing calendars, including ProSeries, U23, junior and other categories will be released by May 20.

Six races on the men’s WorldTour — Volta a Catalunya, E3 Prijs Harelbeke, Itzulia Basque Country, Tour de Romandie, Tour de Suisse and the Clásica San Sebastián — were canceled for 2020, and will not be rescheduled.