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Pro cycling has returned from the coronavirus shutdown, and the new compressed UCI schedule means that races are now occurring at new points in the calendar, with many races overlapping on the same day. This current week sees all manner of pro cyclists competing across the continent, from stars of the Tour de France to the cobblestone crushers from the Belgian classics.
Here’s your helpful guide for the races going on this week.
Wednesday, August 12
Live coverage: Flobikes.com
What to know: You want to wager this month’s rent check on Il Lombardia, but who on earth do you pick? Look no further than Italy’s semi-classic Gran Piemonte as a harbinger for Lombardia success. The twisting 188km route across the countryside south of Turin encompasses a dizzying number of short and punchy climbs, and the second half of the race takes in a touch circuit outside of Barolo.
It’s a climber’s race, and the outcome will definitely showcase who has the best uphill punch ahead of Saturday’s Il Lombardia, the second monument of this strange 2020 season.
The route: Organizers shift the route almost every year for Gran Piemonte, and in recent editions, it has catered to sprinters, puncheurs, and almost everyone in between. In 2019 the mostly flat race concluded with the 10.6km uphill drag to the Santuario di Oropa, and Egan Bernal took the win. This year the route features far more early climbs — most of which are in the 3km to 7km length — before the punchy conclusion. The circuit includes the Monfort d’Alba (3.1km at 3.3 percent) followed by the La Morra (2.9km at 5.7 percent) and then the climb of Barolo (1.1km at 6.1 percent). The second lap of the circuit repeats this series, with the finish at Barolo coming after a 1.2km climb at 6.1 percent.
Who to watch: Il Lombardia is an unfortunate casualty of the new UCI schedule since its overlap with the Critérium du Dauphiné has depleted its roster of Tour de France hitters. Thus, Gran Piemonte’s lineup reflects this overlap. The preliminary start list includes Giulio Ciccone and Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Fabio Aru (UAE-Team Emirates), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Jakob Fuglsang and Ion Izagirre (both Astana). Keep an eye out for Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma to release their respective rosters later this week.
Critérium du Dauphiné
Wednesday, August 12 – Sunday, August 16
Live coverage: NBC Sports Gold
What to know: Watch this race. The Jumbo-Visma vs. Team Ineos battle heats up again with the Critérium du Dauphiné, which again serves as the warm-up band to the Tour de France’s main act. All of this year’s Tour favorites are racing the Dauphiné, but it’s the battle between Egan Bernal and Primož Roglič that we’re all watching. Roglič drew first blood at last week’s Tour de l’Ain, but the Dauphiné is a far harder and more telling race.
This race also serves as the testing grounds for the Tour de France’s safety protocols for COVID-19, so it will show us how bike racing will be broadcast — and even reported-on — during the coronavirus era. Keep an eye out for how the broadcasters call the action from the safety of their booths back in London and Connecticut.
The route: This year organizers have packed as many big mountains as possible into the five-day route, and there are no flat stages. In fact, all five stages finish uphill, with stage 2 tackling the summit finish to Col de Porte; stage 3 finishing up to Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, and the final two stages finishing uphill to Megève.
Who to watch: If you’re racing the Tour de France then you are at the Dauphiné. Team Ineos is bringing its hit squad of Chris Froome, Bernal, and Geraint Thomas, and Jumbo-Visma is countering with Roglič, Tom Dumoulin, and Steven Kruijswijk. The list of other GC contenders is long: Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Miguel Ángel López (Astana), Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Enric Mas and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), and Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates), among others.
Dwars door het Hageland
Saturday, August 15
What to know: A Belgian semi-classic in August? Sure, why not? Traditionally a June race, Dwars door het Hageland has delivered a taste of frantic Flemish racing during the pre-Tour de France doldrums at a UCI 1.1 level. It’s doing so again this year, only at an even more bizarre time in the season. And for 2020 the race has stepped up to the 1.Pro level, meaning more prize cash and more UCI point on the line. Think of this race as the earliest taste of racing before the big classics in October.
The route: The route takes riders through the Flemish region of Hageland, and the race starts in Aarschot and finishes in Diest.
Who to watch: The stars of Flanders and Roubaix are in full force at this race. Trek-Segafredo has Mads Pedersen and Quinn Simmons; Decuininck–Quick-Step is bringing Zdeněk Štybar and Team Sunweb is sending sprinter Cees Bol as well as Dutch all-rounder Nils Eekhoff. And keep an eye out for Rally Cycling.
Saturday, August 15
What to know: The new-look Il Lombardia returns to the coronavirus-shaped UCI calendar having been bumped up by two months. Thus, the ‘Race of the falling leaves’ is more a race of the soaring temperatures and sweaty faces. Italy’s Alpine foothills are hot hot hot in August, and this year’s race is, much like Strade Bianche, destined to be impacted by the heat. Plus, the field is much diminished, due to the race’s overlap with the Dauphiné.
The route: The favorite climbs of Lombardy return for 2020, including the Madonna del Ghisallo, Sormano, Civigli, and San Fermo della Battaglia just before the finish in Como. Thus, Il Lombardia is again a classic for top climbers who can handle the race’s 244km length.
The favorites: This year the race is attracting a smattering of Giro d’Italia favorites and neo pros, but the big guns of the Tour de France are gone. Thus, no Egan Bernal and no Primož Roglič. Do you know who is here? Remco Evenepoel, the hottest name in pro cycling. Defending champion Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) is also in attendance, alongside new teammate Vincenzo Nibali. Richard Carapaz is also on the tentative start list, alongside Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Alberto Bettiol and Michael Woods (EF Pro Cycling), and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix).
La Périgord Ladies
Saturday, August 15
What to know: The rapidly shrinking 2020 Women’s pro racing calendar has placed extra importance on the few races that remain. Thus, the French one-day race La Périgord Ladies has attracted a strong lineup for an event that boasts a UCI 1.2 status.
The route: The 100km route from Comille to Boulazac includes four climbs in the final 20 kilometers, and the full route includes the Côte des Maisons and the Côte de Bouchard.
Who to watch: Canyon-SRAM is bringing Hannah and Alice Barnes, plus Tanja Erath. Also, look to team Movistar and FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope to challenge for the win.