Time waits for no man or woman, and neither does the cycling calendar. Now that the cobbled classics have been dispatched with, the caravan moves onto the Ardennes, Spain, and Turkey.
Here’s your insider’s guide for the races going on for the week of Monday, April 12 through Sunday, April 18.
Tour of Turkey
Monday, April 12 – Sunday, April 18
What to know: The Tour of Turkey returns to the cycling calendar after it was forced to cancel last year’s event due to COVID-19 restrictions. Largely geared towards the fast men in the peloton, there are only a few chances for the overall contenders to make a difference.
The race got underway Sunday with a curtailed opening sprint stage due to heavy snow in the area. Arvid de Kleijn got Rally Cycling off the mark by beating Kristoffer Halvorsen (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) in the bunch gallop to the line. Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) rolled back the years on stage 2 to claim his first win since 2018, and then followed this up with another win on stage 3.
Turquoise jersey: Mark Cavendish(@deceuninck_qst) is GC leader after 2nd stage.
— Tour of Turkey (@tourofturkeyTUR) April 12, 2021
The route: Almost all the stages are likely to end in a bunch sprint of some kind, with stages 5 and 6 the only major exceptions. The queen stage on day five features a summit finish to Emali will be the biggest deciding factor in the overall classification. The following day’s ride to Mamaris is much less arduous, but the second category climb that comes within the last 10 kilometers of the stage could provide the launch pad for a late attack.
Who to watch: For the sprint stages: Mark Cavendish, Fabio Jakobsen, Andre Greipel, David Cimolai, Jasper Philipsen, Sacha Modolo, Juan Jose Lobato, Arvid de Kleijn, Sean de Bie and Kristoffer Halvorsen. For the overall classification: Merhawi Kudus, Eduardo Sepulveda, Pierre Rolland and any of the local teams, they have a habit of doing well at their home race.
Brabantse Pijl Women
Wednesday, April 14
What to know: The one-day race, previously known as the Pajot Hills Classic, is a precursor to the Ardennes classic week and a more recent addition to the women’s calendar. Though it often gets lost in the transition between the cobbles and the hills, this Flemish race often provides some very exciting racing. It’s a good balance between the two sides of Belgian racing and can be quite unpredictable. Grace Brown (Team BikeExchange) won here in 2020.
The route: Race organizer Flanders Classics have kept the exact route close to their chests in an attempt to prevent too many fans from lining the course. One thing we do know is that it will be packed with plenty of climbs that will thin out the bunch.
Who to watch: Annemiek van Vleuten, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Lucinda Brand, Ruth Winder, Elisa Balsamo, Sofia Bertizzolo, Sarah Gigante and Coryn Rivera.
Brabantse Pijl Men
Wednesday, 14 April
What to know: Much the same as the women’s, the event brings many of the cobble crushers together with the climbers in a mid-week battle. It favors the punchy riders and those with a fast finish can also do well here.
While not all of the big favorites opt to contest Brabantse Pijl, also known as Flèche Brabançonne, it gives us a good indication as to who is on form ahead of the Ardennes and who might struggle.
Wout van Aert is set to make his debut at the one-day race as he looks to put the disappointment of the Tour of Flanders behind him. Many of his cobbles rivals, including last year’s winner Julian Alaphilippe, won’t be there but there are plenty of exciting riders to make this a good race.
The route: Starting in Leuven and finishing in Overijse, the race will be jam packed with climbs. All of them are short and sharp and have the potential to break the race and the riders. The final climb is close to the finish but a flat run to the line gives dropped riders an opportunity to get back on and contest the win.
Who to watch: Wout van Aert, Mikkel Honoré, Christophe Laporte, Magnus Cort Nielson, Michael Matthews, Greg Van Avermaet, Bob Jungels, Thomas Pidcock, Jasper Stuyven, Sep Vanmarcke, Matteo Trentin and Petr Vakoč.
Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana
Wednesday, April 14 – Sunday, April 18
What to know: One of the lesser-known stage races on the cycling calendar but it has been around since 1929. After a six-year hiatus, it returned to the calendar in 2016 and has thrown up some great racing since. COVID-19 forced organizers to postpone its February date for a new window this weekend.
It’s one for the climbers to test their legs and doesn’t wait to put the peloton through its paces by going straight into the mountains. Among the previous winners since it restarted are Tadej Pogačar, who won last year, Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana.
The route: The first three stages put the riders into the mountains around Valencia. The queen stage comes on day three with a summit finish on the aptly named Alto de la Reina (which means queen in Spanish). Stage 4 features a 14-kilometer time trial to shake out the general classification before a sprint stage on the final day.
Who to watch: Enric Mas, Robin Carpenter, Daniel Navarro, Diego Rosa and Natnael Berhane.
Amstel Gold Race Men
Sunday, April 18
What to know: Though not actually in the Ardennes, or even in Belgium for that matter, the Amstel Gold Race is often bunched together with the Ardennes week. It was cancelled last year due to COVID-19 restrictions in the Netherlands and, though it is taking place this weekend, it will be heavily altered to restrict fans lining the roadside.
It used to be quite a predictable race, but organisers have tinkered with the formula and hit on a good thing of late.
The route: The 2021 course will feature a series of three different laps to keep it contained and away from fans. The first loop will be done just once while the second, which includes the Cauberg, will be ridden 11 times.
The final circuit is ridden just once and will be similar to the finale that has featured in the latest editions of the race. There will be no Cauberg this time and the final ascent will be the Bemelerberg with just under nine kilometres to the finish.
Who to watch: Michał Kwiatkowski, Bob Jungels, Greg Van Avermaet, Julian Alaphilippe, Jasper Stuyven, Max Schachmann, Dylan Teuns, Michael Matthews, Wout van Aert, Primož Roglič, Jakob Fuglsang, Michael Valgren, Marc Herschi and Søren Kragh Andersen.
Amstel Gold Women
Sunday, April 18
What to know: This race was first brought in for 2001 but it only lasted three seasons. It was reintroduced in 2017 and has had three different winners since in Anna van der Breggen, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and Kasia Niewiadoma.
A punchy climb is a great asset to have in this race, though there is time after the final climb to claw back time if you have been dropped.
The route: The route will be similar to the men’s with one crucial difference. The first and second loops will be ridden by the women, but the final circuit will not. This means that the peloton will race to the line just under two kilometers from the top of the Cauberg.
Who to watch: Kasia Niewiadoma, Anna van der Breggen, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Annemiek van Vleuten, Amanda Spratt, Grace Brown, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Marta Cavalli, Coryn Rivera, Marta Bastianelli and Marianne Vos.