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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 multiple professional road races occurring across Europe, from the Tour of Poland to the Tour de l’Ain.
Here’s your helpful guide for the races going on this week.
Tour of Poland
Wednesday, August 5 – Sunday, August 9
What to know: Poland’s only WorldTour race has bounced around the schedule in the mid-July to early-August window, and in normal years it includes a full seven stages. This year the race serves as the first WorldTour stage race to be held after the COVID-19 shutdown, and organizers have a bevy of safety measures in place, most notably the absence of fans and media. That’s right, fans are banned from the start and finish locations, and the international cycling press has not been invited to the race. Instead, the race organizers say they will produce all interviews, photography, and video with their own staff.
The route: The opening two stages (Stadion Slaski – Spodek, Iatowice and Opole to Zabrze) include plenty of hills, but are likely to end in a sprint. The third stage (Wadowice to Bielsko-Biala) includes plenty of sharp, steep climbs, and appears destined for a breakaway or small front group to battle for the win. The GC is likely to be decided on the stage 4, a 152.9km slog from Bukovina Resort to Bukowina Tatrzanska, which includes a summit finish. The fifth stage is likely to end in a sprint.
Who to watch: The race’s preliminary start list includes some GC star power: Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Esteban Chavez (Mitchelton-Scott), Richard Carapaz (Team Ineos), Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Ilnur Zakarin (CCC TEam), Luis Mas (Movistar), and Brandon McNulty (UAE-Team Emirates). Top sprinters Mark Cavendish (Bahrain-McLaren), Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick Step), and Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) are also at the race. And keep an eye out for North American riders Neilson Powless (EF Pro Cycling), James Piccoli (Israel Start-Up Nation), Hugo Houle (Astana), Ben King (NTT Pro Cycling), McNulty, and Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo).
Wednesday, August 5
What to know: This old and hilly semi-classic is traditionally held in October as one of the build-up races for Il Lombardia. While Milano-Torino is not a WorldTour race, the close proximity to Il Lombardia means the field is teeming with top riders. The first edition was held way back in 1876, making the race the oldest Italian classic and one of the oldest races in the world. For 2020 the event has been moved on the calendar to become a build-in race for Milano-Sanremo. As such, organizers have ditched the traditional finish atop the Superga hill that towers above Torino, and instead have planned a flatter route that is friendly for the sprinters who will try to win on the Via Roma.
The route: The Superga climb has produced several dramatic battles, most recently the one between Michael Woods (EF Pro Cycling) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), which saw Woods take one of the biggest wins of his career. Now, the 198-kilometer route from Magenda to Torino is basically flat, and it finishes at the Stupinigi natural reserve just outside of downtown.
Who to watch: Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates).
Le Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc
Wednesday, August 5 – Saturday, August 8
What to know: Launched in 1999 the hilly race in the Savoie region of France race holds a UCI 2.2 rating. This year the event’s tough route and proximity to the Tour de France makes it a nice lead-in to the racing in September. This year the event has attracted a mixture of top European pro teams such as Bahrain-McLaren, Arkéa-Samsic, and BB Hotels-Vital Concept KTM, development squads like Team Sunweb’s development team, Lotto-Soudal Under-23, and the Swiss Racing Academy, and even U.S. squad Rally Pro Cycling.
Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge
Thursday, August 6
What to know: This punishing one-day race in Provence traces a loop around Mont Ventoux before climbing up the hulking beast twice, the second time to the Col Des Tempêtes finish. The hard push to the finish, matched with the race’s new spot on the calendar, make it an ideal test before the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France.
The route: The 172-kilometer route from Vaison-La-Romaine to Mont Ventoux includes a partial ascent of the mountain to Chalet Reynard at the race’s midpoint. So, in essence, the riders will climb the mountain twice.
Who to watch: Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Fabio Aru (UAE-Team Emirates), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic).
Thursday, August 6 – Sunday, August 9
What to know: The tough race across the Czech Republic is comprised of an individual time trial and then three hilly stages. The start list is not yet announced; however, WorldTour teams Mitchelton-Scott, Bora-Hansgrohe, Jumbo-Visma, Team Sunweb, NTT Pro Cycling, and Bahrain-McLaren, plus top pro squads Alpecin-Fenix and Israel Cycling Academy are all signed up to race.
Tour de l’Ain
Friday, August 7 – Sunday, August 9
What to know: Egan Bernal will battle Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome — that’s all you really need to know. The mountainous three-day stage race in the French Alps includes a summit finish to Grand Colombier on stage 3, which is where the Tour de France’s 15th stage will finish this year. The presence of that climb, plus the Col de la Biche and the Montee de la Selle de Fromentella — both of which are on this year’s Tour route — should entice some Tour favorites to race.
The route: The race opens with a flat 140-kilometer sprint stage from Montreal-La-Cluse to Ceyzeriat. Stage 2 (140km from Alleey Guy de la Verpilliere to Lelex Monts-Jura) is mountainous with a hilly finish that suits a breakaway or a small front group. And stage 3 is for the climbers.
Who to watch: Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), Chris Froome (Team Ineos), Nairo Quintana (Team Arkéa-Samsic), Fabio Aru (UAE-Team Emirates), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Bauke Mollema and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), George Bennett and Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation). Also, keep an eye out for the U.S. development squad Hagens Berman Axeon.
Saturday, August 8
What to know: La Primavera in August? Yes, the rescheduling of the WorldTour calendar has placed the first monument of the season squarely in the middle of the summer, and the temperatures along Italy’s Ligurian coast are bound to soar. Organizers have greatly changed the route to send riders more inland — per the request of Italian mayors on the coastal cities. But the race’s final 40 kilometers remaining largely unchanged with the Cipressa and Poggio still creating the traditional drama.
The route: It’s 299 kilometers of sweat and heat, as the new route does not hit the coast until the very end.
Who to watch: Top sprinters and classics riders are again lining up for the battle. Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale), Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-McLaren), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), Elia Viviani (Cofidis), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Alberto Bettiol (Ef Pro Cycling), Philippe Gilbert and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb), Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Ineos), Fernado Gaviria, Tadej Pogačar, and Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates).