By Andrew Hood
There’s more to racing than the Tour de France and there’s no rest for the weary as the cycling circus keeps on truckin’.
The Tour of Denmark and the Clásica San Sebastian are the main events this week as the cycling calendar switches gears after the most important stage race of the year.
The women’s World Cup also clicks back into gear, with two events in Sweden this weekend.
19th Tour of Denmark
Wednesday to Sunday, July 29-Aug. 2 (2.HC)
Saxo Bank (formerly CSC) typically dominates the six-stage, 830km march across Denmark.
With team boss Bjarne Riis a former winner and Dane, it’s no surprise Bjarne’s Army tries to step center-stage in what it considers its home race. The team has won five of the past seven editions.
Defending champion Jacob Fugslang, 24, who won last year just days before heading to the Beijing Summer Olympic Games to race as a mountain biker, will headline an always strong Saxo Bank team.
Fugslang won last year racing for the Designa Kokka team and joined Saxo Bank as a stagiaire after returning from Beijing.
The promising all-rounder has already shown his potential at the elite level, winning a stage and the overall at the Tour of Slovenia and finishing sixth at both the Volta a Catalunya and Dauphiné Libéré, results that have many tipping him as a name to watch for future grand tour success.
The stages are hillier and more demanding that what might be expected for lowland Denmark. Sprints typically dominate the race, but the time trial (this year in stage 5 on a 15.5km course) goes a long way toward crowning the victor.
Silence-Lotto is the only other ProTour team lining up, but Skil-Shimano, Cervélo and ISD will also bring good teams.
64th Circuito de Getxo-Memorial Ricardo Otxoa
Friday, July 31 – Getxo, Spain (1.1)
Rock Racing brings a strong team with Oscar Sevilla, Fred Rodriguez and Paco Mancebo to this 185km one-day race in the hills above Bilbao in Spain’s Basque Country.
All the top Spanish teams will be lining up for what’s a nice warm-up for the next day’s main event at the Clásica.
Also among the starters is Patrik Sinkewitz – who tested positive for testosterone in 2007 – fresh off winning the Sachsen Tour for the PSK Whirlpool team.
The final kilometers pass the famous “Puente Colgante” – the “hanging” transporter bridge – over the Rio Nervion.
Open de Suède
Friday, July 31 (World Cup)
The women’s World Cup clicks back into gear with a unique team time trial Friday in Sweden followed by a road race Sunday.
Some 17 teams will compete in the team time trial and then save their legs for the road race on Sunday. This weekend’s racing will go a long way toward crowning the final overall series winner.
Through six of 10 stops on the World Cup circuit, Emma Johansson of Sweden will be getting a hometown boost this weekend. She holds a lead of 287-242 over arch-rival Marianne Vos. American Kristin Armstrong is third with 113 points.
29th Clásica Ciclista San Sebstián
Saturday, Aug. 1 (PT)
The most important one-day race in Spain always draws big crowds keen to see the top stars following the Tour de France.
The preliminary start list is sure to change as weary riders reconsider their motivation after coming out of the Tour, but even if half show up, the Clásica will boast a top-notch field.
Among the major names include Alberto Contador, the Schleck brothers, Cadel Evans, Denis Menchov, Christian Vande Velde, Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez, Tour stage-winner Mikel Astarloza, Stijn Devolder, Filippo Pozzato, Kim Kirchen, Oscar Freire and Vicenzo Nibali. It’s hard to imagine that all those names will be in San Sebastián come Saturday.
Last year’s winner Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) – kept out of the 2009 Tour because of a racing ban in Italy – will be back to defend his title because the roads stay far away from that country and remain safely tucked inside Spain’s hilly Basque Country.
The 237km course starts and ends on San Sebastián’s grand Boulevard in the town’s parte vieja and loops over the verdant hills south of town. The main obstacle is the Cat. 1 Alto de Jaizkibel with 38.5km to go usually sees the selection of a small group from which the winner almost always comes out of.
The Cat. 2 Alto de Arkale with 15km is a good springboard for late attacks, but typically a small group hits the final straight for a reduced bunch sprint.
The race dates back to 1981, when local hero Marino Lejarreta won the first of three titles. Lance Armstrong finished last in his first pro race in 1992 after racing in the Summer Olympics, only to return in 1995 to win.
Classics specialists do well, with Erik Dekker, Laurent Jalabert and Paolo Bettini picking up wins in the early 2000s.
The race is held on the first weekend of “semana grande” – the big week – San Sebastián’s raucous summer festival.