It’s transition time in Europe, with some races picking up leftovers form the Tour de France and others serving as platforms for the upcoming Vuelta a España.
That’s the case with this week’s two major stage races. The Tour of Denmark sees some big names hot off the Tour, including pre-race favorites Jakob Fulgsang and Richie Porte. Both, along with a certain Michael Rasmussen, will be squaring off for the Danish crown.
In Spain, the five-day Tour of Burgos along Spain’s northern meseta will provide a glimpse at who will be on form for the season’s third grand tour. The Burgos tour is drawing a top field and should see some of its most competitive racing in years.
The other major attraction is the Tour of Portugal, Europe’s “lost” stage race. Once three weeks long, the race is now held over 10 days. Left off the ProTour radar when the league was created six years ago, the race has since struggled to attract top teams and sponsorship dollars.
Here’s a quick roundup of racing this week in Europe:
21st Tour of Denmark (2.HC)
August 3-7, Denmark
Bjarne Riis has “owned” the Tour of Denmark, putting his Saxo Bank riders into the winner’s circle nearly every year over the past decade.
Three-time champion Jakob Fuglsang will be back, but he will riding in Leopard-Trek colors. With Richie Porte leading Bjarne’s Army, it should make for an interesting matchup.
Former winner Kurt-Asle Arvesen will be leading Sky while Matti Breschel (another former Riis protege) leads Rabobank. Jack Bobridge and Cameron Meyer carry Garmin-Cervelo’s hopes, while Michael Rasmussen will make a start with his new Christina Watches-Onfone team. U.S.-registered Team Type 1 lines up for another European start, with a slightly tweaked name.
The sprint-friendly race features a surprising amount of hills to set up attacking riders for a chance to ride away with a shot at the overall title. Riis usually kept things tied up until the time trial stage, this year in stage 4 on a 14.2km course, to give his team leaders a good chance to control the race.
33rd Vuelta a Burgos (2.HC)
August 3-7, Spain
Many of the top favorites for the Vuelta a España are honing their form at the challenging, five-day Burgos tour in northern Spain. The route features three days for the sprinters, with an 11.6km time trial on day 3 to put GC riders on edge. The race is typically decided on the beyond-category Lagunas de Neila climb high in the Sierra de la Demanda. Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi), David Arroyo (Movistar), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Iñigo Cuesta (Caja Rural), Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) and Angel Vicioso (Androni) are among the big names taking the start in Villarcayo for stage 1 on Wednesday.
11th Paris-Correze (2.1)
August 3-4, France
The two-day French race sees a mix of national teams with continental squads, including Team NetApp, which lines up with American Steven Cozza. The race typically sees a French winner, but Fran Ventoso won in 2009 and Edvald Boasson Hagen won in 2007 in one of his first pro wins.
73rd Volta a Portugal em Bicicleta (2.1)
August 4-15, Portugal
The 10-stage Portuguese tour is a challenging, overlooked stage race that is lost between the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, meaning many top teams do not send squads. Spanish riders have won six of the past seven editions with David Blanco winning four of the past five races. Nuno Ribeiro was the last national rider to win, back in 2003.
The 2011 edition features two TTs, with a 2.2km prologue in Fafe and a 35.3km time trial in Guarda in stage 7, which go a long way toward deciding the overall winner.
With the towering mountains of France or Italy, Portugal still has a string of challenging climbing stages that are a surprise to many racing there for the first time. The stage 8 mountaintop finish at Torre ends after a nearly 25km climb up nearly 1,500 vertical meters.
Five Portuguese teams are joined by a mix of Pro Continental and Continental teams, including the Chipotle Development Team. Thomas Dekker will be making his return to racing after his controversial EPO racing ban in a move that could ease his return to the Garmin-Cervelo team.
62nd CP Citta di Camaiore (1.1)
August 6, Italy
Liquigas-Cannondale has won four of the past five editions of the hilly one-day race. Kristjan Koren brought home the flowers last year. The 199.2km route along the La Spezia coast features two loops along the coast road before tackling the 224-meter Monte Pitoro seven times in the final circuits before ending with a downhill sprint into Camaiore.