The Vuelta a España dominates a busy week across Europe that sees stage racing in France as well as one-day classics across Italy and Germany.
The 66th Vuelta kicks off Saturday in Benidorm with a team time trial, but we’ll preview that later in the week.
Here’s a quick rundown of everything else that’s going on across Europe, with the Tour du Limousin in France and the Vattenfall Cyclassics waiting this weekend in Germany:
44th Tour du Limousin (2.HC) France – August 16-19
Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) kicked to victory in Tuesday’s opening stage of the four-day Limousin tour. Held on the hills around Limoges in central France, the race continues through Friday.
The French typically dominate the four-day race, though there have been notable exceptions. Bobby Julich was second back in 1998 while Leonardo Duque, in 2006, and Gustav Erik Larsson, in 2010, have disrupted the French run on the GC.
Team Type 1-Sanofi and SpiderTech Powered by C10 each bring strong squads. The Australian Ben King lines up for TT1 while Svein Tuft leads the all-Canadian starters for SpiderTech.
Race site: www.tourdulimousin.com/
65th Coppa Agostini (1.1) Italy – August 17
The second in a three-part trifecta in northern Italy that started Tuesday with Davide Rebellin (Miche) winning his first race in his comeback since the 2008 Olympic Games at the Tre Valli Varesini.
Wednesday’s action tackles some territory similar to that used in the Giro di Lombardia, with the Madonna del Ghisallo coming midway through the 200km course. Starting in Monza, the course loops north to Bellagio and returns via Lake Como. There are three laps on a closing circuit that sees most of the action on the Besana climb before finishing in Lissone.
Italians love these races and have won all but two of the past 10 editions. Laurent Jalabert won back in 2002 and Linus Gerdemann won in 2008 to break the Italian stranglehold on the palmares.
Some of the top starters include Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF-Inox), second to Mark Cavendish on the Olympic test event to Mark Cavendish in London on Tuesday.
UnitedHealthcare lines up with Charlie Wegelius in a solid team.
Race site: 65th Coppa Agostini
93rd Coppa Bernocchi (1.1) Italy – August 18
Manuel Belletti (Colnago-CSF-Inox) lines up as defending champion in the sprinter-friendly course to round out the “Trittoco Lombardo” in northern Italy.
Most of the same faces will line up in Legnano in what’s one of Italy’s oldest one-day races.
Race site: Coppa Bernocchi
26th Dutch Food Valley Classic (1.1) Holland – August 19
Formerly the Veenendaal-Veenendal classic, the Dutch course has seen some of northern Europe’s biggest stars take victory. Edvald Boasson Hagen won last year’s edition while other former winners include Joop Zoetemelk, Jean-Paul van Poppel, Andre Tchmil and Tom Boonen.
Only four major teams line up this year as it conflicts with Saturday’s start of the Vuelta a España. Theo Bos (Rabobank), Adam Blythe (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Andy Capelle (Quick-Step) are among the starters.
Race site: Dutch Food Valley Classic
20th Trofeo Melinda (1.1) Italy – August 20
Racing pushes into northern Italy for the one-day Melinda race high in the Italian Alps near Male, north of Trento. Climbers with a strong finishing kick usually win this one, with Vincenzo Nibali taking the flowers last year. Other former winners include Stefano Garzelli, Damiano Cunego and Giovanni Visconti.
The 198km course includes three passages on a 31.3km circuit up the GPM at Fondo. The final three kilometers is a drag race up 160 vertical meters, enough to put anyone into the red.
Race site: Trofeo Melinda
15th Trophée d’Or Féminin (2.2) France – August 20-24
Emma Johansson will be aiming for her third win in four years in what’s become one of the most important women’s stage races in Europe. HTC-Highroad and Garmin-Cervélo each bring deep squads. Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) will also be lining up, in part to use the race to get into top shape for the world championships.
16th Vattenfall Cyclassics (PT) Hamburg, Germany – August 21
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) is the two-time defending champion, but it’s still not confirmed whether he will race the Vuelta a España or return to try to claim the treble.
This German “classic” is more well-known for its massive public ride, held the day before on Saturday, that draws more than 20,000 cyclo-tourists.
The 218.6km elite men’s route is one that favors the sprinters, despite a decisively bumpy final half of the course. The bunch is usually broke up on the Waseberg climb featured on the final circuits, enough to eliminate anyone with weary legs with 15 percent grades.
Attackers have hope with the final passage with about 15km to go, but it usually comes in for a reduced bunch sprint on the finishing stretch into Hamburg.
Only a few teams have sent in preliminary rosters, but among the names are Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) — who won’t be racing the Vuelta as he would have liked — Robbie McEwen (RadioShack), Edvald Boasson Hagen and Michael Barry (Sky) and José Rojas (Movistar).
Race site: Vattenfall Cyclassics