For cycling fans, there’s not a lot to love about February. The pro peloton gradually awakes from its winter slumber and shakes out the cobwebs at some tiny races you’ve never heard of. No, these events don’t generate the headlines or the huge crowds as Roubaix or the Giro. But I’d argue that we shouldn’t spurn these lesser-known vueltas, voltas, and giri. Instead, we cycling fans should open our hearts to these spirited little races (after all, it’s Valentines Day!)
To get you excited, I’ve created some old-school personal ads (yes, from the pre-Tinder era) for the four stage races running this V-Day week. Perhaps you’ll find love in an unexpected place.
Tour of Oman
Six-day stage race seeks a companion for a voyage to an exotic land, an ocean away from traditional race venues. Although young at just seven years old, this UCI 2.HC race is wise beyond its years with a mature balance of sprint stages and climbs to help decide the overall. If the first four days of our Middle East fling go well, expect fireworks in stage 5 (Saturday Feb. 18) on Green Mountain, perhaps from a spirited Sicilian, Fabio Aru. Oh, GC climbers aren’t your bag? How about classics guys? That’s right, hunky cobble-pounders like Tom Boonen, Alexander Kristoff, and Greg Van Avermaet are all here to whet your springtime fantasies.
Volta ao Algarve
With a passion that can only be found on the Iberian Peninsula, these five days are the wildest that Portugal has to offer. Want to get fast and furious from the start? Day 1 should showcase all the saucy sprinters you could ask for — Arnaud Démare, Nacer Bouhanni, Fernando Gaviria, André Greipel — ooh, talk sprinty to me! While this race’s GC roster is modestly endowed, the mountainous route will make your heart pitter patter with two nasty uphill finishes: Stage 2 (Thursday Feb. 16) gets down to business on Alto da Fóia, and stage 5 (Sunday Feb. 19) to Malhão is one last sting in the tail.
Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol
After 62 times on the merry-go-round, this mature race knows just what it takes to please a real cycling fan. Ruta del Sol will seduce you with a scintillating roster of talented GC leaders, such as Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Mikel Landa, Thibaut Pinot, and Warren Barguil. Don’t let this race’s age discourage you — you see, this ol’ 2.HC knows a thing or two about showing a cycling fan a good time. Between a handful of sprinter-friendly stages (1, 4, and 5), a summit finish on day two, and a stage 3 TT that could feature that Belorussian dreamboat Vasil Kiryienka, winner of TT worlds in 2015, expect a wild five days in Spain.
Tour Cycliste Internationale du Haut Var-matin
If you aren’t ready for commitment, just looking for a quick two-stage stand this Valentine’s Day week, why not head to Provence? Yes, the curvy roads of the Haut Var are perfect for a little frolic this weekend. The start list won’t peacock quite like Ruta del Sol, but there are plenty of names that make true fans’ hearts flutter: Thomas Voeckler, Sylvain Chavanel, Pierre Latour … Ooh lá lá! French is the language of love, n’est-ce pas?