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New 2020 calendar offers riders light at the end of the tunnel – but also some scheduling headaches

A densely-packed schedule offers WorldTour riders the opportunity to structure season and re-set goals after two months in the dark

WorldTour riders may have a few weeks of head-scratching ahead of them as they map out their 2020 race schedule for a new-look season littered with clashing races and little downtime. However, the overwhelming feeling is that any races are better than no races.

The UCI confirmed the WorldTour calendar Tuesday in a densely-packed calendar brimming with marquee races. October sees a bottleneck of races, with the classics clashing with the Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta a España butting heads with the Italian tour in a six-day overlap. Mapping out the season must have proven a riddle for the UCI. And now there’s a planning conundrum for the peloton to consider.

Classics specialists get off relatively lightly as they look at the clustered new calendar. Cobbles star Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) didn’t need long to lay out his schedule.

“The one-day races immediately catch my eye,” Van Avermaet told Sporza Tuesday. “From Strade we go to Sanremo, then the preparation for the Tour follows. I want to ride all of Liège, the Ronde and Roubaix and that is possible. I don’t have to take the Giro or the Vuelta into account. I can delete those races and that makes the calendar a little easier.”

“For a rider like me there is a fairly clear program,” Van Avermaet added in a team release. “If you’re a GC rider then you probably have more decisions to make.”

Warming the legs at the Tour before an October classics block is an easy solution for one-day specialists. Photo: Stephane Mantey-Pool/Getty Images

Deceuninck-Quick-Step trio Julian Alaphilippe, Bob Jungels, and Remco Evenepoel are the types of versatile rider faced with deciding between a run at the classics or start at the Giro this October. According to team boss Patrick Lefevere, programming the season for such do-it-all riders “will be puzzling… It is a bit strange. Normally the riders for the Ardennes classics are the same type of riders as those of the Giro.”

There were always going to be winners and losers in the UCI’s efforts to condense a seven-month racing block into half that space of time. For monument hunters such as Van Avermaet, the Tour de France comes well placed, three weeks before the one-day block kicks off.

“They [the UCI] have done their best and this is the best calendar possible,” Van Avermaet said. “There are a few overlaps, but many matches are nicely laid and can be combined.”

Van Avermaet’s countryman and rival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has also seen the pieces fall nicely for him, with his Tour, Flanders, and Roubaix ambitions from the start of the year lining up neatly.

“For me it will be a full three months season,” van Aert told Sporza. “In principle, that is a nice calendar. I can still pursue all my goals. I am certainly among the riders who have to be satisfied with this proposal.”

The Giro-classics clash won’t be so simple to solve for everyone. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was among the stars hoping to make his debut at the Italian race this year. However, with a stab at an eighth Tour de France green jersey likely a priority, the Corsa Rosa may need to wait one more year for the Slovak star.

Riders such as Evenepoel with classics and grand tour ambitions may have to reconsider their objectives. Photo: Maximiliano Blanco/Getty Images

Belgian prodigy Evenepoel had also been hoping to start his first-ever Giro this year in what would have been his grand tour debut. Like fellow superstar Sagan, the 20-year-old will have to go back to the drawing board and reconsider his objectives.

“Obviously, we are still looking at the calendar as it is new, but it looks to have all of the big important races, which at this point is exciting to see,” Evenepoel said in a team release Tuesday. “I will need some time to sit down with the team and pick out some new goals and how we go about achieving them.”

Above all, Evenepoel, like the rest of the peloton, is just pleased to see a set of races to focus himself on and aim his training toward. After two months of staring down the prospect of a year lost to the coronavirus fallout, the new-look UCI schedule, though still far from guaranteed, offers riders a light at the end of the tunnel.

“For sure, after the last few months it’s nice to see something written down and have something to work towards,” Evenepoel said. “Getting to a race and pinning a number on again will be the best feeling and I am looking forward to it.”

While some riders may have to reprogram the ambitions they had at the start of the year, any racing will be better than no racing in such an unprecedented season.