By Andrew Hood
Wheels keep spinning across Europe with a full week of racing in Poland, Portugal and Spain.
The ProTour calendar clicked back into gear with Saturday’s Clásica San Sebastián and again on Sunday with the start of the week-long Tour of Poland, which slipped into the calendar slot previously held by the now-defunct Tour of Germany.
One of Europe’s most overlooked stage races — the Tour of Portugal — begins its 11-day trek on Wednesday while some of the top riders heading to the Vuelta a España later this month are using the five-day Vuelta a Burgos in northern Spain as a way to stretch their legs.
Women’s stage racing continues with the Route de France and the junior world track and road cycling championships ramp up in Moscow.
66th Tour of Poland (ProTour)
Created as part of the ProTour calendar back in 2005, the race has steadily grown and improved since then. The UCI is promoting it as way to develop racing in Eastern Europe.
Last year, Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) emerged as the winner in a hard-fought battle through miserable racing conditions in rain and cold after the veteran German made a brave solo attack across the Zakopane mountains.
This year’s route stays within Poland, but organizers are hinting they’d like to expand the reach of the race to include stages in nearby Slovakia and the Ukraine. With its August date now assured, organizers can also hope for better weather and a chance to include more mountain stages.
The race started Sunday with Borut Bozic winning the first stage in Warsaw and taking the leader’s jersey.
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) is among the bigger names using the race as a warm-up for his assault on the Vuelta later this month.
31st Vuelta a Burgos (Spain, 2.HC)
Wednesday to Sunday, August 5-9
A favorite for Vuelta-bound mountain goats, this year’s edition is attracting a strong field.
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) — banned from racing in Italy and forced out of the Tour de France — is the top name and is expected to challenge for overall victory in the five-stage race, which includes a summit finish on the demanding and decisive Laguna Neila.
Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo-Galicia) are two more Vuelta-bound Spanish riders looking to hone their form. Other big names include Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) and former Giro d’Italia winner Stefano Garzelli.
There’s also a strong North American contingent. Dominique Rollin and Ted King line up for Cervélo TestTeam while Tom Danielson, Jason Donald, Timmy Duggan, Christian Maier and Tom Peterson line up for Garmin-Slipstream.
71st Volta a Portugal em Bicicleta (2.HC)
One of Europe’s oldest stage races, the Tour of Portugal is typically overlooked and forgotten. Held in the weeks after the Tour de France, the cycling media rarely gives the challenging and varied Portuguese tour its fair shake.
Strictly a national race in its early years, the race has attracted a more international field the past decade, with foreign riders hogging the podium spots at the expense of Portuguese riders. Spanish rider David Blanco has won two of the past three editions.
Six Portuguese teams are joined by eight foreign teams. Blanco is back to defend his title, but will see a fight from Spanish rides Rubén Plaza (Liberty Seguros), Tino Zaballa (Parades) and Santi Pérez (Madeinox).
Some impressive foreign riders are also lining up, including Alessandro Petacchi (LPR), Dario Cioni (ISD), Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Patrik Sinkewitz (PSK Whirlpool), back from his racing ban.
This year’s 11-day, 10-stage course opens with a 2.4km prologue in Lisbon and then sticks to the northern half of the country, avoiding the warmer, crowded roads along Portugal’s Algarve coast in the south.
While it doesn’t boast the long alpine climbs of Spain, Italy or France, Portugal is nonetheless very mountainous and this year’s route is no stroll in the sun. Stage 4 finishes atop the Cat. 1 Alto de Graca and Stage 9 features the “special category” summit finish atop the Alto da Torre. The final-day 30km individual time trial will settle the podium spots.
9th Paris-Corrèze (Fra, 2.1)
Wednesday and Thursday, August 5-6
This two-day French race has been won by the likes of Edvald Boasson Hagen in 2007 and Thor Hushovd in 2001, victories that came early in their respective careers before going on to bigger and better things.
A mix of French and Italian teams line up for the start in St. Amand-Montrond and arrive in Chaumeil.
GP Industria (Italy, 1.1)
Thursday, Aug. 6
UCI Junior Road and Track World Championships
August 7-15, Moscow, Russia
60th GP Camaiore (Italy, 1.1)
Saturday, August 8
Route de France Féminine