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This week in Racing: Portugal, France and Germany

It's a relatively light week by European racing standards, but there are still some great events on the calendar.

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It’s a relatively light week by European racing standards as the summer doldrums hit the peloton.

Two major events already kicked off last week: The Tour of Portugal and the Route de France Féminine both wrap up later this week.

The Tour de l’Ain, expanded to five days this year, sees a solid field in France. This weekend, the Vattenfall Cyclassics in Hamburg sees a return of big-time cycling to Germany where Tyler Farrar won his first career one-day classic.

22nd Tour de l’Ain (2.1)

Aug. 10-14, France

The race has been expanded to five days, with Tuesday’s 3km prologue getting things off and running.

The course loops around the steep hills north and east of Lyon, with stage 4 tackling the HC Col du Grand Colombier to make this race tipped in favor of climbers.

Defending champion Mickael Buffaz lines up with a strong Cofidis crew. Buffaz took victory at the Paris-Corrèze and should be especially motivated.

HTC-Columbia’s Craig Lewis lines up for his final stage race of 2010 while Tejay Van Garderen rides to prepare for the upcoming Vuelta a España. Haimar Zubeldia and Chechu Rubiera (RadioShack) might be extra motivated, since their team was snubbed for the Vuelta.

John Murphy, Cole House and Chris Barton all start for BMC.


5th Route de France Féminine

Aug. 8-14, France

The fifth edition of the French stage race got out of the start-house Sunday with a 5.9km prologue won by Sarah Duster (Cervélo). Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (HTC-Columbia) took her 21st win of the 2010 season with a sprint victory Monday and Annemiek Van Vleuten (Nederland Bloeit) took the overall leader’s jersey.

The race continues through Saturday, with Thursday’s 24.3km individual time trial will prove decisive.


72nd Tour of Portugal (2.1)

Aug. 4-15

One of Europe’s oldest stage races is well underway, starting last Wednesday and continuing through Sunday.

Three-time winner David Blanco (Palmeiras Resort-Tavira) won Sunday’s stage ahead of Monday’s rest day to take a 43-second lead over Spanish compatriot David Bernabeu (Barbot Siper).


15th Vattenfall Cyclassics ( ProTour)

Sunday, Aug. 15, Germany

The ProTour series clicks back into gear this weekend with the long-running German one-day race in Hamburg.

Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) took his first career classic victory last year with a break-out win. The emotional finish-line photograph following his win now is shown on the outside of the Garmin-Transitions team buses.

Other former winners include Oscar Freire, Alessandro Ballan and Filippo Pozzato. Frank Schleck returns to competition with Saxo Bank, where he will be joined by a strong squad including Fabian Cancellara, Jens Voigt, Matti Breschel and Juan José Haedo.

Greg Henderson, Chris Sutton and Edvald Boasson-Hagen line up for Team Sky while other big names include Phillip Gilbert (Omega-Lotto), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), Peter Sagan (Liquigas) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

Despite a string of some fairly steep hills, the pack usually roars into Hamburg for a bunch sprint. The race used to draw huge crowds during the heyday of German cycling in the 1990s and into the 2000s, so it will be interesting the measure the depth of support from fans despite an almost universal boycott of covering cycling among most German media.