The post-coronavirus 2020 racing calendar was unveiled Tuesday, and it’s stacked with talking points.
With seven months of racing crammed into half that space of time, the UCI’s new schedule is a densely-packed mass of events with clashes, overlaps, and plenty of curveballs.
How do teams plan their rosters with such a busy schedule? Could the new layout of the year benefit some more than others? And how big a step is the introduction of Paris-Roubaix to the women’s calendar?
Could this new-look calendar see increased importance in certain races, and are there any ‘losers’ in the new schedule?
Andrew Hood (@eurohoody): The Tour of Poland will see a boost because it’s the first year it will be before the Tour instead of after. The big question will be if teams will send their riders to Poland with the risk of seeing them get stuck there for lock-downs or quarantines before the Tour. Most teams will send their top riders to the Dauphiné simply so they will already be in France. Any race that’s on the calendar, even with overlaps, are winners. In this scenario, the “losers” are the races that had to pull the plug, such as the Trofeo Binda or the Tour de Suisse.
Jim Cotton (@jim_c_1985): Maybe Poland, but I think teams will send their Tour riders to the Dauphiné as they do normally — being in France with similar climate and terrain it’s a no-brainer. Any race organizer that sees their race on this schedule will be breathing a sigh of relief, even though there’s no real guarantee that the races will actually go ahead until as planned til the very day they roll out. That said, RCS Sport does seem to have come out bottom of the pile, with Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro d’Italia being overshadowed by the Tour and classics block respectively.
James Startt: I don’t think so. Sure Poland will be in the spotlight a bit more, and that will benefit the race in a variety of ways as it will give added visibility on the race and the country. However, it’s only a short-term gain. And there are other stage races, not on the WorldTour, that have yet to be confirmed, that will attract bigger fields than usual. As far as losers, I don’t see any. Sure the Giro is getting a little squeezed. But great races are like great wines…even in an off-year they still maintain their quality.
You’re the boss at a team such as EF Pro Cycling or Jumbo-Visma, who have strong options in the classics and grand tours. How do you manage your roster when many key one-day races clash with the Giro?
Jim: All-in for the Tour, baby! I imagine team heads will plan to send their strongest possible selection to the Tour, possibly even shifting riders that had been planning to captain a team at the Giro into a support role for La Grand Boucle. Those guys that had been planning to fight for GC at the Giro can then be sent to lead the team at the Vuelta, and the one-day racers will have plenty of recovery time to freshen up ahead of the Ardennes or cobbled classics. I’d then send my young bucks into the Giro, like Deceuninck-Quick-Step is doing with Remco Evenepoel.
Andrew: The Giro comes up the big “loser” in this scenario. It’s likely many teams will put the Tour and monuments at the center of their calendars. Even riders who were planning on racing the Giro, such as Romain Bardet or Peter Sagan, will be at the Tour. And the same goes for the big classics riders. There will be enough riders across the WorldTour to fill out the Giro peloton, but some teams will be putting the Giro at the bottom of their list.
James: Well, decisions will be made but I don’t think they will be that hard. The biggest classics riders will do Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo, and then the Tour to really hone their form for the following classics. That said, the Giro in the autumn will be beautiful and will provide a number of contenders a great opportunity to win a great race. Outside of Peter Sagan, who was planning to do the Giro this year, but now will probably focus on the cobbled classics, I think the start-list will be very similar to what was originally planned.
How important is the addition of Paris-Roubaix to the women’s calendar in the wider context of the sport?
James: This is a huge opportunity. Kudos to ASO on this. They could have made things easy on themselves by putting it on a different day. It won’t be easy to organize two WorldTour races simultaneously, let alone the world’s most complicated one, but it is going to be really exciting and a huge, huge boost. Great news!
Andrew: It’s important due to the prestige and history of Roubaix, and the mythical challenge of racing over the cobblestones. With Roubaix, three of the five ‘monuments’ now have women’s editions. It would be great to see a Sanremo — there was a Primavera Rosa from 1999-2005 that was very popular —and Lombardia add women’s races. The ball is in RCS Sport’s court.
Jim: It’s a huge step forward for women’s racing, and bodes well for the future of the Women’s WorldTour. ASO is already discussing a women’s Tour de France, so a women’s Roubaix feels like a step toward that. The one downside I see is that the race this year falls on ‘super Sunday’ on October 25. I fear the TV audiences and roadside fans may be limited what with men’s Roubaix, the Giro and Vuelta all falling on the same day.
The worlds are set to take place immediately after the Giro Rosa and Tour de France. Do you see that favoring certain riders?
Andrew: The climb-heavy worlds course in Switzerland will mean that the top protagonists at the Giro Rosa and Tour will be the favorites for the worlds. The likes of Anniemiek Van Vleuten and Egan Bernal could be primed for the rare Rosa/Tour-worlds double, even more so since they are stacked up. On the men’s side, this will be the first time in two decades that the worlds will come so close to the conclusion of the Tour.
James: Everyone will be flying in peak form at worlds. No one will have a ton of racing in their legs before the Tour, they may well come out of it fresher. Obviously there will be surprises. Some riders will be quickly destroyed in the Tour as they will not have had sufficient time to prepare for the intensity of a three-week race. But others will be rocking. Gonna be a great worlds!
Jim: Many riders could well have ridden themselves into form at the Tour/Giro Rosa. I imagine those that have been coupled up inside in Europe for the past months need some volume in the legs to hit peak form, so the worlds could be frantic. Racers’ form in Switzerland could also be a gauge of who’s been over-training while the world has gone into lockdown. Fitness and freshness is a delicate thing to balance, and too many hours on the trainer now could have repercussions come September.