What to watch for in February pro cycling

Pro road racing begins to head up in February. Here's what to expect from the early season stage races and a few classics appetizers.

Good news: Road season is underway. Bad news: As always, we cycling fans have a befuddling task ahead: Sorting through the hundreds of races that span 12 months of the calendar. So I figured I’d help you out a bit. Here are my predictions for the month of February, what to watch for, and why it matters.

I’ll level with you here, February is not the most exciting month. There is racing, but it’s still quite preliminary. Fortunately it is the shortest month, but I’ll do my best to hype it up:

Dubai Tour: Crosswinds! Sprinters! Remember that time Taylor Phinney won it?

Herald Sun Tour: Much like Tour Down Under, the Aussies’ home race is their time to shine — in fact, seven Australians in the last 10 editions have won the overall.

(And yes, I do know that Dubai and Sun Tour are already well underway. I’ll do my best to get the March roundup out in a more timely manner!)

Tour of Oman: It’s like Dubai, except with climbing. Everyone is on disc brakes so their tires don’t explode from the heat again, so the bike industry is stoked. Nibali’s early season form is patchy — Italian media wrings its collective hands furiously.

Volta ao Algarve: Someone from Sky wins. Why? Sky riders have won three of the last five editions. Doesn’t Geraint Thomas look nifty in that golden jersey?

Ruta del Sol: Alejandro Valverde wins another, his fifth Ruta del Sol (in the last six years) … suck it, Sky! However, Alberto Contador is expected to race, and it’ll be his first appointment of the year. Perhaps he’ll be motivated to impress his new Trek – Segafredo team.

Abu Dhabi Tour: With Tour of Qatar scratched, this becomes our go-to source for photos of cyclists with camels.

Peter Sagan contemplated his potential to become a world champion if he were to ride something other than a bicycle. Photo: Tim De Waele |
Peter Sagan contemplated his potential to become a world champion if he were to ride something other than a bicycle. Photo: Tim De Waele |

You can also enjoy a smattering of French races, such as the surprisingly cold and wintery Etoile de Bessèges, the surprisingly hilly and difficult Tour du Haut Var, and Tour of Provence. Expect all the heavy hitters from the French peloton to be out in force: Jerome Coppel, Arthur Vichot … maybe even Thomas Voeckler! (Yes, they won those three races last year, respectively.)

If week-long stage races aren’t your bag, hang in there. The month closes out with two spring classics teasers:

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: If you’ve got a favorite classics rider, do not, I repeat DO NOT root for them in Omloop. It’s the kiss of death — the last guy to win Flanders or Roubaix after winning Omloop in the same season was Franco Ballerini in 1995.

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: We won’t see another Jasper Stuyven solo win this time around. Top classics sprinters won’t want to miss the boat like they did in 2016, and anyway, it seems like Stuyven’s been getting into the sweets a little too much:

Stay tuned for “What to Watch” in March!