Cycling cannot simply be one race in July. The Tour de France must be one episode in the middle of a saga.
So says Christian Prudhomme, organiser of the Tour de France. You’d half expect him to say this given ASO runs the Tour de France but it runs many other races from the Tour of Qatar in February to the Vuelta a Espana in September, where it recently bought a controlling stake in the organisation. Not to mention the likes of Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
But Prudhomme is right. If the Tour de France is the biggest and, arguably, the best race of the year then there’s plenty more to look forward to this year. This Saturday sees the Classica San Sebastian, a great one day race in the Basque country, the heartland of Spanish cycling. Sunday sees the start of the Tour of Poland, not exactly a rival to the Tour de France but one with World Tour points at stake and some hilly finishes in the Tatra mountains later in the week. There are also the post-tour criteriums, a series of lucrative exhibition races about which I’ll write more soon.
In addition there are many big races to come, from the GP Ouest France in Plouay, the Vuelta a Espana, Paris-Tours, the World Championships and the Tour of Lombardy. Perhaps many of you will be aware of this but if you’re a casual fan of cycling who has stumbled across the sport, stay tuned.
Plus there’s more. From 1 August riders can announce their transfers for 2012, we can glimpse the plans for 2012 and speculate on the relative chances of riders for the races in 2012. And yes, there’s even the usual politics and scandal. The double UCI and WADA appeals of Alberto Contador’s case will be heard soon; the race-radio debate (more like argument) will rumble on and it’s only a matter of time until the UCI President puts his foot in it again. His most recent statement, seemingly calling Contador a liar in public, was ignored during the excitement of the Tour de France.
The Tour de France might be over for a year but pro cycling certainly is not.