What next?

Tour of Poland
That empty feeling

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.

18 thoughts on “What next?”

  1. Don’t forget the Volta a Portugal. Although not having the same impact as the 3 GT or other stage races like Paris-Nice or ATOC it’s a very peculiar and remarkable race. Longer than any other stage race, except the GTs, with a prologue and 10 stages, it’s also one of the oldest, currently in the 73rd edition. Adored and followed by thousands. From August 4th to the 15th.

  2. @Al
    ITV4 shows: Tour de France, Tour of Britain, Tour of California, and the UK Tour Series
    Aswell as highlight packages for races such as Paris Nice, Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, albeit a couple of weeks after theyve took place.

    Its not comparable to Eurosport, but its not just the TDF either.

  3. I love the entire race season but admittedly when the day after the podium stage arrives there is a profound feeling of emptiness even so. I reach for some of my books on the tour and mountain peaks in the Alps and Pyrenees. I go out and look for a new tome to add to my tour collection. Once the Vuelta passes I sink into Autumn and dream of July once more. Who will win next year? Indeed, cycling is filled with races aplenty: many historical with particular characteristics of difficulty and challenge. However, in spite of the fact the Giro has some of the highest peaks for cyclists to climb, the Tour de France is the only race to combine all the great characteristics we admire so much in all the other tours, classics and criteriums yet offer its followers greater still.

  4. The first year that I closely followed the tour, getting really really into (you all know what I mean), I was completely blindsided by the sudden nothingness of afterwards-after the podiums, and the announcers say so long, and that’s it……. It was shocking to me, that sense of desolation that I now know and recognize as Acute Tour Withdrawal Syndrome. Then I wasn’t at all hooked up to online social media and it was pretty awful. If you are not surrounded by fellow cycling fans, as I am not, people around you have no clue what you are experiencing. It can even be very alienating, when you realize that all the people you rub elbows with every day have no idea that the greatest sporting event of the year was just going on and now it’s over for another year. But InnerRing is right; there are lots more races on the calendar, and a vast online world of news, blogs, forums, and chatrooms.

  5. August is the dullest of months in sports, a void filled with mildly interesting Baseball results and preparation for American football season–or, in Europe, preparation for Football season. The difficulty with cycling’s late season is that the major events it is building towards (La Vuelta, the World Championships, Paris-Tours, and the Giro di Lombardia) quickly get swamped by other sports and the increased activity of the fall. August is a sleep void, a time for riding and camping and vacations, and while I hope to catch the race this Saturday, it’s hard to get as excited about it as the monuments or the Tour.

    This is part of the beauty of cycling, though–the races slowly build to the climactic results, but then it is over. Recovery time. The waiting makes the events more special. Would we be as excited by Milan-San Remo if it ran this weekend? Would Paris-Nice get the attention it does if it were just an alternative event in late August? They are special partly because we wait for them to happen. In chilly Duluth, Minnesota I don’t just like Paris-Roubaix because it’s a fun race; it is a harbinger of spring, a burr to get in my saddle and ride (tricky though that may be with our heavy snowpacks). The waiting is special.

    So, when’s the Vuelta?

  6. I too have the sense of depression after the Tour is over. But I look at the positive: I no longer have a need to wake up early in the morning to watch the live broadcast. I’m not tired in the afternoon because of it. I’m not postponing weekend morning rides. I look to August as a month off from what has been the drama of racing that began in late January with the TDU. In doing so I begin to switch gears and look forward to the upcoming season that is cyclocross (sorry inrng…i know you’re not a fan).
    Since the US road season is completely boring to me outside of the ToC, I can get excited for a few months of the year on our killer domestic cyclocross scene as well as the WC races.

  7. I know in Australia, its now a time of ‘rest’…

    Live TdF coverage starts here at 10pm each night, with the stages finishing up anywhere between 1am & 2am… That sense of ’emptiness’ here is in fact complete physical exhasution!! Plus, with Cadel’s sucess this year, its emotional exhasution as well.

    We definitely need a ‘quiet August’ to replenish the ‘sleep deficit’ and recharge our batteries, so we are ready for the World Champs, Vuelta, and Lombardy… 🙂

  8. With GreenEDGE coming to the table I’m incredibly excited for August 1 especially. The Tour is the jewel in the cycling crown no doubt but there’s always something on!

  9. Biggest race? Of course. Best race? Rarely. We went to the finish at Pinerolo where a waiter at lunch asked us if we were following LeTour. We replied we were there just for this day and he asked us why we were not following the rest of the way. I replied, “Well, the rest of this race is in FRANCE.” He shot me a knowing glance, we were in Italy after all. We’ll go back to Italy later this season to see the Giro di Lombardia and then plan to head up north for Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders next year. That will leave only L-B-L as the last of the 5 monuments of cycling to see live as we saw MSR in 2010. Now it’s time for silly season as the game of musical chairs begins – who will change teams? What teams will change directors? What teams will find new sponsors? Sometimes the political and financial machinations are more interesting than the actual racing it seems.

  10. Your link to Ned Bolting’s quote from Pat McQuaid – “we don’t believe the the meat story” – this is hardly news, or putting his foot in it. The UCI appealed to CAS for God’s sake. I would think that in itself more than alludes to the fact that they don’t believe the meat story. I didn’t need Boulting, or you to tell me that. And if the media didn’t knock the UCI so much, there might be a bit more acknowledgement in the international press of the serious strides the UCI, and the sport, have made in recent years.

  11. Frank: until now the UCI President had bemoaned the political pressure behind the RFEC decision, not Contador’s contamination hypothesis. Note I’ve written several pieces supporting the UCI on here, they just need a consistent and professional message.

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