What’s Next?

Many seem to have enjoyed the Giro, especially with the final week and the suspense that went all the way to the last moments of the final stage. Sport offers highs and lows and in reality there can be many moments of boredom. Indeed lest we forget the Giro had its siesta moments too, inevitable during three weeks.

So what’s next? We’re right in the middle of the pro cycling season. April and its spring classics offer plenty of excitement but this time of year has plenty to offer as well. Many from the Giro will take a break but many big names are starting their approach to the Tour de France.

The week ahead is itself somewhat quiet. The only men’s UCI race on during the mid-week is the Skoda-Tour de Luxembourg. It has a strong HC rating and if it doesn’t draw a great deal of excitement, it’s often worth paying attention to the results. Luxembourg is a very small place. Indeed the red triangle represents its size in relation to the USA… or Kansas.

Luxembourg relative to Kansas

But the small Duchy has some very hilly roads, the terrain is similar to the roads of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. As well as watching for the stage winners, note who is in the top-10 each day. Any sprint finishes happen after a decent amount of climbing so the sprinters who make the front group are in good shape for the coming weeks.

Critérium du Dauphiné
Starting on Sunday this one week race is like a mini-Tour de France. Organised by ASO who also organise the Tour de France it also uses mountain passes familiar to the Tour and seems to capture France in the summer. It’s a useful test of form ahead of the Tour too. This year’s edition seems to have attracted many of the sport’s big name GC riders, although few sprinters are coming. It shares some similar roads to the Tour, including the Grand Colombier climb plus a long time trial too. A fine race in its own right but comparisons with its big brother in July are inevitable. Hopefully I’ll do a daily “Spin” preview for each stage during this race.

Tour of Switzerland
Arguably the fourth biggest stage race in the sport in terms of prestige at least, the Tour de Suisse offers plenty of tests in the mountains with stunning scenery. A pity it overlaps with the Dauphiné, ideally the French race would end and this one would start a week later. It begins on Saturday 9 June so it’s not for tomorrow.

The Tour looms
We’re only 33 days away from the start of the Tour de France. Like a mountain peak that dominates the landscape, the Tour de France is the summit of the cycling season and the biggest bike race in the world. From now until the prologue of this race riders will find their efforts judged in duplicate, first for merit on the day but second via an extrapolation towards July. Does a strong ride in the Dauphiné mean a rider has peaked too soon? Is an erratic showing in Switzerland a sign that time is running out? A crash or illness can crush many a rider’s plans too.

24 thoughts on “What’s Next?”

  1. Have to say that I was thinking this morning about Sky’s emergence as a dominant force in stage races this season. Its difficult to bet against them and Wiggo repeating last year’s win. Should be a good indicator of the bulk of Sky’s line up for the Tour, minus Cav and Eisel of course.

  2. I think Phil Liggett would disagree, he says the Tour of California (sorry, AMGEN Tour of California) is the fourth most important race in cycling and the fourth Grand Tour.

      • At the end of last year I returned to live in the US after many years in Asia and watching cycling on Eurosport. Given the iconic status of Phil and Paul, I looked forward with anticipation to their commentary on NBCSports (formerly Versus), only to be disappointed by their continuous stream of hyperbole and cliches. Sean and Dave are much easier on the ears, and it goes without saying that Sean’s technical knowledge is far superior.

        • Absolutely, Drew. The ES coverage is vastly superior to that pair of windbags. As far as the TOC is concerned, it’s just a warm-up to a warm-up for riders heading to the Tour de France. It’s not on the same level as Paris-Nice or the Criterium de Dauphine, never mind the Tour de Suisse. Hell, it’s probably not even on the level of Pais Vasco.

  3. I believe Levi Leipheimer has called both the Tour of California and the Tour of Switzerland “the fourth grand tour” depending on which of the two he has won most recently. The word “arguably” is doing a lot of work for you!

    • It’s all relative but Switerzland’s tour is longer and contains a more thorough test in the mountains. It is the fourth longest race on the World Tour and after the three grand tours, only the Tour of Portugal is longer in distance.

  4. Congratulations to Timmy Duggan of Liquigas Cannondale winning the U.S. National Road Race Championship today in Greenville, SC, USA. A largely unsung domestic who now can bask in some deserved glory.

  5. The question about Dauphiné: where will the race be won?
    In the TT, by the fastest guy among those who will not be dropped in the climbs?
    In the mountain, by the attacker who will have lost the least time in the TT?

    • That’s for the Tour de France too. But for the Dauphiné the 53km TT is so big that it will influence the results and the mountain stage over the Joux Plane is hard but no summit finish. The likes of Wiggins, Evans should be suited to this but the other days contain quite a lot of climbing, a break could gain time one day.

  6. Always look forward to the Dauphine, for me one of the best races to go and see some top riders nearing peak form! and without the madness and crowds of Le Tour.

  7. I agree re the above Paris Nice and Dauphiné surely hold more prestige amongst the peloton? Tour of Cali to be fair I think is pretty awesome, great roads/views etc and good that a rider like Sagan can have a go for the GC, it is likely that it will become the 4th or even overtake the Vuelta/Giro in Years to come?? $$$$$$$$$$$ being the reason for this

    Bless Phil Lig, surely he’s got early onset dementia ? He gets things wrong every time he’s on air, perhaps we’d all be that bad?

    • Tour of Cali being extended to 3 weeks and becoming a GT? Cant see it myself. The Giro and Vuelta are foundations of cycling, and I seriously cannot see a 4th GT being added to the calendar. Riders are whacked by Oct as it is, they’d have to extend at least WT team sizes to 40-odd riders, and teams would need even larger budgets than they do right now.

  8. Phil Liggett is undoubtedly the (English-speaking) voice of cycling but he gets so much wrong and there isn’t much real insight. I am a big fan of David Harmon on Eurosport – so refreshing to hear him talk not only about the racing but also about the mechnical side of the sport (componentry, hardware, etc). Phil and Paul have been resting on their laurels too long…but they still have a place in most of our hearts.

    • Nice, too, that Harmon seems to be able to translate on the fly from pretty much all the Romance languages. Good skill to have for a cycling journalist.

    • Phil and Paul have worn thin over the years. What was once clever and interesting is now thread bare and hackneyed. And they continually talk down to the viewer (when covering ATof C at least). As if they believe that since it is an American race it must be a an American audience looking in at cycling for the first time.

      My biggest objection though is P & P’s obsessive need to fill the airwaves with talk, talk, talk. Phil is always well behind the action because of his trivial talk. Sean Kelly by comparison is golden. Engaging in his droll way. Intelligent, informed, and knowledgable. And quiet except when he has something to say that adds to the race. Dave Harmon (he of many languages) and Sean are top rate in my book. I love to hear them laugh about things–they are enjoying what they are doing.

      I’ve even come to prefer Schlanger and Gogo to P & P.

  9. I don’t mind Phil and Paul since I’ve had to listen to John Tesh and Sam Posey in the past! Anything is better than John Tesh and Sam Posey!

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