The cycling season is over (not quite but essentially) which means the Just Pro Cycling Pub Quiz is here! Comment your answers below or message me on Twitter @justprocycling to get your answers. Print the quiz. Share the quiz. Love the quiz. Host a quiz night. The questions get progressively harder… but they’re all easy if you know them!
There are a whopping 37 events on the World Tour calendar and I’ve decided to rank them all because that’s how much I enjoy making lists. There’s plenty to laugh at in some recent additions to the World Tour and plenty of great races at lower levels. Nevertheless, these remain the strongest group of races in pro cycling. Disagree with my top ten? Let me know.
I confess I was not as excited for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Belgium’s curtain-raising classics weekend as the rest of the cycling world. Perhaps I was foolishly distracted by Green Mountain and the Abu Dhabi Tour, intrigued to see if Rui Costa and company could upset the leading GC guys. I’ve had no such distractions on the run-up to Strade Bianche; one of my favourite races on the calendar. The unique Italian race has been promoted to the World Tour and a first rate field will tackle a mix of rolling hills and white gravel roads. Here’s my picks for the race.
Strade Bianche is back and this time it’s on the World Tour. Here are five reasons why it deserves to be acknowledged as one of the best races on the calendar.
1. The white gravel roads, obviously.
When the Colle Delle Finestre popped up in the 2005 Giro d’Italia we were given a taste of what Italy could deliver in terms of ‘off-road’ racing. Inaugurated two years later, Strade Bianche provides fans with a race defined by dusty, white, gravel roads. Somebody realised how great a spectacle a white roads race would be and Strade Bianche was born off the back of the ‘Eroica Strade Bianche’ – an Italian granfondo at the time. Not only does the white gravel look magnificent but it provides a completely unique and almost hybrid brand of racing. Zdenek Stybar – a former cyclocross World Champion – has podiumed in the last two editions.
The Abu Dhabi Tour swaggered into the cycling season in the autumn of 2015. It was a strange race but it felt right in the awkward mid-October slot. The race format consisted of three obvious sprint stages and a ‘Queen Stage’ featuring a dance up to Jebel Hafeet. The format has stayed exactly the same but for some reason the race has been catapulted into the new look World Tour. Nobody is particularly excited about it but suddenly we have a February stage race featuring Quintana, Contador, Aru, Nibali, Bardet, Kruijswijk and Majka, plus Kittel, Cavendish, Greipel, Ewan and Viviani. Here’s my quick picks for the race.
We can’t lie to ourselves any longer; the pro cycling season is over. It’s far too soon to start counting down the days until January’s Tour Down Under (is it?) and there’s plenty of time to reflect on the last ten months. Where better to start than with this year’s winners and losers?
For the second year running I’m leaving out World Champion Peter Sagan. By now, everybody must be sick of hearing me wax lyrical about his outstanding talent. His string of near-misses has well and truly ended and he’s been on target at all the big races this year – a theme that should continue for the rest of his career. Instead I’ve opted for winners who’ll recall 2016 with particular fondness, having made a breakthrough or landed a major result.
The ‘losers’ will all have one thing in common; disappointment. Some distance from being bad riders, my selection highlights those who, for whatever reason, couldn’t get the job done and fell short of their goals.
Peter Sagan delivered for the second time in as many years at the season’s big finale. The result followed a nasty switch in wind direction and a front group that tore apart the peloton. Just as in 2015, Sagan kept a low profile throughout the race but this time used his formidable kick to defeat his remaining rivals in a reduced sprint. He can also count fantastic support from his two countrymen and a stuttered launch by Mark Cavendish among contributing factors. Here’s seven key moments from Qatar.
For the last few years March’s stage racing action has been my favourite outside the Grand Tours. The overlapping races of France and Italy attract everybody who’s anybody (almost) and act as preparation for the classics, the Giro or even the Tour. However, Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico are so much more than mere preparation. Tirreno-Adriatico has developed into a fine Italian race, muscling in amongst the major players on the UCI Calendar. The race has transitioned from a Milan San-Remo warm-up (won six straight times by Roger De Vlaeminck) to an assault on Italy’s Apennines. In recent years it’s been the choice of the leading climbers in the pro peloton; won by Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador. Paris-Nice needs less of an introduction with its rich history stretching back to 1933. The race is often aggressively approached with a recent trend of lumpy unpredictable stages. Whilst both can be enjoyed side-by-side, which is likely to be the better race in 2016?