After a relatively quiet week last week, things are cracking this week across Europe.
There’s stage racing in France and Holland, the final round of the women’s World Cup, a one-day race in Flanders and the Trittico Lombardo across northern Italy. That should be enough to placate anyone cycling fan suffering from the post-Tour blues.
5th Eneco Tour (PT)
August 17-24; Holland
Now in its sixth year, the Eneco Tour was born for the ProTour to bring the series to the important Benelux market, one of bike racing’s hotbeds. Bobby Julich won the inaugural edition in 2005 and Edvald Boasson-Hagen took a big win last year and will return with Team Sky as defending champion.
Riders will a strong time trial kick usually do well here, so the likes of Andreas Klöden (RadioShack), two-time winner Ivan Gutiérrez (Caisse d’Epargne), Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) and Jurgen van den Broeck (Omega-Lotto) are names to watch for the GC. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) was a late-hour withdrawal for family reasons.
Sprinters have a field day, with a week of sprint friendly stages across the bergs of Belgium and Holland. Allan Davis (Astana), André Greipel (HTC-Columbia), Danilo Napolitano (Katusha), Gert Steegmans (RadioShack), Borat Bozic (Vacansoleil) and Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step) should have their shot at stage wins.
The eight-day race dips in and out of Holland and Belgium, with a 5.2km prologue in Steenwijk, Holland.
Sprints are typically in the cards until they hit some hillier stages late in the race that are the most challenging stage to control and the most promising for a race-breaking attack. Things usually aren’t decided until the final day time trial, this year with a fairly technical 16.9km course in Ghent.
43rd Tour de Limousin (2.1)
August 17-20, France
French riders usually shine on home roads in and around Limoges in what’s a nice warm-up for this weekend’s big race at Plouay. Mathieu Pergot will be back to defend his title with Caisse d’Epargne.
All the major French teams are present, along with Team Sky, who sees Simon Gerrans back in the saddle for the first time since crashing out of the Tour de France.
The hilly course dips into Correze, Creuse and Haute-Vienne, guaranteeing a dog-fight to control the race.
75th GP Stad Zottegem ( 1.1)
August 17, Belgium
One of those long-running European races that doesn’t get much attention, but keeps hanging around (thankfully). A mix of northern European ProTour and continental teams fills out the peloton. The course is held on two loops in and around Flanders and ends in – you guessed it – Zottegem.
89th Tre Valle Varesine (1.HC)
August 17, Italy
The Tre Valle Varesine opens the three-race Trittico Lombardo, a trio of races across the Lombardy region of Italy. An unofficial title goes to the rider who has the best results in all three races.
64th Coppa Agostini (1.1)
August 18, Italy
35th Coppa Bernocchi (1.1)
August 19, Italy
19th Trofeo Melinda (1.1)
August 22, Italy
GP du Ploauy (World Cup)
August 21, France
The women’s World Cup clicks back into gear for the ninth and final stop in this year’s circuit. The hilly Plouay course provides a stiff challenge and lends to aggressive riding throughout the day.
Marianne Vos holds a narrow, 18-point lead to Kirsten Wild, with Emma Johannson a distant third with 174 points.
73rd GP Ouest France-Plouay (ProTour)
August 22, France
One of the most important one-day races in the second half of the racing calendar, each year Plouay draws big crowds to western France.
The weekend’s race, including the women’s World Cup held on Saturday, are held on the hilly, 19.1km loop called the “Jean Yves Perron” circuit. The final climb, with a steep nearly two-kilometer ramp, with just over 2km to go usually springs the winning moves.
Last year’s winner Simon Gerrans (Team Sky) will be back to defend his title, with the likes of Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Filippo Pozzato (Katusha), Sammy Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Gerard Ciolek (Milram), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) and recent Vattenfall winner Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) leading an all-star cast.