More than ever, early season racing is the domain of international events. This week sees many of the sport’s top names at the Tour of Qatar, only to be followed up by the second year of the Tour of Oman.
The world reach of cycling stretches as far as India, which plays host to a pair of one-day events in Nashik and Mumbai set for Friday and Sunday. A mix of European and international teams made the trip, including RadioShack, Liquigas and Team Type 1.
Back in Europe, the five-day Mallorca Challenge wraps up Thursday with the hilly final day. Sprinters have dominated the event so far, with Tyler Farrar taking two wins to open his European racing season.
The week’s main event is the Tour Méditerranéen in France in a quiet week on the mainland before the European calendar gets busier in the final half of February.
38th Tour Méditerranéen (2.1)
February 9-13, France
As the name suggests, this five-day race hugs France’s Med coast and remains popular among French clubs. This year’s course will feature the first major climb of the 2011 season as the final stage finishes atop Mont Faron above Toulon.
The race dates back to the mid-1970s and has since become a popular, early-season stop, especially among French squads looking to score some early-season points on home roads. The race opened Wednesday with victory by Thomas Voeckler, the first for new sponsor Europcar which takes over the team’s spot on the jersey.
Although the race is an important event among the French squads, Cyril Dessel is the only French winner in the past decade. The inclusion of the Mont Faron finale tips the race in favor of riders with a strong pair of early-season climbing legs.
Defending champ Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale) leads the start list, with Leonardo Duque (Cofidis), Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Remi Pauriol (FDJ) and Juan Maurico Soler (Movistar) likely to be in the hunt for final victory.
Stages of Tour Med
Stage 1, Feb. 9: Maubec-Coustellet to Pertuis, 120km
Stage 2, Feb. 10: Saint Cannat to Rousset, 125km
Stage 3, Feb. 11: Cernoux to La Farlede, 135km
Stage 4, Feb. 12: La Londe les Maures to Biot, 155km
Stage 5, Feb. 13: Biot to Toulon (Mt. Faron), 165km
2001 – Davide Rebellin
2002 – Michele Bartoli
2003 – Paolo Bettini
2004 – Jorg Jaksche
2005 – Jens Voigt
2006 – Cyril Dessel
2007 – Ivan Gutiérrez
2008 – Alexander Botcharov
2009 – Luís León Sánchez
2010 – Rinaldo Nocentini