Weekend outlook: Cobbles, Catalunya, Criterium

  • By Spencer Powlison
  • Published Mar. 25, 2016
The spring classics are in full swing, and that's plenty of reason to celebrate. Floortje Mackaij won Gent-Wevelgem with a solo move in 2015. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Nearly every variety of pro cyclist will have a chance for glory this weekend, whether they favor the spring classics, fast sprints, time trials, or climbing. Between Volta a Catalunya, Critérium International, and Gent-Wevelgem, the next 48(ish) hours has it all.

Volta a Catalunya

The weeklong Spanish race has Thursday’s queen stage in the rearview mirror, but the GC is not decided — and it won’t be until Sunday’s hilly circuit around Barcelona, which features eight ascents of the category 3 Mont Juic. “Contador is very close and, in reality, everyone is still within a handful of seconds,” said race leader Nairo Quintana after stage 4. “The final circuit race around Barcelona, always a nervous day, is one when you have to keep your eyes peeled.” Saturday’s stage 6 should be suited to the sprinters; expect that stage to finish around 12:30 p.m. EDT, and Sunday will end earlier, around 10 a.m. EDT.

Criterium International

Saturday’s shaping up to be a day for sprinters, as the Critérium International‘s first stage will likely offer a bunch gallop as well. Later that day, the race’s second stage will be a short, flat time trial. The decisive race should come on Sunday when the final stage takes on an uphill finish on Col d’Ospedale, a 956-meter (3,136-foot) climb just outside of Porto Vecchio on the Corsican coast. Saturday’s stages will end around 6:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. EDT, respectively. NBC Sports will stream coverage online Sunday, from 8:30-11:10 a.m. EDT.


Yes, the tune-up stage races are fun opportunities to check in on GC favorites ahead of summer, but really, spring is all about the classics. After appetizers of Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke, Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem is when the two-week feast of Belgian (and French) bike racing begins. Last year’s races were shredded by terrible crosswinds and foul weather resulting in two solo victors — Floortje Mackaij and Luca Paolini. Will the 2016 edition live up to its billing as a “sprinter’s classic?” We’ll see how the weather and race dynamics over 10 hellingen (five for women) play out. The women will finish around 10:15 a.m. EDT, while the men are expected around 11:30 EDT. Bein4 Sports will carry the men’s broadcast in the U.S.


Spencer Powlison

Spencer Powlison

When it comes to bike racing, Spencer is a jack-of-all-trades. He loves pinning on a number, whether it’s in a local criterium, a mountain bike enduro, a cyclocross national championship, or a gran fondo. Name any cycling discipline, and more likely than not, Spencer has ridden or raced it. He has been lucky enough to work in the bike industry for the majority of his adult life, from his time turning wrenches in a Vermont bike shop to his five-year tenure at the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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