They say fall doesn't start until the 21st but at least in the American psyche I don't know if this has ever been true. Labor Day is over, the beaches of the US are emptying out, and the schools are throwing open their doors. People are cracking open textbooks in colleges everywhere (except the University of Washington) and nearly everyone else is directly or indirectly getting swept up in the action. Pretty good metaphor for cycling and cycling fan-like behavior... because starting now it's six weeks of pedal-to-the-metal time. Obviously we're in Grand Tour mode already, and the Tour de l'Avenir is getting ready to boil over with tomorrow's uphill finish, and staying hot through the weekend. So add to that baseline the following:
Wednesday: GP Rik van Steenbergen
This one didn't even make the VDS list, since it's a sprinter's race (you expect them to commemorate Rik I with a climb?) and since we tried to avoid national imbalance, we were loathe to add another Belgian event. OK, not loathe, more like guilted out of doing it. Someday when the Podium Cafe is converted to a classics-only site and the speaking of languages besides Flemish is forbidden, then we'll reconsider. For now, though, it's an amuse bouche for the rest of the week. It's also a nice warmup race for Paris-Brussels... more on that in a moment. The startlists are pretty similar, including my favorite team Jong Vlaanderen - Bauknecht, which seems to be some sort of kids' Topsport Vlaanderen -- kind of funny considering the average age of the senior TV squad hovers around the cutoff for armed services registration. Anyway, Gert Steegmans and Robbie McEwen are likely threats to win, along with Lars Boom, Matt Hayman, Greg Henderson, Romain Feillu and a few others.
Friday: GP Quebec
Pro Tour time in Canada! Two climby races in two days, but Quebec is the appetizer here. It's a lovely city and the course should be intriguing, with a long, slow uphill drag to the line. We'll preview this in more depth later, but Garmin, Liquigas, the Shack, Rabo and Sky all have strong teams lining up.
Someday to be renamed the Memorial Robbie McEwen, as the Scarlet Pimpernel owns five wins in seven years, easily the best in the race's long, long history. Paris-Brussels goes back to 1893, same year as Paris-Roubaix, when it was fun to start a race in Paris, ride all day over some horrible distance, and catch a train back the next day. P-B has lost its cachet, in part as a lesson to what could have happened to Paris-Roubaix had they allowed every town in northern France to pave over those nasty cobblestones. It's B-list sprint material now, unlike its illustrious history where virtually every great fast finisher notched a victory here. To make matters worse, they can't even bring back HTC-Columbia to defend Matt Goss' win last year, because the race happens on the start day of the...
Saturday (and all next week): Tour of Britain
Another race we'll cover in more depth later, though if Tony Martin doesn't win, I'll ... I dunno. Drink too much before my first 'Cross race?
Sunday: GP Montreal
This is the headliner of the weekend outside of Avenir and Spain: a tough, tough course through another cool Canadian city, with a massive international field ready to duke it out on a WC-style circuit. I hope -- no, demand! -- that our Canadian audience will help fill in the details of this inaugural Pro Tour event as we get closer.