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There Will Be Points! Upcoming PdC Calendar Events

Oh, you can complain that the Podium Cafe doesn't start its competition schedule early enough, but once we do, it's full throttle. After six races over the weekend and Le Samyn yesterday and the Giro del Friuli today, we embark next on another phase of the early season bonanza: Spanish stage races! Let's run down the upcoming action...

Women: Sunday

Just one women's event in the next week, the Omloop van het Hageland - Tielt - Winge, which is fully previewed here. Mega-startlist here.

Men: Friday

Two stage races kicking off...

  • The Vuelta a Murcia, known as the hometown race of Alejandro Valverde most years, runs through the weekend and features an opening stage tomorrow, mountain romp on Saturday, and modest time trial Sunday. Contador vs. Menchov is a pretty decent bet for the overall. I could've sworn we'd previously had video provided through the official website, sponsored by the regional government, but I get my Spanish mini-tour media confused at times.
  • Also starting Friday is Driedaagse West Vlaanderen, a nice little romp around the flatter, more wind-blown portion of the cycling heartland known as Flanders. Official site is chock full of info. Stages are a prologue, a rolling stage from Brugge to Greater Kortrijk, and a coastal (re: flat) stage. While not A-list, the race is a goldmine of young classics and sprinting talent, if you're into that sort of thing. So needless to say, I plan to watch all three stages. Full list is here, but a sampling of names: Jens Keukeleire, Iljo Keisse, Jens Debusschere, Adam Blythe, Dominic Klemme, John Degenkolb, Sam Bewley, Michael Van Staeyen, Rabo CT's Jetse Bol (whom I'll be talking with soon), probably another dozen young studs I'm missing, and what the hell, someone named Michael Vanderaerden. I thought there was a Sporza feed last year, so live video is possible.

Men: Saturday

Tuscany has done a fine job convincing fans that it's the Flanders of the South, thanks to Monte Paschi -- Strade Bianche. The course info is on the official page, and an eyeball comparison suggests it's identical to the 2010 course. Since the new version is illegibly small, here's what it looked like in 2010 (click on it to enlarge): Strade_bianche_2010_altimetria_medium

RAISport 2 has an hour of coverage scheduled for the evening, probably not live. This race has been seriously under-broadcast, so hopes aren't great.

Men: Sunday

Paris-Nice time. The Race Desperately in Search of to the Sun kicks off with a circuit around Houdain, which should end in a nice bunch sprint, and with that in mind local officials have already issued a Peter Sagan Watch, in effect through Wednesday when the race reaches the higher mountains. Almost everyone in his right mind is at Tirreno-Adriatico instead, but Taylor Phinney will be saddling up for BMC, and Tejay Van Garderen might get the go signal for the overall for HTC. Some serious contenders, besides Tejay, will include Jurgen Van Den Broeck, the Astana duo of Vino and Kreuz, and of course Luis Leon Sanchez Gil, hoping to open his Rabo account in style.