So you're a top-level pro cyclist in Europe, and the leaves are starting to turn. What's left to do for your season? Here are a few answers and suggestions on where you ought to be.
I Want to Win: the 2014 Tour de France
I Should Be: resting. OK, you might want to win the Tour de France in your new Rainbow Jersey, but is that really going to happen? The last to do so was Greg LeMond, a rider who finished fourth in Paris-Roubaix and second at the Tour in the same year. In other words, a rider whose accomplishments bear no resemblance to present-day cycling. The type of late peak you need to win the Worlds is somewhat at odds with the need to shut down early in order to start the buildup to the Tour on time, Sky-style. I wouldn't rule out a grand tour type winning next weekend, starting with Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome, but there are plenty of others who can commit themselves more fully to the Rainbow chase.
I Want to Win: the World Championships
I Should Be: on my way back from Canada, or finishing things up in Britain. The Canadian races are great fun, in part because they draw an excellent field, which itself is due to their similarity to worlds-style racing, on hilly (but not impossibly hilly) circuits. The prep doesn't get much better. But if you needed to keep racing between leaving Montreal and lining up in Tuscany, you could either do both Canadian races, then come back to Europe and find minor starts like the GP Impanis or GP Costa Degli Etruschi or GP d'Isbergues. Or you could have skipped Canada and done the Tour of Britain instead, as well as the GP Ouest France on September 1.
I haven't been watching the ToB, but scanning the results shows that Nairo Quintana, Bradley Wiggins, and Dan Martin (a top Worlds fave) are the only big names to have chosen the ToB as prep route. Quebec and Montreal had the cream of the Worlds crop -- Froome, Sagan, Gesink (OK but he's in great shape), Van Avermaet, etc. The Startlists have spoken. You could also be on your way back from the Vuelta, but ideally you cut out a tad early, putting you in with the guys returning from Canada. Gilbert, for one, is at the GP Impanis, trotting around in his fancy jersey one last time.
Incidentally, all three of the weekend's GPs (Etruschi, Impanis, Isbergues) fall in the hilly-race-that-sprinters-win category, so I'm not sure any of them are great prep for Tuscany. Really, it's just a matter of staying fresh.
[Don't miss Broerie's preview of the GP Impanis from a few days ago. The words "Van Petegem" and "I can see it from my house" get mentioned.]
I Want to Win: Il Lombardia (10/6)
I Should Be: representing my country next weekend. With the same buildup. It's not always so harmonious, of course, but two things about this year are different. First, the worlds is an unabashedly hilly course with about 5km of climbing for every lap of the 16km circuit. So as opposed to two years ago (Copenhagen) and sorta unlike last year (Valkenberg), the mountain men will figure especially heavily, or so we think. Meanwhile, Lombardia is in year two of its nominal makeover, dropping the word Giro from its name and backing up to the worlds on the calendar. Gone are the old routines of using Emilia and the Coppa Sabatini to prep; those come after the fact now. Prior to worlds, you should have been in Canada or Spain. However nice the racing in Britain may be, the only way to get the kind of climbing in that resembles the beastly Lombardia route would be the Quebec circuit or the Picos de Europa.
I Want to Win: Paris-Tours (10/13)
I Should Be: At the GP d'Isbergues. And before that, Ouest-France. It's not merely the host country, it's the terrain. Oh, and get on the startlist for the Circuit Franco-Belge, October 3-6, and Paris-Bourges, three days later. All rugged sprinter-friendly events.
I Want to Win: a job in 2014
I Should Be: Working on my Mandarin. Want to prove to a prospective DS that you're willing to do anything to help the team? Well, pack an unusually large suitcase for two weeks in China, starting with the Tour of Hangzhou, Oct 9-13, and the Tour of Beijing October 16-20. The former is simply a warmup for the latter, but the latter is a UCI world tour race (see "insane, literally" for an explanation), and the last-minute points cache might be the difference between automatic qualification and throwing itself at the mercy of the UCI for your team. Apart from winning the Tour de France, team priorities don't get much bigger. Like I said, this is insane. Welcome to Pat McQuaid's It's a Small World of Cycling Project.