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August: Truly the Bahrain-Merida of Months

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It’s uninspiring and chock-full of filler.

Colbrelli Broken Bike Bahrain Tim de Waele/Getty Images

I’m about to do something that I really wouldn’t recommend to anyone writing a cycling website — I’ve done it before, it just hasn’t worked out well for me and I didn’t learn my lesson: encourage people not to watch cycling. Why will I do this? Because it is August, and I speak from the heart when I say the following: August can fuck off. I am a huge fan of this sport, I will watch races in February and October with huge enthusiasm. Yet I have two sorts of races I cannot abide: races in Switzerland (which I’ll get into next year, and is nothing against the Swiss, I don’t mind direct democracy) and races in August. Let’s have a quick look at the races I’m talking about:

Clasica San Sebastian: This is the best race of the month. However. It seems designed to take good climbs, the Jaizkibel for example, and ruin them by turning them into nothing more than speedbumps on the way to a final few kilometres which always decide the race. Not to mention the fact that you can count yourself lucky if the footage doesn’t cut out every five minutes.

Tour de Pologne: There are a few things about this race that baffle me. The first is the comical French name (seriously, this race used to be called Wyścig Dookoła Polski. That’s pronounced “visch-chig do-okowa Polski.” Could we not all learn how to say that?). The second thing is how this is a WorldTour race. To illustrate the importance of races such as this, I like to use a little system I call the Astana Kazakh Index. Not to diminish any of Astana’s riders, but they are a Kazakh team. It makes sense that they will have some Kazakhs on their team who may not have found it so easy to get a contract on other squads. This is fine. This is expected. I do not begrudge these riders their place in the World Tour by any means, I am sure they are all wonderful cyclists. But if you’ll hear me out, the theory behind the AKI is this: At the most important race of the year, the Tour de France, 12.5% of Astana’s team were Kazakhs. At the Giro, slightly less important, 25% of Astana’s team were Kazakhs. At the Volta a Catalunya? 29%. Tour of Denmark? 33%. Are you noticing a correlation? So, you ask, what’s the AKI for the Tour of Poland? A staggering 86%. Case rested.

Tour De Pologne - Stage One
The traditional Poland inflatables.
Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images

Danmark Rundt: This race is going on now. I just have a short word on it. I was perusing Twitter this morning and I heard people discussing today’s stage as though it were a heavy mountain day. This is the profile.

I suppose you haven’t much to work with in Denmark, but call a spade a spade.

The Larry H.Miller Tour of Utah: So, first, read the “Controversies” section of Larry H.Miller’s Wikipedia page sometime. Secondly, look at the startlist. Even the WorldTour Teams are using this race to blood stagiares, ahead of anything else. Sorry, American readers of this American website, but I can’t get into bike races on your side of the pond. TourTracker is a great way to broadcast a race — it’s a pity I want to avoid the actual racing like the plague.

Vuelta a Burgos: This is a really overrated race among a certain section of cycling media. It’s viewed as some sort of brilliant Vuelta warm-up race, but let’s take a closer look at that. Of the eight last Vuelta winners, only one rode the Vuelta a Burgos in preparation. That was Juan José Cobo. And the less said about him the better. Yet every year, it’ll be “Vuelta a Burgos starts today, last tune-up before the Vuelta.” So everyone either pretends to care, or (worse) actually cares about some Van Poppel winning sprint stages, while the winner of the Vuelta is somewhere else. Literally, the Eneco Tour is statistically just as good preparation. Speaking of which...

BinckBank Tour: The “ENECO OMIGOD” thing that happens every year on this website predates my writing here. And I can understand somebody being a fan of this race, because really, it should work. It has all the ingredients, just none of the flavour, as far as I’m concerned. Basically, this is the old Driedaagse De Panne, just extended, and without the classics either side of it. No better than that.

Arctic Race of Norway: Way to lure talent, guys. It’s like calling the Tour of Dubai “The Forty Degrees Every Day Tour of Dictatorland.” Seriously, the best thing about this race is that a stage finishes in a place called Hammerfest.

EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg: The second leg on John Degenkolb’s comeback Tour. If you like him, watch it. If you like being stimulated by what you’re watching, don’t. It’s a WorldTour race. I have no idea either.

Bretagne Classique - Ouest France: Also WorldTour, also ridiculously. Beloved of Fortuneo-Samsic. Not beloved of me.

Peloton rides through countryside Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Vuelta a Espana (first week): The Vuelta is great. The first week of it, sometimes less so. Watch the red jersey get passed around and forgettable breakaways win forgettable stages. There’s one decent MTF in the August stages, but decent MTFs are kind of the Vuelta’s thing. There’ll be as many carbon copies of that stage as there are young Spanish riders you’ve never heard of in the breakaways.

So that’s August, and reading this you may think that I do not love cycling quite as much as I ought to. This is not the case, in fact the contrary is true — I do love cycling, but this is cycling in its worst form. I will lap up the Ruta del Sol or Milano-Torino, I am by no means only drawn to the big races. I’m just not drawn to any of these ones. In my opinion, that’s fine. If you like them, I’m glad you’ll have cycling you want to watch this month. To me, it’s a sorry lot. Bring on September.