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Thursday Thoughts: Ranking the races

A look at the calendar for 2019

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I don’t know if you guys noticed, but 2019 has started. Even more excitingly, we have the calendar for the VDS races for 2019. You may have read about it. In my view, the six categories of races is the best combination of “fair” and “simple” anywhere, two things that any rating system should be.

That doesn’t mean it is perfect, though. Category three and four races are primarily determined based on “official status” of races and there are a few good races (cough Yorkshire cough) that are in category five despite being superior to a range of 3s and 4s. There are also, as Ursula notes, some races missing – Brabantse Pijl being on the list for now. I can live with those variances.

The question for today is, which races would you most like to win? We’ll all have our views for category 1 and 2, and less significant for the lower categories, but for 3 and 4 it is interesting enough to form the basis for an argument. In fact, a bunch of us had a similar argument last year. Today, I’m looking again with a simpler question in mind – if I’m sponsoring a team, which race in each category do I most want to win. My rankings are below, with comments as necessary. Want an argument? You know what to do…

Category Three

  • Tirenno-Adriatico - This just has everything - great and balanced parcours, reliably fantastic field, early enough in the season to be important, pretty scenery. Great.
  • Dauphine - As befits the best warm-up for the biggest race of the season. The 2018 edition was a stonker, too.
  • BinkBank - we’re now into “rock-solid weeklong races with great fields” territory.
  • Basque Country
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  • Paris-Nice
  • Suisse - this is the start of a new tier, we’re into “often interesting week-long races” but not at the same level as the three above.
  • California
  • Romandie
  • Britain - There’s a definite trend here, and it repeats in category four - the sweet spot of the season is March - June. Anything later gets a big drop, and with that we’re into a new tier.
  • Poland
  • Deutschland
  • UAE - globalisation, thy name is fairly mediocre stage-racing. I shouldn’t be so quick to judge, as this always has a good field and the combination of two races might help. Still, it is a long way from prestigious.
  • Guangxi
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  • Limburg - there are those who believe the Hammer series is great. I’m not there yet. Interesting, for sure, and might start working, but these three races will be at the bottom for a while until things pick up.
  • Stavanger
  • Hong Kong

Category Four

  • Strade Bianche - We’ve talked before about whether this should be the sixth monument. Cracking race and one every rider wants in their palmares (and with this parcours, a huge range of riders can hope to win). As with the Dauphine, a great 2018 edition gives this a boost.
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  • E3 - The best warm-up for the best race of the lot. I probably overrated this but I’m okay with that. If you’re wondering about tiers, the first five races in this category are all brilliant and I wouldn’t mind too much what order you put them in.
  • Omloop - This is another race I may have overrated, but it usually happens around my birthday and we all still think we’re going to win FSA-DS, so I like it.
  • San Seb - Behold, the first underrated race.
  • Amstel
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  • Dwars - Second tier status for the next couple of races, and we’re into “fun, quirky, often brilliant but a lot depends on the weather and the startlist”.
  • Gent-Wevelgem
  • Fleche - You know what this race needs? More than one possible way to win it.
  • Mixed World TTT - I don’t know what to do with this newbie. It could be brilliant, or awful. You know we’ll all be watching, though, right? I may have it too low, but the uncertainty knocks it back a little, despite the prestige of rainbows.
  • Emilia - we’re into another tier here, with races either of lower prestige, less interesting parcours, or an unfortunate calendar position. I’m fairly happy that I’ve got the rest of them about right (though nobody likes Canadian racing more than me and Mathieu) and I’m showing, again, that a successful season from a sponsor’s position means winning lots of races early in the year.
  • KBK
  • Montreal
  • Quebec
  • Scheldeprijs
  • London
  • Milan-Torino - I feel bad for the Italian races. I do like them, but I can’t move them up. Apart from Emilia, they just don’t belong higher than this.
  • Ouest France
  • 3 dogs
  • Hamburg
  • Frankfurt
  • Varesine
Sorry Tom. Not as big a deal as it might have been.
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  • Piemonte