What a weird season. We’ve already had the preseason, the very early season, the COVID total lockdown season, the COVID opening up but still no racing season, the pushed into summer Italian one day race season overlapping with the shortened pre-Tour de France season, the Tour de France which is a season into itself and now we are staring mid-season in the face with the Worlds TT and RR. I don’t know about you but my internal clock has been yanked from Pacific daylight savings time to whatever time it is in Europe. I wake at 3am, watch a race or three, do some work, take a loooog nap, have dinner, more work, sleep by 10 to get five hours in.
But WHAT HAPPENS NOW? THERE‘S NO RACE TODAY- WHAT WILL I DO? Plan the rest of the season silly. And in looking at the season and my FSA-DS team I want to know where and with whom I am gonna pick up points.
And as it happens the rest of the season divides itself neatly into two and a half different tracks. World Tour riders will choose one of those tracks and stick with it till the end of the season. There’a very little chance in changing from one track to another in fact. It is almost like there’s three different cycling leagues going on at once with the championship for some fo them happening first.
Before we get to describing the tracks, do you have any riders on Pro teams or Continental teams? If so those riders have few choices and in many cases their season is almost over. Take Nairoman for example. His team has not been invited to either of the Grand Tours and since he’s a climber he has basically the Ardennes that he has a chance to score points...which face it is unlikely. His year is for all intents and purposes, done.
Several riders are in Q’s shoes as there’s very few remaining races that aren’t World Tour level and thus invites are precious and hard fought over by the lower division teams. If you are a Belgian Pro team you can race most/all of the cobbled races coming up. If you are a lucky Italian or Spanish Pro team you can look forward to their Grand Tours. But basically you have one choice. If you have riders on a Pro or Continental team not from Belgium, Spain, or Italy, you are out of luck in the VDS chase. See ya next year.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s look at the three racing tracks open too those guys.
The Giro track.
Just fine race. The Giro. That’s it. Stop asking for more.
After the Worlds there’s basically one other race that Giro riders can race in before the end of the season: la Flèche Wallonne, three days before the Giro starts. Needless to say I am not seeing many riders on the start lists of both. I do see Dylan Teuns doing the double and potentially some other riders might join him but very very few. Besides, Teuns’ schedule this year is just weird. So basically if you got riders in the Giro that’s their last race of the year. Period.
Here’s a partial list of riders doing this fall Giro:
GC guys- Fuglsang and Vlasov, Nibali, Thomas and Sosa, Right Yates and Haig, Kelderman and Hindley, Kruijswik, Majka, Soler and no doubt a few more will be at the start.
Sprinters: Gaviria, Demare, Viviani, Sagan, Ballerini, Bling, Marecsko, Ewan, and Aranburu. Nice talent here.
Others- Various punchers/borderline GC guys especially if they are Italian: Ulissi, Masnada, Brambilla etc.
End date: October 25 aka The Sunday of DOOM. Other races that day: Paris-Roubaix and the Tourmalet stage of the Vuelta.
So riders either do the Giro or they go onto one of two other overlapping tracks: the Cobbles track and the Vuelta track. What overlaps between these two are the Ardennes: riders can do those races and then do either of the other end games. Like take Valverde. Here’s his schedule:
9/27 Worlds RR
9/30 La Fleche
10/14 Dwars door Vlaanderen
10/20 Vuelta a Espana
There will be a bunch of riders who can handle hills, have a somewhat fast finish who will do a similar track. But what I find potentially fascinating is what Valverrde’s schedule hints at: that a bunch of punchy/climby types will do the Ardennes and skip the Vuelta in favor of some of the cobbles like Flanders, E3 and Paris-Roubaix: races that they never otherwise contest. Yes! So:
2A. The Ardennes/Cobbles track.
Whoo-hoo! It is SO SO fitting that we are doing the Ardennes before the cobbles isn’t it? I just started laughing when I saw that. But wait! There’s more! Besides those tasty one day races is a small and fun stage race: BinkBank Tour baby! Also there are very few .1 and .HC races still on the schedule. Brabantse Pijl! and Paris-Tours! on the same day as Gent-Wevelgem! One day after Amstel!
At any rate here’s hoping that the change in schedule continues to bring out weird, wonderful and unexpected results on the cobbles and Ardennes. Here’s the races:
9/27 Paris-Chauny cat 6
9/29 BinkBank Tour cat 3
9/30 La Fleche Wallonne cat 4
10/4 Liege-Bastogne-Liege cat 2
10/7 Brabantse Pijl cat 5
10/10 Amstel Gold race cat 4
10/11 Gent-Wevelgem cat 4 + Paris-Tours cat TBD
10/14 Scheldeprijs cat 4
10/18 Ronde van Vlaanderen cat 2
10/21 AG Driedaagse Brugge- De Panne cat 4
10/25 Paris-Roubaix cat 2
Look at that! Three cat 2’s, one Cat 3, five cat 4’s super concentrated together. If some rider or team starts off hot they could sweep a bunch of these.
Who’s riding these races? Your typical Classics guys plus a few GC guys who’ve had enough of Grand Tours after that tour in France. A few sprinters but really the sprinters are divided up fairly evenly between the three tracks. Scheldeprijs is probably not gonna be this huge sprinter summit although some top sprinters will be there.
2B. The Ardennes-Vuelta track.
Just what it says: riders choosing this adventure are keyed into the Vuelta at the end but have the chance to take in the scenic Ardennes (climby guys) or Bink Bank tour (sprinters) if they so choose.
Interesting thing about the Vuelta. So far the only people kinda confirmed to ride it are mostly GC guys with some sprinters (Degenkolb, Hodeg, Ackers, maybe Dainese or Phillipsen). With most of the Classics guys going to Belgium instead the depth of the teams behind the GC leaders may be scanty in any number of teams. Not all teams as Jumbo and Ineos look to be fairly loaded.
The Vuelta is this year a COVID-shortened 18 stages but it is pure undiluted Vuelta. Check out the one TT it has: stage 13: 33.5km almost all flat TT...until the fucking Mirador de Ezaro rears its head at the end: 1.8km @ 14.6%. The Vuelta took on this little hill in 2012 when J-Rod, Contador, Valverde, and Froome just bashed themselves to pieces on this hill, J-Rod winning by 8 seconds over The Accountant. Should be a load of fun to see those TT bikes and riders just seize up on that hill. That and the Angrilu stage (12) or the aforementioned Tourmalet stage (6). We get it a typical Vuelta climb fest starting with the main climb of Pais Vasco, Eibar Arrate, starting us off on stage 1. But for all of you who yearly grumble how the Vuelta is bad because climbs, there are FOUR flat stages! Take ‘em and smile when you do.
GC guys for the Vuelta (so far)- Doom and Kuss, Carapaz and Froome, Formolo and Aru, Mas and Valverde, Gaudu and Pinot, Ion Izzy, Hermans, Uran and Woods, De La Parte, Landa. More will be added I think. (Some GC guys are long listed for both the Giro and Vuelta so we got to see which race they end up in. FSA-DS owners should hope their guys do the Ardennes-Vuelta track over the Giro track since more points are on offer.
The Vuelta ends on November 8 which is just 67 days before the Tour Down Under starts (IF it starts).
Before we go let’s take a quick look at the top teams. JackyDurandal has cracked the 10,000 point barrier. Lets look at their team...Pogs, Rogla, Wout. And Vlasov. Four of the seven riders over 1000 points each. Only four donuts still to be et. Is the #2 team similar? Frontloaded Inc. has got Pogsm, Rogla, Vlasov, Remco...Okay. Looking at the top 10 teams two things: they all have Pogs plus a couple other of Rogla, Vlasov, Wout, Remco and none of them have by far the two most successful sprinters, Demare and Nizzolo.
The highest placed team with Demare, Dorais Park, is in 118th place. With Nizz the best placed team, Team Nutella p/b Nutella, is in 12th. Oh- and there’s Ulissi sneaking into the 1000+ points club. The highest placed team with him is Suitcase of Courage in 149th place.
Of these top earning riders this year which tracks will they be taking? We don't have all info but it appears that-
- Pogs and Rogla are doing the Ardennes. What they do after that, if anything is up in the air.
- Wout is looking to just do a few cobbles races after Worlds.
- Vlasov? Giro, and it will be interesting how he and Fugslang team up there.
- Demare is also Giro bound.
- Ulissi? Giro.
- Nizzolo? G...No! Cobbles!
Other top riders?
- George Bennett who had a wonderful August: no idea of his schedule
- Schachmann? Ardennes and cobbles!
- MvdP? BinkBank, Amstel then cobbles
- G Mart? Ardennes then Vuelta. I see points here.
Okay enough. Let’s hear your hopes for your team.