The Guide

The big­gest races over the next month

Procycling - - Prologue -

1 PARIS- NICE 9-16 March 2.WT, France

The 72nd edi­tion of the ‘Race to the Sun’ is, at 1,447km, the long­est since 1968 when it was still raced over nine rather than the cur­rent eight days. Richie Porte will be de­fend­ing his ti­tle from last year and will have stronger op­po­si­tion, with both Vin­cenzo Nibali and world cham­pion Rui Costa set to start. The fi­nal stage Col d’Eze time trial, re­in­stated in 2012, has been axed in favour of a road stage that has that moun­tain as the fi­nal climb, which may ham­per the Aus­tralian’s de­fence given his abil­i­ties against the clock.

2 TIR­RENO-ADRI­ATICO 12-18 March 2.WT, Italy

The choice of whether to race this, the ‘Race of the Two Seas’ or Paris-Nice of­ten comes down to rider pref­er­ence on the rest they re­quire be­tween the fin­ish of each and Mi­lano-San­remo the fol­low­ing Sun­day. San­remo moved from a Satur­day for 2013, giv­ing all rid­ers an ex­tra day, and the an­swer to the ques­tion of which race pro­vides bet­ter prepa­ra­tion was em­phatic. The podium – Ger­ald Ci­olek, Peter Sa­gan and Fabian Can­cel­lara – all com­pleted Tir­reno-Adri­atico. The win­ner won’t be the rider of the last two edi­tions – the Paris-Nice bound Vin­cenzo Nibali – and who­ever suc­ceeds him could well be the win­ner of the moun­tain­ous stage 4 to Cittareale.

3 MI­LANO-SAN­REMO 23 March 1.WT, Italy

The ad­di­tion of a sin­gle climb, the 5km Pom­peiana, has had a dras­tic ef­fect on La Pri­mav­era. Sprint­ers have dom­i­nated the race in the past two decades but the new ad­di­tion – which av­er­ages 5 per cent, hits 14 per cent in places and sum­mits just 20.7km from the fin­ish – tips the bal­ance away from the fast men in favour of ag­gres­sive, pow­er­ful climbers. It’s shot to pieces the chances of 2009 win­ner Mark Cavendish do­ing so again, with the for­mer world cham­pion al­ready con­firm­ing he’s skip­ping the race. Vin­cenzo Nibali has made it his first ob­jec­tive of the sea­son, while last year’s run­ner-up Peter Sa­gan told Pro­cy­cling that the route change may well have in­creased his chances of vic­tory.

4 VOLTA A CATALUNYA 24-30 March 2.WT, Spain

A sim­i­lar blue­print to last sea­son’s race – no in­di­vid­ual or team time tri­als, with two tough Pyre­nean stages – will be mu­sic to the ears of Garmin-Sharp rider and Pro­cy­cling di­arist Dan Martin, whose win last year kicked off a break­through sea­son.

5 OM­LOOP HET NIEUWS­BLAD 1 March 1.HC (men), 1.2 (women) Bel­gium

The cur­tain-raiser to the Bel­gian Clas­sics sea­son sees the re­turn of one-time Ronde van Vlaan­deren favourite, the Muur van Ger­aards­ber­gen, af­ter a three-year ab­sence. The women’s edi­tion, held since 2008 on the same route, sees Pro­cy­cling di­arist Tif­fany Cromwell de­fend­ing her 2013 ti­tle.

6 STRADE BIANCHE 8 March, 1.1, Italy

It’s only seven years since the first edi­tion of this Tus­can race but thanks to an imag­i­na­tive par­cours of sharp hills and white gravel roads, it ra­di­ates a gen­eral sense of hav­ing been around much longer. Can­non­dale dom­i­nated on their home roads last time, with Peter Sa­gan in­stru­men­tal in Moreno Moser’s vic­tory.

7 ROMA MAX­IMA 9 March, 1.1, Italy

The race for­merly known as the Giro del Lazio ended in bizarre fash­ion last sea­son when Filippo Poz­zatto lifted his arms in ap­par­ent vic­tory, not know­ing AG2R’s Blel Kadri had crossed the line 37 sec­onds pre­vi­ously. The Rome race has one of the best cli­maxes in cy­cling, with the Colos­seum as a back­drop.

8 DWARS DOOR VLAAN­DEREN 26 March, 1.HC, Bel­gium

Up­graded to .HC last sea­son, this semi-Clas­sic ush­ers in the Flem­ish cy­cling week that crescen­dos with the Ronde, and of­ten fea­tures many of the same climbs such as the Pater­berg and Oude Kware­mont. Ital­ian Os­car Gatto won last year for Vini Fan­tini and has since moved to Can­non­dale to bol­ster their Clas­sics squad.

9 BOELS RENTAL RONDE VAN DREN­THE 15 March, CDM, Nether­lands

Mar­i­anne Vos eas­ily out-sprinted com­pa­triot Ellen Van Dijk here last sea­son in a 132km cob­ble-heavy race that starts and fin­ishes in Hoogeveen. It cur­rently serves as the opener to the World Cup se­ries and is a good guide to form ahead of the Ronde on the 6 April – the top three were the same in both.

10TOUR DE TAI­WAN 9-13 March, 2.1, Tai­wan

Its sta­tus was boosted in 2012 and 2014 sees Ivan Basso and his Can­non­dale out­fit com­pet­ing. Test­ing ter­rain, par­tic­u­larly on the east of the is­land, can meet chal­leng­ing weather. It’s a de­cent al­ter­na­tive to Tir­reno-Adri­atico or Paris-Nice as Giro d’Italia prepa­ra­tion, though the travel time com­pli­cates mat­ters.

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