EDWARD PICKERING EDITOR
Cycling, we all know, sometimes moves a little slowly. I don’t mean the riders - nothing slow about any of the racing I’ve seen so far this year. I mean the pace of change.
Of course, there are some things we could really do with sorting out as fast as possible - doping (still an issue, sadly) and better pay and conditions for women’s cycling. And rider identification numbers visible from the front, already.
But other changes are more glacial. It struck me in the approach to the Vuelta that I’d quite enjoyed the races in August. Usually, I find them a little unengaging. Compared to the stage races of March, the April Classics, the Giro, summer stage races and the Tour, they’ve left me underwhelmed in previous years. However, I realised this year that August has developed its own quite interesting ecosystem of races. This hasn’t happened suddenly - it has crept up gradually.
The key, for me, is the Binckbank Tour, which used to be the Eneco Tour. Formerly the embarrassing relative of the spring Classics - same roads, wrong time of year - the organisers have realised that the regularity of a tough, photogenic finish based in Geraardsbergen has given the race an identity it lacked in its early years. In running a finale over both the town’s famous Muur and the Bosberg (both icons of the Tour of Flanders), the race has developed a focal point. It’s not quite the Champs Elysées in July, but it’s what the organisers have to work with and they are doing a good job. Look at the top five: Dumoulin, Wellens, Stuyven, Van Avermaet and Naesen, with Sagan and Gilbert also in the top 10. The big names are taking it seriously and racing hard.
Add to this good quality established races like the Tour de l’Ain and new events like the Arctic Tour and Colorado Classic, and maybe we’ll start seeing August as one of the best racing months of the year, instead of something to fill the time between the Tour and Vuelta.