Procycling - - Preface -

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.

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