What’s happening in July?

July is unquestionably the biggest month in the 2012 cycling calendar, featuring as it does the Tour de France and the London Olympic Games. But those are not the only races this month, with two distinctly different but equally interesting races in Austria and Poland to look forward to for those unable to take the start-line in Liège yesterday. Aside from Le Tour, here are the key dates for your diary for July – as well as a preview of what’s coming up in the world of VeloVoices this month.

Tour of Austria (1st-8th)

This eight-day stage race kicks off the day after the Tour de France and offers a varied all-round challenge for those unfortunate enough not to have received a personal or team invite to the Tour. Flat stages and a penultimate individual team trial sandwich two major climbing stages – a summit finish on top of the 1,670m hors catégorie Kitzbuheler Horn on stage two, and the HC Grossglockner, a stage finish in the hellish 2011 Giro, on stage four.

Link: PreviewOfficial website

Tour de Pologne (10th-16th)

This year’s week-long Tour of Poland has been pulled forward in the calendar to overlap with the middle of the Tour de France, which is a shame for a race which offers little variety – every stage either involves a bunch sprint or repeating loops of medium mountains – but close, exciting racing which gives us a glimpse of the next generation of up-and-coming stars. The three stand-outs of last year’s race have all graduated to this year’s Tour: Marcel Kittel won four sprint stages and Dan Martin impressed on the climbs here before going on to play a major role at the Vuelta, while Peter Sagan took two stages and the overall by a mere five seconds from Martin. This year’s race will be enlivened by the presence of BMC’s former world champion Thor Hushovd, for whom the lumpy parcours should be ideally suited.

Link: Official website

Olympic road races (28th & 29th)

The men’s and women’s road races take place over the same basic route starting and finishing on the Mall, heading out into Surrey to take on a number of loops – nine for the men, two for the women – each of which includes the ascent of Box Hill, where we can expect a succession of challenging attacks to occur. Mark Cavendish will carry the hopes of the host nation on his shoulders as he seeks to win what should be the first gold medal of the Games in the 250km men’s race. The 140km women’s race takes place the following day, with any one of Lizzie Armitstead, Nicole Cooke and Emma Pooley potential winners.

Both the men’s and women’s time trials both take place on August 1st.

Link: Official website

Look out for full previews in advance of each race here on VeloVoices.

This month’s birthdays

A selection of some of the more notable birthdays in the peloton this month:

Gilbert hits the big three-oh (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

3rd: Nicolas Roche, AG2R La Mondiale (28 years old). The son of 1987 Giro and Tour winner Stephen and cousin of Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin is a solid all-round stage racer whose career highlights include finishing seventh at the 2010 Vuelta and a stage win at last year’s Tour of Beijing. He is currently racing at the Tour de France, where he is hoping to improve on his best finish of 14th in 2010.

5th: Philippe Gilbert, BMC (30). The King of Belgium swept all before him in 2011, winning the Ardennes Triple of Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, both his national road race and time trial championships, and the opening stage of the Tour de France – qualifying him for an elite group of riders who have won at all three Grand Tours – en route to finishing as the world’s number one-ranked rider. This year, however, he has been plagued by health and form problems, with a third place at Flèche Wallonne his best result. However, a solid ninth place at yesterday’s opening Tour prologue suggests he may finally be approaching the kind of form which could propel him to another first-week victory.

13th: Jack Bobridge, Orica-GreenEDGE (23). The Australian youngster is already a multiple world champion on the track and won his national road race title as a 21-year old in 2011. He has already participated in two Giros as he continues his development as a road racer. A star of the future.

16th: Andre Greipel, Lotto-Belisol (30). The powerful but softly-spoken German sprinter is a prolific winner, having reached double figures in victories every year since 2008. He has 14 already this year, in addition to a career total of seven wins across the three Grand Tours.

16th: Stefano Garzelli, Acqua & Sapone (39). The veteran climber has performed best in his home country, in particular at the Giro, which he won in 2000. In addition to eight stage victories, he has also twice won the King of the Mountains competition in the twilight of his career, in 2009 and 2011.

27th: Allan Davis, Orica-GreenEDGE (32). The experienced Aussie sprinter has finished second and fourth at the sprinters’ Classic Milan-San Remo. He is also a Commonwealth Games gold and World Championship bronze medallist (in the 2010 road race in both instances) and claimed overall victory at the 2009 Tour Down Under.

Also on the blog

Obviously July is (almost) all about the Tour de France, and we’ll be bringing you comprehensive daily coverage on our new-look blog with the usual VeloVoices twist: the latest results, rider-centric recaps, focus pieces on relevant times and places in the Tour’s history, and in-depth race analysis. But we’ll also be keeping you up to date with events from the races in both Austria and Poland during the month. And once the Tour has finished we will of course be casting our beady eye over the Olympic road events.

As always, Tweets of the Week will bring you all the news that’s fit to print (in 140 characters) every Tuesday, with a distinctively jaune – not jaundiced! – hue this month. And after a week off, our regular Friday Features will be back with more in-depth views from the wider world of cycling. We’re lining up an insider’s view of what it’s like to attend a press conference with some of the sport’s biggest stars, courtesy of photographer Roz Jones – watch out for that later in the month.

And, last but by no means least, watch out for some special pieces from our latest VeloVoice – quite literally, cycling with a bit of Panache!

Whether serious or light-hearted, VeloVoices is the place to come for all the latest cycling news and views! Pro cycling for fans, by fans.

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