What’s happening in September?

With September dawning, the end of a long, hard season is in sight for the peloton, many of whom will have already clocked up in excess of 10,000 racing kilometres this year. It’s a busy old month, though. With the Vuelta coming, the last of the five Monuments and the small matter of the World Championships to tick off, there’s plenty of hard racing still to be done, and heroes and headlines to be created.

It’s probably fair to say that September is a month in which sprinters will have to take a back-seat for the most part, with those who favour races where the road points skywards coming to the fore. Here’s a quick round-up of the key highlights we’re looking forward to on the road over the next 30 days.

Grands Prix de Quebec (7th) and Montreal (9th)

September also features a pair of back-to-back WorldTour races in Canada, both hosting their third edition this year and both suited to puncheurs: the GP de Quebec and GP de Montreal.

The Quebec race is run over 16 laps of an undulating 12.6km circuit with an awkward 4% ramp to the finish line. Philippe Gilbert won in 2011 after Thomas Voeckler had taken victory in its inaugural running.

Montreal’s event comprises 17 laps of a hillier 12.1km circuit, but with its two major climbs occurring in the first half of the lap, with a smaller one at the end. The race’s previous winners are Robert Gesink (2010) and Rui Costa (2011).

Links: GP Cycliste de Quebec official website, GP Cycliste de Montreal official website

Tour of Britain (9th-16th)

He won’t win the race, but it will be one hell of a lap of honour. Bradley Wiggins, Britain’s first Tour de France champion and Olympic time trial winner, headlines the eight-day Tour of Britain and will receive the adulation of the home crowds as he rides first north and then south up the spine of the country before the finale in Guildford (as opposed to the traditional London city finish).

Wiggins won’t be the only big name in attendance among the 15 competing teams, six of them WorldTour squads. The rainbow stripes of Sky teammate – and possibly soon to be ex-teammate – Mark Cavendish will be expected to deliver some home cheer in the sprints, while former Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez will lead the Euskaltel-Euskadi squad. Look out also for Endura’s Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, who livened up the 2011 race and has had a stellar European season this year which is likely to earn him a richly deserved contract with a big-name team for 2013.

This year’s route takes in plenty of climbs, with perhaps as few as three bunch sprints. It should certainly encourage attacking riders to put themselves in the shop window with a view to signing contracts for next year, and ensure the racing is anything but processional.

Link: Official website

Road World Championships (15th-23rd)

Cycling’s Road World Championships takes place this year in Limburg in the Netherlands, including roads and climbs which will be familiar to fans of the Spring Classics, with race finishes running up the Cauberg hill, the final climb of Amstel Gold. It runs for nine days, taking in ten individual events in junior, under-23 and elite categories – road race and time trial – plus a team time trial for trade teams.

The road race parcours starts with a preliminary course through the province of Limburg before embarking on laps (ten for the elite men’s race) of a 16.5km circuit containing two testing climbs. Bemelerberg Hill is a winding 900-metre ascent with gradients of up to 7%, while the climactic Cauberg is 1.5km with slopes of up to 12%. The finish is 1.7km beyond the Cauberg’s summit. It’s a course unsuited to defending elite men’s champion Mark Cavendish, and likely to favour punchy climbers such as Joaquim Rodriguez. The defending women’s champion is Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini.

The various time trials will start in different locations, but all will finish on the Cauberg. The German pair of Tony Martin and Judith Arndt will defend their rainbow stripes here.

Link: Official website

Giro di Lombardia (29th)

The fifth and final of the five ‘monuments’ of European cycling, the ‘Classic of the Falling Leaves’ covers 251km from Bergamo to Lecco and is definitely one for the puncheurs and pure climbers, with previous winners including Philippe Gilbert and Damiano Cunego.

This year’s modified route contains five significant ascents, with the highlight being the Muro di Sormano, back in the race after a long absence. Just 2km long, it averages a scarcely believable 15.2% with a maximum gradient of 27%. This will no doubt lead to a significant initial selection ahead of Lombardia’s signature mountain, the Ghisallo, which will further thin out the group of contenders. The final climb, the 3.4km Villa Vergano, has its summit just 9km from the finish. Last year, Leopard-Trek’s Oliver Zaugg was the surprise winner, claiming the first victory of his eight-year career by riding all the big names off his wheel on the last ascent. It’s likely that a defining attack from an already small lead group will occur again here.

Link: Official website

This month’s birthdays

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

5th: Daniel Moreno, Katusha (31 years old). Joaquim Rodriguez’s minder at the Grand Tours, Moreno is a fine climber in his own right. He won stage four at the Vuelta last year, and has twice finished just outside the top ten (11th in 2009, 12th in 2008). 2012 has arguably been his finest year, with overall victory and two stages at the Vuelta a Burgos and two wins at the Critérium du Dauphiné, plus the GP Miguel Indurain and a stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia.

5th: Chris Anker Sorensen, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank (28). The Danish climber has twice finished in the top 20 at the Giro, and was 14th at this year’s Tour, where he also won the overall combativity prize. He also took the mountains jersey at the Volta a Catalunya, and can boast stage wins at both the Giro (2010) and the Dauphiné (2008).

16th: Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana (39). Vino delivered a fairy-tale ending to his long career by winning the Olympic road race in London, to add to a palmares which includes Liège-Bastogne-Liège (twice), Amstel Gold and four Tour de France stages, as well as overall victories at the 2008 Vuelta a España, Paris-Nice (twice), the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse.

Cunego turns 31 this month (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

17th: Jens Voigt, RadioShack-Nissan (41). The Jensie won’t be telling his legs to shut up for at least one more year, having already signed on with RadioShack for 2013. He is the prototypical super-domestique, constantly putting in the hard kilometres on the front of the peloton or in breakaways. He’s a winner too, with five titles at the Critérium International and four Grand Tour stages to his name.

19th: Damiano Cunego, Lampre-ISD (31). Il Piccolo Principe (The Little Prince) has struggled in recent years to match his prolific early successes: overall victory at the 2004 Giro d’Italia, as well as three wins each at the Giro del Trentino stage race and the autumn one-day Classic Giro di Lombardia. Outside of Italy, his most notable success was a win at the 2008 Amstel Gold.

24th: Daniele Bennati, RadioShack-Nissan (32). The Italian sprinter has won 12 Grand Tour stages. In 2008, he won three stages at the Giro and the points competition, and then followed that up with an individual stage and victory in the team time trial at the Vuelta. The only notable gap in his palmares is a Classics win, having come close at Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Tours.

25th: Michele Scarponi, Lampre-ISD (33). Giro champion in 2011 and fourth this year, the veteran climber can also count the 2009 Tirreno-Adriatico and 2011 Volta a Catalunya among his victories. He has several top ten finishes in the spring Classics without ever achieving a podium position – fourth places at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche-Wallonne being his best results, in addition to a second place at the Giro di Lombardia in 2010.

30th: Gert Steegmans, Omega Pharma-Quick Step (32). The Belgian sprinter is one of the best lead-out men in the business, having worked for both Robbie McEwen and Tom Boonen, but he is no mean finisher himself. He has two career Tour stage wins, including the Champs-Élysées in 2008, as well as a brace at Paris-Nice.

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Vuelta a España: Stage 14 preview

Stag14: Palas de Rei to Puerto de Ancares, 149.2km

The peloton goes back to the Puerto de Ancares, which featured for the first time last year. It’s a mother of a Cat 1 climb and it comes after four other climbs: two Cat 3s, a Cat 2 and a Cat 1 (in the form of the Alto Folgueiras de Aigas). The Ancares averages 8.1% over its 9.5km and, as we have seen all through this Vuelta, it’s a very hard climb at the end of a hard day. After a brief flat section in the middle, it’s toughest towards the top, with most of the last 4km at 10%-plus.

The GC boys can’t hang around and look at each other, however, as the next two stages are killers as well, so they need to ride with everything they’ve got. Chris Froome and Alejandro Valverde will need to take every opportunity possible to claw back the time they lost to the top two on Thursday’s final climb, so expect plenty of aggression in the closing kilometres. Should be a cracker of a stage!

Link: Vuelta a Espana official website