The 100th Tour de France has run its course, but August sees the start of the year’s third and final grand tour, the Vuelta a Espana, one of three WorldTour events this month. August also sees two stage winners from the 100th Tour celebrating birthdays. But who? Read on to find out.
The main focus for this month is the start of the 68th Vuelta a Espana, which kicks off on the 24th with a team time trial (for the fourth year in a row) and concludes in Madrid on September 15th. This year’s race promises a new champion – 2012 winner Alberto Contador has withdrawn – and is definitely one for the climbers, surpassing last year’s brutal total of ten summit finishes by one, including three sets of back-to-back-to-back summit finishes. We’ll bring you in-depth previews in the week leading up to the race, but if you can’t wait that long you can read Tim and Sheree’s initial assessment of the parcours here. Trust us, it’s a doozy!
August’s first WorldTour race offers a gentle tune-up opportunity for the Vuelta and will find more favour with sprinters and classics specialists. The Eneco Tour (12th-18th) runs on both Belgian and Dutch roads, with three classics-style stages, three flatter affairs and a shortish individual time trial. The three hillier stages feature several climbs which will be familiar to fans of the spring classics, including La Redoute (Liege-Bastogne-Liege) and the Muur (Tour of Flanders). Belkin’s Lars Boom is the defending champion, with previous winners including Edvald Boasson Hagen (twice) and Tony Martin.
The Vattenfall Cyclassics (25th) is Germany’s sole WorldTour event and is one of the few one-day classics which strongly favours the sprinters with a long (around 250km) and largely flat course which loops in and around Hamburg. Last year’s race was won by FDJ’s Arnaud Demare, while Tyler Farrar (twice), Edvald Boasson Hagen and Robbie McEwen have also been victorious.
Of course, there’s plenty of other racing around Europe this month, including two HC-categorised events: the Vuelta a Burgos (7th-11th) and the Tre Valli Varesine (23rd). But sprint fans should also watch out for the RideLondon-Surrey Classic this Sunday (4th) – which includes Tour de France green jersey Peter Sagan on its startlist – and the second edition of the two-day World Ports Classic (30th-31st). Meanwhile those on the lookout for the next great stage racer should keep an eye on the Tour de l’Avenir (24th-31st), which can count among its recent champions 2013 Tour runner-up Nairo Quintana (2010), sixth place Bauke Mollema (2007) and stage winner Jan Bakelants (2008).
And across the Atlantic we have two of the biggest stage races on the US calendar. The Tour of Utah (6th-11th) features challenging climbs on each of its six days as it passes through the spectacular Bryce Canyon National Park and completes a short (55km) circuit stage around Salt Lake City. This is then followed by the third edition of the USA Pro Challenge (19th-25th), also a climber’s parcours, which features a 16km mountain time trial and a single token sprinters’ stage as its finale. Domestic American teams predominate, although five WorldTour teams will line up in Utah, with seven appearing at the latter race.
Let’s start this month’s birthday selection with two riders who both enjoyed victories at last month’s Tour de France. Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin won stage nine – the one where everyone attacked Chris Froome to isolate him – from a late two-man attack. He’ll be celebrating his 27th birthday on the 20th. Meanwhile sprinter Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) turns 24 tomorrow (the 2nd). He won the sprint from the large breakaway group on stage 14.
A couple of veteran former national champions will add one to their age towards the end of the month. Belgium’s Stijn Devolder (RadioShack-Leopard) is 34 on the 29th. The two-time Tour of Flanders winner has been national road race champion three times in his career, and time trial champion twice. NetApp-Endura’s Russell Downing was the British road race champion in 2005 – he turns 35 on the 23rd.
Milestone birthdays are being celebrated in August by Tejay van Garderen (BMC, 12th), Theo Bos (Belkin, 22nd) and Stuart O’Grady (formerly Orica-GreenEDGE, 6th). Van Garderen, who will be 25, had a disappointing Tour after winning last year’s white jersey and this year’s Tour of California, but still has his best years ahead of him. Sprinter Bos is in his peak years at 30 and is a regular winner both on the road and the track. O’Grady retired immediately after his 17th Tour (ahead of his 40th birthday) and then admitted to using EPO in 1998. A former Paris-Roubaix winner, he won two individual Tour de France stages during his career and was part of the Orica-GreenEDGE squad which won this year’s team time trial.
Finally, 2011 under-23 road race world champion Arnaud Demare (FDJ) will be marking only his 22nd birthday on the 26th, having dominated this year’s Four Days of Dunkirk, where he won three stages and the overall. This year his birthday falls the day after the Vattenfall Cyclassics, where he is the defending champion. And on the 29th one of Kitty’s favourites, Movistar’s Andrey Amador, will celebrate his 27th birthday. The Costa Rican climber was a Giro stage winner in 2012.
Happy birthday one and all!
Also on the blog
We’ll be doing all our usual previews and daily reviews during the Vuelta, as well as providing comprehensive coverage of the other major races.
Tuesday is the day for Kitty’s Tweets of the Week, which will take on a distinctly Spanish flavour once the Vuelta starts. After this week’s break, Tim will be back on Wednesdays with Talking Tactics.
AntBanter‘s on Thursdays, with today’s column bringing you the Voices’ nominations for our July Rider of the Month. This month’s Friday Features will include Panache’s trip to the 100th Tour and Sheree’s eye-view of the Clasica San Sebastian. Saturdays, of course, sees us in the kitchen with Sheree’s latest scrummy recipes in The Musette.
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