Welcome to our preview of what’s happening in the world of road cycling in May. There’s no question that the big event this month is the Giro d’Italia, the first of the year’s three Grand Tours. However, there are also two other notable stage races taking place, as the world’s top racers divide their attention between racing in Italy and preparing for July’s Tour de France and Olympic Games.
Following on from last weekend’s Belgian semi-classic races, we’ve decamped to the utterly gorgeous and very evocative Tuscan countryside. I half-expected Russell Crowe of Gladiator fame to put in an appearance. But today the gladiators were wearing lyrca and their steeds were made of carbon. The race on the Strade Bianche was won – for the second time – in imperious fashion by Spartacus, aka Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan), who rode away from the leading group 12 km from the finish, and quickly built a sufficient cushion as he time-trialled his way to a solo victory in the historic Piazzo del Campo in Siena.
While the peloton’s far-flung excursions to such locales as Australia (the Tour Down Under), Qatar, Oman and Malaysia (the Tour de Langkawi) offer a taste of the exotic, there is nothing quite like the sight of professional cyclists toiling over rolling hills and mud-splattered cobbles in northern Europe to make the seasoned viewer feel that the cycling season has really begun. And if the Tour Down Under marked the official start of the season for the WorldTour, this weekend’s double-header of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne heralds the start of many fans’ favourite part of the year: the spring Classics.