The riders in the peloton are now enjoying their well-deserved rest. It’s been an exciting cycling year, which delivered many impressive races, and in a month or two it will all begin again. As it happens, the 2019 cycling calendar has just been announced and so we now look forward to the most important races coming up. First off, we start with what is traditionally called ‘the spring’. These are the most important races scheduled for the beginning of the new season.
Tour Down Under: 15th-20th of January
The first UCI World Tour race this year is the Tour Down Under, where the peloton rides through Australia. Although it will be the middle of winter in Europe, the sun will be shining in Australia as summer is just starting there. For this race, the cyclists will face high temperatures and long asphalt roads. Most stages will be won by sprinters, but there are always a few climbing challenges that shake up the rankings.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: 2nd of March
The European season will open in 2019 with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad — a race known for its terrible weather conditions, but which often produces impressive footage. It is a challenge that Greg Van Avermaet loves and last year Michael Valgren managed to get away with the win. Niki Terpstra has in the past achieved good results here too.
Strade Bianche: 9th of March
One of the most beautiful classics of the year is the Italian Strade Bianchi. The race has been happening in its current form only since 2007 and has since seen winners such as Philippe Gilbert, Fabian Cancellara, Zdenek Stybar and Michael Kwiatkowski. The riders race over a mix of paved and unpaved (gravel) roads, before finishing in Siena on Piazza del Campo, just after a steep, final climb.
Paris–Nice: 10th-17th of March
Paris–Nice is one of the first races in the season where classification riders become hungry for good rankings. Although this course is nicknamed The Race to the Sun, the peloton is often burdened by unpredictable weather conditions. In recent years, names such as Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas, Sergio Henao and Carlos Betancur have won here.
Tirreno–Adriatico: 13th-19th of March
Around the same time as Paris–Nice, the Tirreno–Adriatico will be just starting in Italy. This race is often seen as a good preparation for Milan–San Remo, because there are several intermediate sprints en route. However, the final victory is often claimed by a climber — this is because the peloton also has to ride over the Apennines.
Milan–San Remo: 23rd of March
The first really big milestone of 2019 will be Milan–San Remo. With its nearly 300km long route, it is one of the longest one-day races of the year. It is a race often won by sprinters, but due to some adjustments in the course, climbers can use one of the hills as a springboard for an attack. Focused steering technique is required, given the downhill runs through the winding Italian landscape. In the past two years, Kwiatkowski and Vincenzo Nibali were the ones to cross the line first.
Volta a Catalunya: 25th-31th of March
The Volta a Catalunya, also known as the Tour of Catalonia, has been a solid race for Alejandro Valverde in recent years. He has won three times already. The race is a multi-day competition for riders who can climb — in the past, for example, riders like Nairo Quintana, Richie Porte and Dan Martin have always done well here.