Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: March 2
The 2019 European season opens with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad — a race known for its terrible weather conditions, but which often produces impressive racing. It is a challenge that Greg Van Avermaet loves and last year Michael Valgren grabbed the win ahead of a snarling pack. Niki Terpstra has in the past achieved good results here too.
Strade Bianche: March 9
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: March 10 – 17
Paris-Nice is one of the first races in the season where general classification (GC) riders become hungry for good rankings. Although this race 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 all won here.
Tirreno-Adriatico: March 13 – 19
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: March 23
The first really big milestone of 2019 will be Milan–San Remo: aka La Primavera. With its nearly 300km long route, it’s 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 bike handling is required, given the downhill runs through the winding Italian landscape. In the past two years, Michal Kwiatkowski and Vincenzo Nibali were the ones to cross the line first.
Volta a Catalunya: March 25 – 31
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.
E3 Harelbeke: March 29
During this week, four stunning races occur over a week and a half period, with routes all around Flanders. The E3 Harelbeke race is the first. It covers about 200km and has some small climbs and cobbles along the way. Usually it is a race for riders who are still strong after a long game and can launch into a sprint — last year, Niki Terpstra took the win.
Gent-Wevelgem: March 31
Since 2010, Gent-Wevelgem has the reputation of being a difficult race full of steep climbs that the riders must tackle before hitting the finish. This is a race often won by sprinters who can handle a bit of climbing — riders such as Peter Sagan, John Degenkolb and Greg Van Avermaet.