Avoid the Classics Hangover: Two Great Races Before Italy

Do not despair, you lovers of cobbles. There are plenty of great bikes races to watch until the Giro kicks off May 5 in Denmark.

Thought you may have been suffering withdrawal symptoms just seconds after Maxim Iglinsky’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege win this morning, do not fret. Even with an outstanding Classics season, there’s a lot of racing left before the first Grand Tour. After Tornado Tom’s unbelievable show of form and Astana’s two Ardennes wins, squads and riders will be turning to short stages races once again.

The first race worth waking up for is the Tour of Turkey. This is one for the sprinters, and riders like JJ Haedo and Andre Griepel with have nearly daily run-ins with Stage One winner Theo Bos. With just one mountain top finish and the rest almost pancake flat, Turkey offers high speed sprint trains and one of the most underrated countrysides in all the world. Watch either side of the road during a telecast, and you’d think it was Italy. Amazing beaches and ancient old towns wind all along the coast, and the race promotors do an excellent job showing off the landscape. With so many sprint stages, and long flat run-ins, there is plenty of time to watch and admire before returning attention to the fast men. Alessandro Pettachi is in Turkey, though not for the views; the ageless Italian is trying to gain form ahead of another Giro run.

Starting Tuesday is the Tour of Romandie. For GC men, Romandie is very quickly becoming a huge preparation race. It features high mountain finishes, a Tour-like prologue and time trial, plus fits nice ahead of the Giro for those pulling a very heavy spring workload. Romandie offers five stages in addition to the prologue, and each road stage features at least two categorized climbs. It’s a lumpy, long race with a difficult up and down time trial to conclude the overall conflict. It will feature 2011 Tour champion Cadel Evans as the BMC leader, with Dan Martin leading Garmin, and the intriguing trio of Jakob Fuglesang, Andreas Kloden and Tiago Machado on hand for RadioShack. Throw in Linus Gerdemann in their team, and the tensions of having many chefs and one kitchen, as it were, is readily apparent.

Another team with split interests with be Team SKY. Perhaps Romandie is serving as a dry run for how the team with function in July, as they will have to consider the goals of World Champion Mark Cavendish on the sprint stages and the GC ambitions of not only Bradley Wiggins but Richie Porte, as well. Wiggins is the leader by default, but Porte is on good enough form to ride high, as well. While it won’t be an issue at Romandie, SKY has the Chris Froome question to answer as well: Can SKY send three men and a sprinter to the same race and try to support them all? Froome or Porte may be ask to settle for the Vuelta this fall.

Cadel Evans won in Romandie last year as a part of his build-up for the Tour. He finished ahead of Tony Martin and a surprising Alexandre Vinokurov. With Evans recovering from illness heading into the race and Tony Martin injured after a collision with a car, expect a whole new crop of riders at the top of the GC list. Wiggins and Porte are very adept at playing the one-two perfectly, something that the crowded house over at RadioShack hasn’t handled very well. Regardless of who they claim is their main man, they will play all their cards equally, but none with full support. Perhaps the best scenario for them is to have a rider in first early and to have to defend a jersey for three or four days.

Links to both races will be up each morning on Twitter and the Facebook page, as soon as they are up and running. It’s only two more weeks until the Giro, so please, Dear Reader, hold on.


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