No rest for the peloton at Ronde van Vlaanderen and Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco

Posted: April 4, 2014 by kirisyko in Bike, Road cycling
Tags: , ,

The UCI WorldTour is now in full swing, with the Ronde van Vlaanderen Classic in Belgium on Sunday April 6th immediately followed by the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco running from April 7th through to April 12th.

The second Monument of the season after Milano-San Remo, the 259.1 kilometre Ronde van Vlaanderen’s’s series of 17 short, sharp, cobbled climbs represent its best known challenge. For every Classics specialist in the peloton, the names like the Oude Kwaremont climb (tackled three times), the Paterberg (twice, the last 13 kilometres from the finish) and the Koppenberg need no introduction.

The list of favourites in such an unpredictable, spectacular, and tactically complex race is a long one, but standout names include Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), who won last year and in 2010, three times winner Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and 2013 runner-up Peter Sagan (Cannondale). A victory for Sagan, currently second in the UCI WorldTour rankings with 143 points, could see him move into the top spot overall, whilst a triumph on Sunday afternoon for Cancellara, currently ninth with 90 points, would see the Swiss rider move into the top five and perhaps even the top three.

Meanwhile eight days after he claimed the top spot overall of the UCI WorldTour rankings, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) returns to racing on April 7th in the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco.

The 31-year-old has already won the Basque race in 2009 and in 2008 as well as finishing third in 2005, with five stages in his palmares. Another former winner, Samuel Sánchez of BMC, is also taking part, with his team-mates Cadel Evans – tenth in the UCI WorldTour rankings – another star contender. Other top names include Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), the reigning World Champion who returns to racing after finishing second in Paris-Nice, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE), currently lying fifth in the UCI WorldTour, and Carlos Alberto Betancur (AG2R La Mondiale), fourth with 114 points, are also due to take part.

Contador’s experience will be a huge advantage in the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco, where five days of intense racing on narrow, hilly courses containing 28 classified climbs precede the 25.9 kilometre final individual time trial in Markina on stage that could well decide the race.

However, the opening stage starting and finishing in Ordizia with no less than eight classified climbs, and the fourth, with the traditional summit finish at Arrate, could well see some significant changes overall prior to the final lone race against the clock.

The battle for supremacy in the UCI WorldTour, then, reaches an equally critical phase, with the Ronde van Vlaanderen offering the cobbled Classics specialists a golden opportunity to gain points before the stage racers then get their own chance to move up the rankings in the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco. Should Contador maintain his overall advantage in such difficult and diverse racing, it will be no mean acheivement.

Photo: Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco 2013

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