As spring rolls in across the Northern Hemisphere, it can mean only one thing in the realm of cycling; Europe’s one-day season has arrived.
The Rally Cycling men’s team will be taking on a number of historic events throughout March and April beginning with the 150km Cholet Pays de la Loire on March 28th. Cholet is the first of three races in the French Road Cycling Cup for the team, the others being La Roue Tourangelle and Paris-Camembert.
In addition to the three days in France, the team will also be racing in Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium where the riders in orange will be looking to test themselves against WorldTour opposition at both the GP Miguel Indurain and Scheldeprijs.
Rally Cycling’s head of performance Jonas Carney stressed the importance of being thankful that there are races to go to in this turbulent time.
“It’s been quite a struggle to secure invitations because of Covid. We can finally start to build some momentum and prepare the riders properly for our target races.”
The lack of race days in the early part of the season may put the team on the back foot in terms of preparation, but it’s a challenge that Carney is aware of.
“Trying to compete against teams that have been racing full gas for six or seven weeks will be a challenge but we’re up for it.”
Momentum can be a powerful thing in cycling so the team will be hoping to kick off their classics campaign with a strong result at Cholet Pays de La Loire, a relatively short one-day event around the stunning Loire Valley that promises some aggressive racing.
These races in particular have some nuances that are not often seen at larger events, such as the ‘challenge castles’ competition at La Roue Tourangelle in which points are scored at places where the race passes a castle. This should provide some extra incentives for the team to compete not just for overall victory.
Having impressed in the French Cup races in the past Robin Carpenter knows what it takes to succeed.
“The key for us is to be opportunistic and to look for things that can work for us. These races often come down to a reduced sprint, it’s always hard and always technical.”
Racing in Europe is notoriously impacted by the weather, which Carpenter – who podiumed Tourangelle in 2019 – also recognizes.
“These races are often wind and weather dependent, the better the weather the bigger the group that comes to the line.”
One rider full of motivation is 18-year-old Magnus Sheffield, who put in a stellar performance at Nokere Koerse, finishing in 23rd place.
“This result gives me a lot of confidence going into this next racing block, I feel really good with the progression I’ve made,” said Sheffield.
Perhaps the most exciting of the races to come is Scheldeprijs, a European cobbled semi-classic. The route is tough, featuring seven cobbled sectors that will test the riders’ bike handling skills on the road to Schoten.
While many of these races take in cobbles and short climbs, the GP Miguel Indurain (formerly the GP Navarre) will be an opportunity for the climbers to show their strength in a one-day setting. Taking in the scenery of the Navarre region of Spain the race features a series of tough climbs that will continuously whittle down the peloton until only the strongest contenders are revealed.
It’s set to be a thrilling few weeks of racing for the Rally Cycling men and you can catch some of the action on the GCN+ app as well as NBC Sports (USA) and FloBikes (Canada) so make sure you tune in to support the team as they continue their European campaign.
03/28 – Cholet Pays de la Loire (150km) Hilly one-day race
Part of the French Road Cycling Cup, with a hilly parcours that takes in nine categorized climbs. It should suit aggressive riders that will try to distance the sprinters before the finish.
04/03 – GP Miguel Indurain (186km) Mountainous one-day race
Named after the great Miguel Indurain, this race suits the pure climbers. The route takes the riders around the Navarre region of Spain and through the city of Estella-Lizarra. Live stream starts at 8 am CT and concludes at 10:35 am CT on GCN+.
04/04 – La Roue Tourangelle (204km) Hilly one-day race
Another round of the French Road Cycling Cup with a hilly route, this will see the riders take on a number of short climbs, including the ‘challenge castles’ in which riders score points for the first past each château on the route to Tours. Race highlights will be available on Monday, May 5 on GCN+.
04/07 – Scheldeprijs (202km) Cobbled semi-classic
A cross-border race from the Netherlands to Belgium that will be watched all over the world as it serves as the main preparation for Paris-Roubaix (though that may now be postponed). It’s a semi-classic that suits the sprinters, so expect a frenetic finish after a hard day on the cobbles. There are seven cobbled sections that range from 1.3km and 3km in length. FloBikes will air the race between 8 am CT and 10:15 am CT.
Paris-Camembert (210km) Hilly one-day race Canceled
The third race in the French Road Cycling Cup, once again with a hilly parcours. The route takes in over 1,500 meters of elevation gain throughout the day, making it an energy-sapping race that will leave only the strongest riders to battle it out at the finish. Forget Paris-Nice, this is Paris-Cheese.
GP Miguel Indurain:
La Roue Tourangelle:
Adam de Vos
Arvid de Kleijn
Adam de Vos
Stephen Bassett *reserve