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Winter’s long slumber is almost over.
Except for a few pros who’ve dipped into cyclocross, most of the top men’s and women’s teams are brushing out the cobwebs, and are putting the finishing touches on early season form at training camps across Europe.
Though the Tour de France is still months away, the season’s first European road races are just around the corner.
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The women’s peloton toes up to the line at the Vuelta CV Feminas in early February, and the men click into gear Sunday with the 2022 season debut at the Clàssica Comunitat Valenciana 1969-Gran Premi València in Spain.
These early season races are a tasty preamble to the really good stuff waiting further down the road.
What’s your favorite race on the calendar? And what event do you most look forward to every season?
We posed that to our European editorial team. Here’s what they had to say:
The ‘true’ start to racing: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Jim Cotton: It’s not the biggest or most beautiful, but Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is the race I’m getting hyped for.
After a winter of ‘cross and a sprinkling of small Euro stage-races and the distant desert events through February, Omloop always feels like the day where things start to happen.
In old-school thinking, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad marks the “true” start of the season, kick-starting the spring classics with the perfect sprinkling of cobbles, climbs, and cluttered Belgian streets.
Also read: Why Omloop is so hard to predict
Wout van Aert, Tom Pidcock, and Peter Sagan are all set to be starting a race that will be packed with the finest cobbles-bashing talent February 26. With all the big hitters looking to test their form early in the classics calendar, Omloop offers the first hint at what may be to come when the biggest races arrive a few weeks down the line.
The pre-Omloop hype is just as big as the pre-Strade stoke or the Paris-Roubaix party in JC-town.
After a winter of waiting, the season is finally starting.
And if this curtain-raising classic is a calamity? No biggie – Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne comes the next day and dozens more one-dayers are close behind.
Making history: Tour de France Femmes
Sadhbh O’Shea: It would be wrong of me not to say the Tour de France Femmes, so that is what I’m going to say. This race feels like it has been a long time in the making, and it’s hard to believe that it is finally here.
For the first time since the 1980s, the women’s peloton will race a Tour de France that is being run by the same organizer as the men’s. Other past organizers have done a brilliant job of giving the women’s peloton something akin to the Tour, but this arrangement feels much more special.
The send-off from Paris is a brilliant way to start the race and keep continuity with the men’s event, and the finale on Planches des Belles Filles should be epic.
ASO put some serious thought into its eight-day race and has delivered a parcours that should allow for some brilliant racing. Some may not agree with the decision not to include a time trial, but personally, I feel that keeps the overall race much more open.
There will be lots of exciting races throughout the season, but I cannot wait for this one.
The season’s sixth ‘monument’: Strade Bianche
OK, so there’s this raging debate on social media on whether or not Strade Bianche deserves the status as one of cycling’s “monuments.”
Opinion seems split, but what everyone agrees on is the race of the white roads is an instant classic.
What’s not to love about Strade Bianche? The race delivers on every front, and for me, it’s the season’s first “get-out-the-popcorn” moment.
The race is hard, but not so difficult that it smothers the action. The course is near-perfect, with its series of gravel sectors across the spring-lush hills of Tuscany building into a crescendo. The punishing ramp into the piazza at Sienna is one of cycling’s great finishing straights.
The history and prestige of Flanders and Roubaix might eclipse Strade Bianche, but no race packs as much emotion and thrills into its allotted distance as the Italian spectacle.