9 Races You Can’t Miss in Late 2020

whit yost
Photo credit: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT - Getty Images
Photo credit: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT - Getty Images

From Bicycling

After a nearly five month hiatus because of COVID-19, the 2020 road season is finally about to get started. And it’s going to be quite a spectacle, with about a season’s worth of races crammed into the next four months. Here’s a rundown of nine races we’re dying to see.

Strade Bianche - August 1

Photo credit: MARCO BERTORELLO - Getty Images
Photo credit: MARCO BERTORELLO - Getty Images

The UCI Men’s and Women’s World Tour series reboot with one of our favorite one-day races on the calendar: Strade Bianche. Taking place on the white gravel roads of Tuscany, Strade Bianche is easily one of the hardest and most beautiful races of the year. So it makes sense that the event’s list of winners reads like a Who’s Who of the sport’s best racers.

For example, Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Julian Alaphilippe won last year’s men’s edition, giving us an early glimpse of the panache that would make him one of 2019’s biggest protagonists. Mitchelton-Scott’s Annemiek van Vleuten won last year’s women’s event before going on to win Liège–Bastogne–Liège, the Giro Rosa, and the world road race championships. Both are back to defend their titles against a start list filled with fresh riders eager to jumpstart their seasons. If you set aside time to watch only one race this summer, you might want to make it this one.

How to Watch: Flobikes or FuboTV

Milan-Sanremo - August 8

Photo credit: MARCO BERTORELLO - Getty Images
Photo credit: MARCO BERTORELLO - Getty Images

At almost 300km, Milan-Sanremo is the longest one-day race on the calendar. And thanks to the fact that the outcome is almost always decided in the hectic final 10K, the riders say it’s the easiest race to finish, but the hardest race to win.

We love Milan-Sanremo’s slow build to the finish as the riders head south from Milan toward the coast, then wind their way along the sea toward the short climbs that make-up the Monument’s traditional finale—especially the Poggio, a small climb just a few kilometers from the finish line whose treacherous descent often creates more gaps than the climb itself. The race is ideal for a rider who can climb, descend, and win a small group sprint—someone like Alaphilippe, who won last year’s edition in spectacular fashion. This year, keep an eye on Bora-Hansgrohe’s Peter Sagan, who’s never won here despite being perfectly-suited to it, Alpecin-Fenix’s Mathieu van der Poel, who gets his first chance to ride the legendary Italian Monument, and Lotto-Soudal’s Philippe Gilbert, who needs only Milan-Sanremo to become only the fourth rider in history to have won all five of the sport’s legendary Monuments.

How to Watch: Flobikes or FuboTV

Critérium du Dauphiné - August 12 to 16

Photo credit: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT - Getty Images
Photo credit: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT - Getty Images

During a normal season, Tour de France contenders often choose between two short but intense stage races to test (and in some cases) prove themselves before the Tour: France’s Critérium du Dauphiné and Switzerland’s Tour de Suisse. Well, this year’s Tour de Suisse has been canceled, which means the Dauphiné will be everyone’s last chance to put the finishing touches on their Tour fitness—and for some riders, earn places on their teams’ Tour squads.

And to make things all the more intense, the event has been shortened from eight stages to five by eliminating two time trials but keeping all the mountains. Keep a particular eye on Team INEOS and Chris Froome, who’s already announced that he’s leaving the team at the end of the season. Rumors are swirling that he’ll be left off the team’s Tour squad so as to protect the chances of Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas, winners of each of the last two Tours. If Froome (a three-time Dauphiné champion) wants to earn his spot, he’ll need to earn it here.

How to Watch: NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass

Tour de France - August 29 to September 20

Photo credit: Justin Setterfield - Getty Images
Photo credit: Justin Setterfield - Getty Images

The Tour is always the biggest event in cycling, but this year’s looks to be particularly exciting with unpredictable stages, fewer time trials, and lots of climbing. And given the long break everyone’s had, it will be filled with fresh, well-trained riders looking to dethrone Team INEOS (who will be racing this year’s Tour as the INEOS Grenadiers) winners of seven of the last eight Tours de France—perhaps more impressively, with four different riders.

Keep an eye on Jumbo-Visma, who signed former Tour of Italy champ Tom Dumoulin this past offseason to join 2019 Tour of Spain champion Primož Roglič and Steven Kruijswijk, who’s finished fifth and third in the last two editions. And in a year such as this, we can’t discount dark horses, men like Nairo Quintana, EF Pro Cycling’s Rigoberto Uran, and Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot, who’s out for redemption after his stunning collapse late in last year’s race. And what about Alaphilippe: can he go the distance? With almost as many questions as there are protagonists, this year’s Tour should be more than worth the wait.

How to Watch: NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass

Giro Rosa - September 11 to 19

Photo credit: Luc Claessen - Getty Images
Photo credit: Luc Claessen - Getty Images

The Giro Rosa is a nine-day Italian stage race that—in the absence of a women’s Tour de France—is the longest, hardest, and most prestigious women’s stage race on the calendar. And while we’re still waiting for final details to emerge (they always arrive at the last-minute), we expect to see van Vleuten taking the start in a bid to win her third title in a row.

The race can’t be watched live (at least not yet), but last year Trek partnered with Voxwomen to provide a one hour wrap-up show after each stage, a major step forward for an event that deserves a much wider audience. Stay tuned—we certainly will.

How to Watch: TBA

UCI Men’s and Women’s World Road Race Championships - September 26 and 27

Photo credit: Justin Setterfield - Getty Images
Photo credit: Justin Setterfield - Getty Images

Seemingly the only late-season event not to have been rescheduled, this year’s world championships come soon after the Tour and the Giro Rosa, meaning riders who have finished those events will likely have an advantage. And they’ll need it: Switzerland is hosting this year’s world championships, and they’ve created a challenging circuit featuring the Côte de la Petite Forclaz, a 4km climb with an average gradient of 10.2 percent. The men will climb it seven times and women will climb it three. It’s a perfect course for two riders who seem to have been experiencing no shortage of success: Alaphilippe, who might dial-back his Tour exploits so as to have more left in the tank for worlds; and van Vleuten, who won last year’s world road race and doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon.

How to Watch: NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass

Giro d’Italia - October 3-25

Photo credit: Tim de Waele - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tim de Waele - Getty Images

While the Tour de France gets all the prestige, the riders generally consider the Tour of Italy (“Giro d’Italia”) to be much, much harder. This year’s race is no different, with three time trials and a ferocious final week that includes some of the country’s toughest climbs.

The start list is far from complete, but we’re eager to see Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, the only current rider to have won all three of cycling’s three-week Grand Tours, try to win his third Giro. Nibali moved from Bahrain-Merida to Trek-Segafredo this past offseason, and he would love nothing more than to reward his new sponsors with a victory. But to do it, he’ll have to get through the defending champ, Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz, who now rides for Team INEOS after an offseason transfer of his own.

How to Watch: Flobikes or FuboTV

Tour of Flanders - October 18

Photo credit: Luc Claessen - Getty Images
Photo credit: Luc Claessen - Getty Images

Many riders consider the Tour of Flanders (known locally as the “Ronde van Vlaanderen”) to be the hardest race on the calendar. The men’s race features over 240km of the toughest terrain in the Flemish region of Belgium, with tight, technical roads, cobblestones, and short steep climbs called “bergs.”

The course is so challenging that it can take years for a rider to master the nuances of the race enough to actually contend to win it. Expect men like van der Poel, Gilbert, and CCC’s Greg Van Avermaet—who’s won every Belgian Classic or semi-Classic except this one—to be top contenders in the men’s event. In the women’s event, expect van Vleuten (who won the race in 2011) to headline a list of contenders that will likely include last year’s winner Marta Bastianelli, 2018-champ Anna van der Breggan, and American Coryn Rivera, who won the race in 2017 to become the only American to have ever conquered “de Ronde.”

How to Watch: Flobikes or FuboTV

Paris-Roubaix - October 25

Photo credit: BERNARD PAPON - Getty Images
Photo credit: BERNARD PAPON - Getty Images

The “Hell of the North.” The “Queen of the Classics.” Whatever you call it, Paris-Roubaix is probably our favorite race on the calendar. The final half of this 255km race includes about 55km of Northern France’s worst cobbled roads, so it’s packed with drama and always produces a worthy champion—even when it’s a dark horse.

This year, we can’t wait to see a possible dual between van der Poel and Team Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert, both world-class cyclocross riders who together have won the last six world championships. They’ve now each made a successful transition to road racing, with van Aert serving as the revelation of 2018 cobbled Classics, and van der Poel one-upping him by winning two Classics last year. We can’t wait to see these two young stars battle head-to-head—especially if the weather’s bad (and with this year’s race being held in late-October, that’s a very real possibility). And lest we forget: the organizers have announced that a women’s race will be run earlier in the day along many of the same roads (if you could call them that).

How to Watch: NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass

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