For someone new to U-23 cycling, following the racing can be incredibly confusing. I shall break down where to look for important U-23 races and other races that you might not immediately think of.
- U23 Nations Cup - The U-23 Nations Cup is the UCI's program of U-23 races that are run with national squads for the purpose of getting riders the chance to race on varied terrain and places they normally wouldn't be able to. It also keeps the races on the calendar from being dominated by rider's from their own country, i.e. too many Belgians racing the U-23 Ronde van Vlaanderen. The problem with this calendar is that it is short as it only has six races on it (not counting continental championships) but this makes sense because national teams are on tight budgets. Full Calendar
- If one were to look at the UCI calendar, you will notice races that have a 'U' next to them. The 'U' designates a race to be strictly U-23 only. These races will either a be category 1.2U (one-day race) or 2.2U (stage race). For March, if we look at the UCI calendar, there are no 1.2U or 2.2U designated race on the calendar. This does not mean that the U-23 racers will be lying dormant.
- Many nations have overall competitions for young riders or where young riders compete frequently. Belgium has their Top Competitie for U-27 riders (calendar and teams) that has 8 important races. France has their Coupe de France (calendar) along with a seemingly endless amount of amateur racing. Italy has a huge calendar of amateur racing with 70(!) races targeted at younger amateur and U-23 racing. Spain have their Copa de Espana and other countries have their own rankings. Past this? Just look at the UCI calendar for any UCI race rated 1.2 or 2.2!
Are you properly confused now? Well don't worry because every month, I will be putting up a full breakdown of the important races to follow! Big downside? The vast majority of these races do not have live video and we are relient upon highlights for the most part but many have live text feeds.
March 2nd - Ster van Zwolle (Netherlands) Website-The race can go one of two ways. It will either break up and all hell will break loose or it will come together for a bunch sprint. The race gets its name from the course; it literally is a star around the city of Zwolle, the capital of Overijssel.
March 3rd - GP de la Ville de Lillers (France) Website-Harder race with some hills thrown in for good measure but has ended up in a reduced sprint the majority of the time in the last few years. 3 Pro Continental teams will be there but the meat of the lineup is from development teams.
March 10th - Porec Trophy (Croatia)-Raced along the Istrian Coast, this race will most likely end up in a sprint but there could be a small group that gets away. Apparently Croatia doesn't believe in the internet because barely any of their races have a website or presence on the web.
Dorpenomloop Rucphen (Netherlands) Website- Flat. Only way to describe the race. There is about 250m of climbing in the race overall. The last two editions have been big bunch sprints but like any race where wind can be involved, it could break up (but I doubt it).
Kattekoers (Belgium) Website-This is the first Top Competitie race of the season and will be a race with many attacks. Known as Gent-Ieper in the past, this race has been around since before World War II and has been won by some properly big names. Expect to see a sprint but just like any race in Belgium, a break is always ready to get some glory.
March 14th-17th Istrian Spring Trophy (Croatia)-Following the Porec Trophy, the Istrian Spring Trophy goes deeper into Istria and takes on some proper climbing. While no startlists are available now, it will definitely be attended by many development squads along with some more established pro riders on continental teams. Map just so you know what I'm on about.
March 17th GP de la Ville de Nogent-sur-Oise (France)-More sprints! The last 4 editions have been decided in pretty large bunch kicks so don't expect anything different.
March 17th GP San Giuseppe (Italy) Website-Finally, no more bunch sprints! Well maybe. The race goes around the city of Montecassiano in the Italian province of Marche and is one of the first big tests in the Italian season. Last year, Ilya Gorodnichev made it to the line 12 seconds clear of a chasing peloton. Probably one of the first races of the U23 season that will have substantial video highlights.
March 18th-24th Tour de Normandie (France) WebsiteOh how I wish this race were on TV. Following the prologue, just about every stage is demanding in its own way with very little in the way of 'easy' riding. Europcar will be the only Pro Continental team present and they won't be sending their TdF team here so with that and 6-man teams, it will be a great race.
March 24th Piccola Sanremo (Italy) Website-If you read this blog long enough, you will notice that about every big Italian race (Sanremo, Lombaria, Emillia, etc.) has a Piccolo/Piccola version for amateur riders. Except this race takes place nowhere near either Milano or Sanremo. It takes place in Sovizzo, which is all the way over inVeneto. So besides being nowhere near Sanremo, it has similar qualities in that it can be won by an attack or a sprinter. Enrico Barbin won the race last season and Sacha Modolo is a previous winner so the race itself has pedigree.
March 29th-31st Le Tryptique des Monts et Châteaux (Belgium)This 3 day, 4 stage race takes place in the province of Hainaut in Wallonie. Over recent years, guys that have done well in this race have gone pro. Starting from 1999, every overall winner of the race, including last year with Bob Jungels, is now on a World Tour team. I'm talking about riders like Lars Boom, Thomas De Gendt and Sébastian Rosseler (who won the overall twice). The race winner usually comes from the time trial and/or a difficult stage. This is a race that usually is oozing with talent.
March 30th-31st Les Boucles de l'Artois (France) Website (Music!)While this race was apart of the Coupe de France in recent years, the race is taking a more international approach this year with only 5 French teams. This is a 3 stage race with a longer 1st day and then a split stage on the 2nd day with a TT in the morning followed by a difficult afternoon stage.
I will be giving updates on all these races and more on here and on twitter: @Vlaanderen90