With French amateur racing already underway and confusing the hell out of everyone with the insane amount of meaningless races, it is time for the Italians to get into the act and kick off their 8 month season with a few races that all of the big teams will be attending.
On Saturday, the big races are the Coppa San Geo (Lombardia) and Firenze Empoli (Toscana).
San Geo has a huge start list this year with over 200 toeing the line for the 91st edition of the race. It isn't a race that provides a huge indicator for the future as there are not too many notable winners and frankly, its very early date gets many of the training camp champs showing up super fit while some of the bigger riders are easing into the season. 95% chance it will end in a sprint.
Here is the start list for San Geo. My favorites including Davide Martinelli and Damiano Cima (Colpack), Xhuliano Kamberaj (Cipollini Ale), Nicola Gaffurini (Mg.Kvis), Rino Gasparrini (UniEuro Wilier Trevigiani) and Andrei Voicu (Altopack).
Firenze-Empoli offers a bit more difficult course that draws out the climbers and all-arounders in the crowd. It isn't nearly as storied as San Geo as this is only in its 28th edition but with 6 climbs of the Monterappoli and a short 134 kilometer course, it is some nice early season racing.
Former winners of the race include Gabriele Balducci, Yaroslav Popovych, Aurelien Passeron, Davide Appollonio and Kristian Sbaragli, among others.
The favorites here include Zalf-Euromobil, Colpack, Mastromarco and Pala Fenice. I have to say that if Giulio Ciccone is on form then he is the favorite. Zalf has a strong contingent with Simone Velasco and Gianni Moscon but who knows with this early season stuff.
There are a few more races happening in Italy during the weekend with the only one of some importance being La Torre, which is a bit wide open since Zalf will not be in attendance. These are just the first in many, many weekends of lopsided racing punctuated by a few truly competitive events.