Were are starting to get to the point in the season where there are an insane amount of races happening everywhere and I, who has a full time paying job, might need to pick and choose what races get covered here because I'd like to do more than spew out races reports and focus more on riders themselves and the history behind races, teams, etc.
But I digress...
Trofej Porec (Croatia)
After the weekday Trofej Umag, the racing in Croatia continues with the Trofej Porec, which will most likely end up in either a) a sprint finish or b) a small group followed very closely by a big bunch sprint. After missing out over the weekend in the GP Laguna after letting a breakaway get too much time, the sprinters in the peloton will be ravenous to get a chance in Porec, which has seen riders like Grega Bole, Marko Kump, Aldo Ino Ilesic, Alexander Kristoff and others place on the podium.
Speaking of Marko Kump, he has been on fire so far this year and will be looking to follow up his Trofej Umag win with another Porec crown to go with his 2007 win. Kump was 4th in both the GP Laguna and GP Izola, where he won both the bunch sprints behind the breakaways. After being dropped from Tinkoff-Saxo and having to once again go back to his home team Adria Mobil, Kump is trying his damnest to get back to the professional level for good.
Porec is a town that sits on the Istrian peninsula and has become a yearly stop for teams during the now 2 week period that is filled with races in Croatia and neighboring Slovenia. Fairly short racing with parcours that aren't too demanding are a popular choice for many and teams from all over are drawn.
GP do Guadiana (Portugal)
Another country that has been becoming a popular choice for early season racing is Portugal. Obviously the Volta ao Algarve is a popular race for the professionals but with the Classica de Loule, the GP do Guadiana, the Volta a Costa Vicentina and, my favorite, the Volta ao Alentejo, there are 10 racing days for continental teams now on the Iberian peninsula in the month of March alone.
The first stage from Restaurente Alpendre to Vila Nova de Cacela is, according to some Portuguese website, one for the sprinters while the 2nd day, which features a circuit in the city of Alcoutim, is supposed to be a classic "splintered" Algarve day and one for a more selective bunch.
Day 1: Guillaume Boivin (Optum)
Day 2: Marcos Garcia (Louletano)
GC: Phil Gaimon (Optum)
Dorpenomloop Rucphen (Netherlands)
Basically everything you expect in a Northern Dutch race. Pan flat with winds that will whip you off your bike and some road furniture thrown in there. It is a race with a few loops around the city of Rucphen that usually ends up in a mass sprint unless of course you have a huge motor and can solo off the front in the final 5 km like Dylan van Baarle did in 2013.
It will be a full field and there are some motors in there for sure but I think it will be a mass gallop in the end. Here is a link for the full startlist.
Prediction: Jesse Kerrison over Johim Ariensen and Jan Dieteren
Trofeo Franco Balestra (Italy)
One of the classics of Brescia, the Trofeo Franco Balestra takes place this weekend and will be probably come down to a smaller bunch sprint of about 30 riders, at least according to hometown boy Davide Martinelli. There is a new climb on the course this year after the traditional Gandosso climb was removed because of landslides for a climb that will feature a steeper pitch near the crest but will probably not do much with the final result.
This race is one of the three Brescia classics including Coppa San Geo and Citta di Brescia. The field is stacked full with 201 riders toeing the line. Martinelli is a big favorite and will look to redeem himself here after he crashed in the final straightaway last year and finished 13th. Others to watch could be Xhuliano Kamberaj, Gianni Moscon, Mirko Trosino, Lorenzo Rota, Nicola Gaffurini and about 10 others. The season needs to play out in Italy a bit more before I can pick the podium
Full startlist and story with Davide Martinelli that includes a profile
Prediction: Colpack goes 1-3-4 and Martinelli wins just like in La Torre.
Other races that I'll be following include Bruxelles-Zepperen and some French races like Circuit des 4 Cantons and the Vienne Classic that you'll see me talk about on Sunday/Monday.