The weekend is upon us and there are big time races starting, ending and happening all over the place. The two biggest races happening this weekend include the 70th edition of the GP Liberazione and the Tour de Bretagne but that isn't all.
Saturday will see teams take on the roads around the Baths of Caracalla in Rome for the 70th edition of the GP Liberazione. Uber nationalist Francesco Moser has a special place of hate reserved for this race as he finds the race to be organized by "those communists" and "always favored the Russians". Basically, Moser is some grumpy old man who believes in the fictitious state of Padania, which is basically the top half of Italy, and can't stand anything remotely red.
The race itself celebrates the fall of Mussolini's fascist government and is always held on April 25th, which is a national holiday in Italy. This race was one of the first western races to open up competition to Eastern Bloc riders as early as the mid 1960's with Czechoslovak riders coming over first followed by Soviets and Yugoslav riders. The race was always a feature in the spring but it became to be something bigger when riders such as Gianni Bugno, Konyshev, Bernd Gröne and other strong young riders were winning the event.
The race itself involved 23 twisting circuits around the Baths of Caracalla (one of the most brutal and disliked emperors in Roman history) along with some short but punchy climbs that tend to break up the race at times. While the race itself is just 138 kilometers, the last true bunch sprint was back in 2010 when Sacha Modolo beat Michael Matthews, Fran Lasca and Michal Kwiatkowski. Every year since then has seen a small breakaway rule the day with riders such as Ilya Koshevoy (now Lampre), Matteo Trentin (OPQS) and Enrico Barbin (Bardiani CSF).
If it comes down to a sprint? Simone Consonni (Colpack) is a strong bet but there are others here like Xhuliano Kamberaj (Cipollini Ale), Marco Maronese (Zalf-Euromobil) and Marco Corra (Mastromarco). I have a feeling that these guys will be sprinting for 2nd or 3rd...
Someone plucky with a big engine will be the one to breakaway for the win. Marlen Zmorka? The Ukranian on Pala Fenice has undergone personal tragedy with the civil war back in Ukraine but he has the potential to sneak away here. In the same mold is Davide Martinelli (Colpack) who has the power to stay away and sprint in a small group. Maybe a cheeky rider like James Knox (Zappi's) has the power after a strong start to his season in Portugal.
In any case, here are links to the course map and a start list for your enjoyment. Alas, there are no Russians here in the first time in forever it seems like.
Tour de Bretagne
On the craggily coast of western France, a 7-day stage race will be testing riders on how high their level is on dealing with shit weather and being gutter fodder for hours on end. There is no stage that is the true queen stage as they will all have their points that will put a little bit of self-doubt into most riders. 7 stages of rolling hills and french flat that will see some of the strongest riders crack into a few pieces on the side of a small Breton road in the middle of God knows where.
Speaking of Soviets, this was another race that accepted the Commies in the early 70s and saw them dominate for a time. Here are the complete list of winners.
The big stage early on to watch out for will be stage 3 from Baud to the extreme west of France at Cleden - Cap Sizun in Finestere. Cap Sizun is the peninsula jutting out in Finistere that makes up part of the Cornwall region of Bretagne. You can't get further west unless you want to end up in the ocean. The wind off the coast will batter the rides while the hills will be coming one right after another in the finale. If you are a climber that can weather a storm, you might be in for a treat on Monday.
Stage 6 from Perros-Guirec to Le Quillio has been announced as the queen stage. Just 149 kilometers, the stage features some very steep climbs in the middle part of the stage while the end 30 kilometers looks like a sawtooth with relentless climbs but enough flats to really stretch out an advantage. When the race organizers say that Bernard Hinault approves of the stage then you know it will be trouble.
Even the final stage, a circuit stage around Liffré, has a ton of short hills peppered across the course and will be no procession and could even see some GC moves if the pack is close together.
Here is a start list for the race from directvelo. My pick for the win? Uhhhh Floris Gerts. Wild guess.
Other races happening over the weekend include the Zuid Oost Drenthe (probably a sprint), the conclusion to Joe Martin and the Tour Bohemia. And The Rutland. And the conclusion of the Vuelta de la Juventud Colombia. So you better be taking notes because I'm working and I will be asking a lot of questions.