Just a fortnight away from 2016 and riders are deep into training and preparing for the new year. Kits are being unveiled, plans are being set and soon, riders will be in their colors for next season and searching for sunny places to put in 25 hours a week on the bike. That being said, let's take a look at some of the races for 2016 that have been announced.
Belgium is a small country. Flanders is half of a small country. The area of Flanders is slightly smaller than the size of the state of Connecticut. The province of West Flanders is smaller than Rhode Island. So imagine having seven bike races take place on the same day at nearly the same time. Except this is a reality on March 27th in the heart of the classics season. The Kattekoers is moving up to the U23 Nations Cup from the Belgian Topcompetitie and moving from March 15th to March 27th. It is a showcase for the West Flanders region but a logistical nightmare.
The Kattekoers traditionally had 16 hills on the course but due to the course restrictions, there are only 6 hills this year with the trio of the Baneberg-Kemmelberg-Monteberg twice. The last hill is closed to the finish than in year's past being just 13 kilometers away from the Grand Palace from Ypres. The course length is increased to 185.7 kilometers so even though the hills have been cut in half, a sprint finish is by no means secured.
Triptyque Monts et Chateaux
Basically the Driedaagse de Panne for U23s (and other younger amateurs), Triptyque is always a fun race to see who is in shape for the upcoming Nations Cup races, which will be different this year with the addition of the Kattekoers for the Nations Cup. That is if many of the racers are invited.
The parcours haven't been announced yet but the main change is the race is going back to 3 days from 4 days and a time trial will be appearing once again. Espoirs Central is a big fan of time trials in the continental ranks because in many U23 races there is a dearth of time trials yet when these riders move up to the World Tour ranks, there are time trials in every stage race. How are you supposed to prepare for a certain discipline when you have no chances to practice it?
Ronde de l'Isard
While troubles with the race and rumblings of the race shuttering are an annual event, the Ronde de l'Isard is once again taking place and the 2016 race is set for a couple of big mountain top finishes.
For the 39th edition, the race will head up to Goulier-Neige for the 3rd consecutive year for the first stage. It is a climb that has an absolute brutal middle section that nears 12% while the finale is around 9%. It also sorts the wheat from the chaff and only a small handful are left to fight for the overall. Here is the profile of the climb.
The 2nd stage will feature a finish at the ski station of Ax 3 Domaines, which was previously used in 2010 when Yannick Eijssen won the stage solo. The side of the climb they are using is unknown but presumably the Ax Bonascre side, which averages nearly 9% with a peak of nearly 12%. You can see the profile here.
Stage 3 should be a usual chance for the rouleurs to get their shot at glory while the final stage into Saint-Girons should have a few hills involved but shouldn't be one that destroys the GC.
This is one of the premiere U23 stage races and should be treated as such. Amazing scenery, scenic and racing that rivals nearly any other U23 race. The Russians should be back again plus the British have applied for the first time. The French National Team is hoping to send a team, which is a boon for the struggling race, while many regional teams are looking for a bid, such as the Haute-Loire team that includes Max Moncassin.