Well-known races such as the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia receive a lot of media attention. The one-day classics in spring also get their fair share of hype, but there are many races during each year’s calendar that we really should hear more about.
The bike racing season starts in January with the Tour Down Under in Australia, and ends roughly in October with the final one-day classic, the Tour of Lombardy. During the season, there are three Grand Tours, a number of important races considered as key preparation events, and of course the one-day Classics. Most of these races are quite well known, but several races always seem to stay out of the limelight, which is a shame.
The Tour of California
The Amgen Tour of California is a multi-day stage race in the US, which as the name suggests is mainly raced on roads in the state of California. The event has been held every year since 2006 and several big names appear on the list of winners: Bradley Wiggins, Levi Leipheimer, Robert Gesink, and Peter Sagan. Having said that, every year, the race itself never seems to get the attention we think it deserves. This is partly due to the race being held in the US, and the time difference means that European viewers can’t watch it on TV during the day. Also, in recent years the race has coincided with the Giro d’Italia, which only serves to push the Tour of California further out of the limelight. That’s unfortunate as there are a number of exciting mountain stages.
The Tour of Poland
The Tour de Pologne, or Tour of Poland, marks is 75th edition this year and its 90-year-anniversary since the first edition in 1928. However, it still remains one of the Cinderella’s on the annual race calendar. This stage race is primarily known as a preparation race for riders aiming to do well in the Tour of Spain (Vuelta a Espana), which itself is mainly a race for Spaniards and riders who want to round off their (un)successful season in style. This means that the field of participants is not very strong, and consequently there is limited media attention for the event as it often falls during the summer holidays. Serious racing fans can seek out a live feed on internet somewhere and can still see some exciting racing.
Grand Prix Cyclistes de Québec et Montréal
There are two wonderful back-to-back one-day races on the east coast of Canada on the eve of the UCI World Championships. Both climbers and sprinters can test their form during these races and decide if the Championships are a realistic proposition. The main challenge with both of these classics is the same as the Tour of California: the location. The time difference of six hours means that viewers in Europe can only catch the stages live late at night. Some sports channels do broadcast the stages the following day, and they’re certainly worth a watch to see who has the legs for the World Championships (and who doesn’t).
The Tour of Austria
The final race in this list of unsung heros is the Tour of Austria. A stage race in this country known for its hills should be a perfect stage for cycling fireworks. Sadly, the Tour of Austria regularly fails to attract star riders. Part of the problem is that this race is scheduled at the same time as the Tour de France, so you basically never hear about it. This is a real shame, as those of us who make the effort to find the internet feeds of this race often get to enjoy spectacular racing battles set in a beautiful landscape.