So, onto 2023, where do I start? Well, rather than simply going through the calendar month by month, race by race, I’ll simply pick out the races and parts of the season that I’m most looking forward to, from my own personal perspective. Many of these I’ll actually be there for, either reporting or commentating, but mostly soaking up the special atmosphere and breathing it all in. And hopefully I’ll be able share some of these experiences with you through We Love Cycling too. Exciting times! In fact, just writing this is reminding me of how much I miss the racing.
The Santos Tour Down Under
The first race that I’m keen on seeing back on the calendar after a two-year absence is the Santos Tour Down Under in the middle of January. It’ll be our first opportunity to see all the new men’s and women’s teams new (or not new) kits, plus, I always enjoy spotting riders who’ve transferred to different teams in their new livery. Especially after a rider has spent years with another squad, I don’t know why I find that so fascinating, but I do! Given it’s a World Tour race, we’ll also get our first glimpse of who’s got good legs, as well as how the new sprint lead-out trains are performing. The field is also very strong; with Geraint Thomas, Jai Hindley and Caleb Ewan some of the big names to have signed up early.
The ‘opening weekend’ in Belgium
Although the racing will have been going for five weeks or so, this weekend, the start of the Northern Classics, is the true curtain-raiser for many people. On Saturday 25th Feb we have Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (men and women) then on Sunday we have Kuurne–Brussel–Kuurne. The former revealing who will potentially show in the Spring cobbled classics and the latter who of the sprinters will be first to put down a serious marker. Following these two races the season, in the eyes of many, has truly begun!
Strade Bianche in early March is one of my favourite races and, for an increasing amount of cycling fans, it is seen almost like a monument. It has everything; stunning Tuscan scenery, challenging yet thrilling white gravel roads (known as ‘sterrato’ in Italian) short sharp climbs, an iconic finish in Siena and a field that year-on-year races hard and spectacularly. I also know that it is one of We Love Cycling’s very own Kasia Niewiadoma’s favourite races, so we’ll all be cheering her on! I’ll be there on-site commentating for both races and I cannot wait.
Later in March, staying in Italy, we have the opening monument of the year for the men in Milano–Sanremo. This is a classic for the purists, a slow burn of a race over nearly 300km with a spectacular finale as the remnants of the field climb the iconic Poggio before the plummet down the sinuous descent into Sanremo. The beauty of this event that dates back to 1907 is that the winner could come from anywhere: a sprinter, a puncheur, a climber, a GC specialist…
The Spring Classics
At the end of March and the beginning of April it’s cobbles time: the Spring Classics. We’re talking, primarily, Gent–Wevelgem, The Tour of Flanders and Paris–Roubaix. The latter two are monuments of our sport and winning one can define a rider’s entire career. Also, there’s the ongoing duel between two titans of our sport to marvel over: Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel. In terms of sheer spectacle, both Flanders and Roubaix are hard to beat. And, if you’ve never been to one, please try. You will thank me! The experience is one to treasure.
Following the Ardennes classics in April of Flèche Wallonne, Liége–Bastogne–Liége and Amstel Gold, the first Grand Tour of the Year, the Giro D’Italia, looms large and the focus of the season shifts from the classics to getting prepared for the epic three-week stage races that the season is sculpted around. I’m always keen to see who shines in races like the Tour of Romandy as well as the Ardennes Classics, as these races will give us some clear indicators of who will shine at the Giro.
So, onto the Giro D’Italia, which will be in its 106th edition. Already we have seen several big-name riders announce their participation, including most notably World Road Race Champion and 2022 Vuelta winner Remco Evenepoel and 2018 Tour de France Winner Geraint Thomas, both of whom are attracted by the 70 kilometres of time trialling over 3 stages, significantly more than any other Grand Tour in 2023. This year the ‘Corsa Rosa’ takes place wholly in Italy, starting on the Adriatic coast and finishing in Rome and taking in over 51,000 metres of climbing over its 3,448 kilometres. Can Evenepoel take his second Grand Tour en route to a tilt at the 2024 Tour de France, or can Geraint Thomas, possibly in his final season, add the Giro to his Tour win? The Giro is always special, and this year has the potential to be a vintage one. I’ll be there again too, commentating and sending back some images and insights for you!
Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift
Let’s face it, the next race will be on everyone’s list of races to look forward to: Le Grand Boucle itself, the Tour de France. Ever since Jonas Vingegaard seized the yellow jersey in dramatic fashion on the slopes of the Col du Granon from Tadej Pogačar and took it all the way to Paris we have wanted a rematch. The intense rivalry between the two cycling prodigies was matched only by their sportsmanship. Pogačar will want the title back and his team have bolstered their climbing talent and will no doubt be seeking ways of countering Jumbo Visma’s tactical excellence and raw power.
The 110th Edition of the Tour offers up one of the most imaginative routes in years. A tough, complex start in the Basque Country and multiple days on terrain that falls between mountainous and hilly. It’s fertile ground for aggressive racing that is difficult to control. Add to that the fact that there is only one time trial, 22km on stage 16, and you have a course that will require a focus on opportunities to take time outside of the race against the clock. Aside from the battle for yellow, on a personal level, I’d love to see Mark Cavendish beat the record he holds with Eddy Merckx for stage wins. I’ll be on the ground again reporting for Eurosport/GCN and of course visiting the Škoda stand at the start village each day!
Straight after the Tour we have the second edition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. The inaugural edition exceeded all expectations on every level, so anticipation is high for 2023. Can Annemiek van Vleuten do it again, this time in the Rainbow bands of World Champion, in her final season? Or will the threat posed from riders like Demi Vollering, Kasia Niewiadoma or Juliette Labous prevail? I’m not sure where I’ll be for this race, but I’ll be watching closely wherever I am!
UCI Cycling World Championships
For the first time, the UCI Cycling World Championships will unite seven cycling disciplines in the biggest cycling event ever, between 3rd-13th August. Put simply, the only discipline that won’t be there is Cyclo Cross. Over 200 Rainbow Jerseys will be fought for and won over the 11 days of competition that will take place in Glasgow, Scotland. I can’t wait for this. To bring together all of the elements of cycling will be amazing and of course, I’ll be there in some capacity! I’ll be spoilt for choice as many events will take place simultaneously. This will be without doubt a highlight amongst highlights!
Vuelta a España
I can’t leave out the Vuelta a España from my list, as this race always entertains and is an opportunity for riders to redeem themselves or salvage a season if things haven’t gone right, which often is the case given the nature of our sport. The 76th Vuelta starts in Barcelona with a 14km time trial and although the official route has yet to be formally announced, there are rumours that it will include the fearsome climb of the Angliru as well as the iconic Col du Tourmalet. We’ll see! Also, there’s a possibility that Remco Evenepoel could return to defend his 2022 title. Will he be the first rider in a long time to do the Giro / Vuelta double? There’s a lot to happen between now and then, but’s an exciting proposition, isn’t it?
To wrap up the year I’ll be heading off to Northern Italy and the shores of Lake Como for the ‘race of the falling leaves’ Il Lombardia, the final monument of the season. This race, which started way back in 1905, essentially brings down the curtain on the season and is always an enthralling race with varying course changes each year, taking away any sense of formula, which to me is a good thing. Tadej Pogačar won in 2021 and 2022, can he end the year with a hat trick?
Bring on 2023!!!