Former Classics specialist and Paris-Roubaix winner Mat Hayman may have the difficult tasks of having to help select and manage Mitchelton-Scott’s Classics riders but the Australian is nevertheless excited by the prospect of seeing a flurry of Grand Tour riders potentially compete over the cobbles of Belgium and France.
The UCI revised post-lockdown calendar still has a number of health protocol and logistical hurdles to overcome but assuming that WorldTour racing begins later this year cycling fans could be treated to a condensed but highly exciting season with three Grand Tours and the Monuments all crammed into a 71-day window.
Strade Bianche opens the official WorldTour programme on August 1 with all of the rescheduled 'spring' Classics taking place between late September and the end of October, with the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix slated for October 18 and 25.
With the Tour de France set for August 29 to September 20, there is a high chance of some three-week specialists finishing the Tour and then riding either the Ardennes or cobbled races.
“I’m just excited to see who is going to be on the start line for some of these races,” Hayman told Cyclingnews from his home in Belgium.
“Are they going to be riders who have come out of the Tour and who traditionally focus more on the Ardennes but who then decide to show up in Flanders because this gives them an opportunity that they might not get in other years. It’s the same for Roubaix. Will there be riders who see this as an opportunity if they might not get another shot in their careers?”
Hayman suggested that, despite the possible new faces lining up at the cobbled races, the feel and style of the races would remain the same.
“I don’t think that it will change the racing style. The courses will be the same but it would be nice to see some of those guys. You see it with the Tour de France, when we have a Roubaix style stage and some of these GC riders they do particularly well.”
Cycling is now in an unchartered territory but the general consensus suggests that the Tour de France would provide the optimum race plan for those targeting the Classics. The complication comes when teams need to also stack their Tour line-up with GC prospects and climbers as they target overall success and stage victories in order to pacify sponsors who have seen little to no return due to recent months of inaction.
There are squads that have no such issues, due to the fact that their GC hopes at the Tour are slim. However, Hayman believes that teams such as Mitchelton-Scott can find the right balance with their all-rounders. They have a number of Classics riders and Grand Tour contenders like Adam and Simon Yates.
“It’s hard to say what’s the best preparation and maybe we’ll see in hindsight but I think that a lot of guys are going to want to go down that route if they’re keen to do well. The feeling might be that they’ll have some intensity from training but that they’ll need a good block of racing.
"They’ll need to get their recovery right but I think that they’ll want to get back to racing, and there might be one or two who decide on having a lighter programme, but I think that the majority will go down that route."
“The teams for the Tour de France are always a combination of those riders and I think that if you look at our team, some of the first names on the roster, are guys like Luke Durbridge and Daryl Impey. They’re also Classics riders but they’re also important guys that you can rely on for all kinds of terrain.
"You need a well-rounded team anyway and you need some of those guys in a team because the Tour can be extremely stressful. The Classics guys know how to control the race and ride at front of the bunch at the Tour de France.”
The overlapping nature of the calendar, with the Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España and the Classics overlapping means that specialists will need to also make some difficult choices.
In recent weeks Remco Evenepoel, for example, has reaffirmed his decision to race the Giro and skip the one-day races. There’s no word yet on what the Mitchelton-Scott riders will do, but Hayman admitted that riders would need to prioritize like never before.
“The whole calendar is still up in the air and we’re still figuring it out,” he said. “Because we are so used to knowing and having the ability to know what works for some people, and it’s more about tweaking.
"But having to come in now and you have to evaluate the whole season. It’s definitely new for everyone but people are going to have to make choices when it comes to where they put the emphasis and what’s important to them and their teams.
“You can’t do everything, especially when it’s squeezed into just a few months. There are opportunities now for guys who might not have got a Grand Tour before. That might help some of the younger guys who get a spot instead of some riders riding two Grand Tours. Coming back now, people are going to be ready to race and they’ll want to race. They’ve been at home wondering they’d return to racing so I think that they’ll be full of gusto once they get to be back on a start line.”
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