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Italy and France offer alternative and rival August and September race calendars

SANREMO, ITALY - MARCH 17: Arrival / Vincenzo Nibali of Italy and Team Bahrain-Merida / Celebration / Caleb Ewan of Australia and Team Mitchelton-Scott / during the 109th Milan-Sanremo 2018 a 291km race from Milan to Sanremo on March 17, 2018 in Sanremo, Italy. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

With the dates of the men's and women's WorldTour races now confirmed by the UCI, riders and teams are facing some difficult decisions on their schedules as France and Italy offer alternative and often rival calendars in August and September.

The primary focus of the new men's calendar was to secure dates for the three Grand Tours, major Classics and road Race World Championships, which have all been rescheduled between August and November. 

The Tour de France will be held from August 29-September 20, the Giro d’Italia from October 2-25 and an 18-stage Vuelta a España from October 20-November 8. The five Monuments were also rescheduled, with Milan-San Remo now set to take place on August 8 and Il Lombardia on August 15, while the Tour of Flanders is set for October 18. Paris-Roubaix will take place on October 25, while Liege-Bastogne-Liege is scheduled for October 4.

Many of the Tour de France contenders are expected to use the French races, notably the mid-August Criterium du Dauphine, to polish their form, while the Classics riders may favour the Italian programme. The likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) has already made it clear he will race a mostly Italian programme combined with training camps at altitude.

The Italian calendar is packed tight into August and September, despite the usual summer heat and holiday period, which offers teams the chance to stay in one country for several blocks of racing for different kinds of riders before the Giro d'Italia gets underway in Sicily on October 3.

Strade Bianche will kick off the WorldTour and the Italian calendar in Tuscany on August 1, with the single-race Gran Trittico Lombardo further north on August 3. It is followed on August 5 by Milan-Torino, which is likely to finish in the centre of Turin to suit the sprinters rather at the top of the climb to the Basilica di Superga. The sprinters will also be out on force for Milan-San Remo on the following Saturday.

Races more suited to climbers follow. Egan Bernal won the Gran Piemonte race in 2019 and the race is again expected to finish at the Santuario di Oropa on August 12, offering the climbers a chance to test their form before Il Lombardia on Saturday August 15. 

Race organiser RCS Sport has said that Il Lombardia will start in Bergamo to remember the many victims of the COVID-19 pandemic from the area. The race will finish in Como after climbing the Muro di Sormano, the Madonna di Ghisallo and the key Civiglio climb, as well as the short San Fermo di Battaglia climb overlooking Lake Como.

The Giro dell'Emilia will bring down the curtain on the hilly races on Tuesday August 18, with the race again expected to finish on the climb up to the Madonna di San Luca. Riders are expected to head home for the different national Championships on the weekend of August 22-23, before the Tour de France starts in Nice on Saturday August 29.

The Italian calendar will continue during the Tour, with the Trofeo Matteotti on August 29, the Memorial Marco Pantani on August 30 and the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali stage race between September 1-5. Tirreno-Adriatico will offer key Giro d'Italia preparation between September 7-14, followed by the Giro della Toscana – Memorial Alfredo Martini on September 16, the Coppa Sabatini on September 17 and the Giro dell’Appennino near Genoa on September 20. The Giro d'Italia will begin two weeks later in Sicily on October 3.

While European racing first returns with the Sibiu Cycling Tour in Romania between July 23-26 and the Vuelta a Burgos between July 28-August 1, the French calendar begins in August with La Route d'Occitanie near the Pyrenees between August 1-4.

The Mont Ventoux Challenge is on August 6, before the Tour de l'Ain (August 7-9) and the Critérium du Dauphiné (August 12-16), which clashes with Il Lombardia.

Other races include the Tour du Limousin (August 18-21), the French national championships, most likely in Brittany on August 22-23 and the Mercan'Tour Classic Alpes-Maritimes (August 24). The Bretagne Classic (August 27) and Tour Poitou-Charentes overlap with the start of the Tour de France, while the Tour du Doubs (September 6), the GP de Fourmies (September 13), the Grand Prix d'Isbergues (September 20) and Paris-Camembert (September 22) are also on the French calendar in September.