The Tour de France may have only finished on Sunday, but many riders are already returning to racing - albeit at a slightly lower level of competition. The post-Tour criterium races give those that weren't able to get to France in July a chance to see their heroes in the flesh a little closer to home.
Racing kicked off on Monday with the Boxmeer criterium race won by Dutchman Lars Boom (Rabobank). Boxmeer is the earliest of what is a two week 'festival' of criterium races throughout central and Western Europe. Belgium and the Netherlands host the lion's share of events, but Austria, Germany, Denmark and France all host their own races.
Often the winner (sometimes even the top three) is fixed before the race, but the riders always put on a spectacle for the crowds who come out to attend. Jersey winners from the Tour as well as local favourites and retired legends will generally make an appearance - though of course they are often nudged along by the promise of a lucrative fee.
A yellow jersey winner for example can command upwards of 60,000 Euros for a single event - and even lesser riders can command some tidy sums.
Watch out for the races over the coming fortnight - but don't read too much into the results.
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