Ten races not to miss in 2014
The events that could be the highlights of the coming year
Last Updated: 15/01/14 5:27pm
British cycling fans are in for a treat in 2014, with the usual action-packed calendar being complemented by a plethora of top-level racing taking place on England, Scottish and Irish soil.
Here are ten races not to miss in the next 12 months...
1. Tour de France in England
The Tour de France in England will be unmissable (Picture: www.yorkshire.com)
The Tour de France is always the highlight of the cycling year, but in 2014 that status is heightened by the fact that the first three stages are being held in England. The first two days take place from Leeds to Harrogate (July 5) and York to Sheffield (July 6), before the race heads south for a third day from Cambridge to the capital (July 7). The two stages in Yorkshire could also provide some of the most thrilling racing of the whole Tour, with short, sharp climbs on stage two in particular offering the potential for attacks and an early shake-up in the general classification.
2. Giro d'Italia in Ireland
The 2014 Giro d'Italia starts in Ireland
Ireland has always been a hotbed of cycling and its long-term love for the sport will be showcased on an international scale in May when the Giro d'Italia hosts its Grande Partenza on the Emerald Isle. Three stages will be held in Northern Ireland and Ireland from May 9-11, with the first two taking place around Belfast and a third seeing the peloton travel from Armagh to Dublin. It is the first time since 1998 that a Grand Tour has visited Ireland and will be the first time the Giro has ventured to the United Kingdom in its history.
3. Commonwealth Games track cycling
The track cycling at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will deliver plenty of thrills and spills
Track cycling continues to boom in popularity in the UK and British fans will get another chance to see the world's best in action when Glasgow's Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome hosts the Commonwealth Games from July 24-27. European giants such as Germany and France may be absent, but Great Britain and Australia will both be on hand renew their long-standing rivalry, while Canada and South Africa will also be present. Expect a packed house, raucous home crowds and four days of pulsating action.
4. Commonwealth Games road races
Mark Cavendish won the national title in Glasgow and will look to repeat the feat at the Commonwealth Games
After the track events come to an end on July 27, attention then turns to the road events, with the time trials taking place on July 31 and the road races on August 3. Britain's Sir Bradley Wiggins and Alex Dowsett will be among the favourites for victory in the men's time trial, while Joanna Rowsell won the British national time trial in Glasgow last summer and could be fancied to repeat that feat should she still have the legs after her track exertions a few days earlier. The marquee events, however, are the two road races, where Mark Cavendish and Lizzie Armitstead will be heavily fancied for gold after winning the men's and women's British titles on the same course last summer. Like the track events, expect thronging crowds to line the finishing circuit in Glasgow.
5. RideLondon Classic
Laura Trott won the Women's Grand Prix at the 2013 RideLondon weekend
If you haven't already had your fill of live cycling, you can get another taste at the second edition of the RideLondon Classic, which takes place on August 10 and once again finishes on The Mall in central London. The race is geared towards sprinters and attracted a high-pedigree field containing the likes of Peter Sagan in its inaugural year, with France's Arnaud Demare taking the win. The two-day event also contains a public sportive and a Women's Grand Prix, so there is plenty to watch, take part in and enjoy.
6. Tour of Britain
The Tour of Britain grows in stature with every year
The busiest year of cycling on British soil in recent memory draws to a close with the Tour of Britain, which this year takes place from September 7-14. Last year's race was dogged by bad weather but nevertheless drew thousands of fans out into the elements to see Sir Bradley Wiggins take overall victory and Mark Cavendish win three stages in a hugely entertaining week of racing. Although the route for the 2014 edition is still to be revealed, the race's growing stature should ensure it attracts another world-class field.
7. The remainder of the Tour de France
Chris Froome will be bidding for a second consecutive Tour de France win
The Tour de France will leave English shores after three days, but by then the race for the yellow jersey will only just be getting started. After returning to France, the peloton will be taken on a day on the cobbles of Belgium and northern France and then over no fewer than three mountain ranges, before returning to Paris for the Tour's traditional showpiece finale in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe. Chris Froome will be the man to beat in the general classification, while the Mark Cavendish will look to prise the green points jersey off the shoulders of Peter Sagan, who has won it comfortably in each of the past two years. Cavendish will also look to reassert his authority over cycling's most prestigious sprint, on the Champs-Elysees on the final stage, where he was beaten for the first time by Marcel Kittel last summer. All in all, it should be a thrilling Tour.
8. Cobbled Classics: Sagan v Cancellara v Boonen
Fabian Cancellara's rivalry with Peter Sagan could be the story of the spring
The cobbled Classics - E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix - are a perennial highlight of the cycling calendar, but they promise to be particularly special in 2014. A three-way battle is brewing between Fabian Cancellera, who ruled the cobbles in 2013, Tom Boonen, who dominated in 2012, and the frighteningly talented Peter Sagan, who took three podiums in 2013. Should all three maintain their fitness and find peak form, this quartet of races could well be spectacular.
9. Vuelta a Espana
The Vuelta a Espana is becoming renowned for its punishing routes and close racing
It may be the least prestigious and coveted of the three Grand Tours, but in recent years the Vuelta a Espana has comfortably been the most exciting. A combination of brutally mountainous routes littered with summit finishes and an open field that invariably makes for nip-and-tuck racing has turned the Vuelta into essential viewing. The 2014 edition promises to continue the tradition, with another mountainous route being rumoured. Plus, with the likes of Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali all focusing on the Tour de France, the door is open for the likes of Rigoberto Uran, Joaquim Rodriguez and possibly Nairo Quintana to fight it out on the steep slopes of Spain.
10. The UCI Road World Championships
The women's world road race in Spain has the makings of a great race
It would be nice to include February and March's UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Colombia on this list, but given that most of the racing will be taking place overnight British time, the "unmissable" argument is a tough one to make. Thankfully, there are no such issues with the UCI Road World Championships, which take place Ponferrada in north-western Spain from September 21-28. The road races will be of particular interest thanks to a hilly course that could see a repeat of the 2013 worlds, when the men's and women's road races both delivered great action. The time trials should also prove intriguing, with a course containing a couple of short climbs adding spice.