Milan-San Remo arrives Saturday (March 18) as the first Monument of the Spring Classics for a highly-anticipated clash of the titans that includes Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma). Also in the fray are versatile sprinters Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Dstny) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck). Will these and other sprinters be able to survive the Cipressa and Poggio climbs along the Ligurian coast to San Remo to contend for the crown?
The Women’s WorldTour also resumes Sunday (March 19) for a seventh round of competition at Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio. The last two editions of the race were won by Trek-Segafredo with Elisa Balsamo and Elisa Longo Borghini, and the team will again be chasing victory to try and secure the team’s first European victories of 2023 in the top tier series after having taken out a stage and the overall win at the UAE Tour.
The men’s peloton sees action mid-week at Milano-Torino (March 15) in Italy. Last year Mark Cavendish made history as the first British winner at the 103-year-old race.
Also on Wednesday is the doubleheader for men and women at Danilith Norkere Koerse in Belgium. The races set the stage for the upcoming cobbled Classics and casts a spotlight on the sprinters.
At Nokere Koerse voor Dames, defending champion Wiebes leads Team DSM with teammate Kopecky for a strong one-two punch who will be challenged by Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADQ) and Kristen Faulkner (Team Jayco AlUla). For the men, Tim Merlier (Soudal QuickStep) returns to battle against Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) and Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Dstny).
A deluge of races pack the rest of the week, with back-to-back ProSeries events for men – Grand Prix de Denain-Porte du Hainaut in France (March 16) and Bredene Koksijde Classic in Belgium (March 17). For the women, Tour de Normandie Féminin begins Friday for three days across northern France (March 17-19).
Stage racing features the off-road Absa Cape Epic, the eight-day mountain bike UCI stage race (March 19-26), beginning with a prologue on Sunday for two-rider men’s and women’s teams set in South Africa’s western cape.
Read on for more information about all the racing and Cyclingnews’ coverage.
Before jumping straight in, here’s a round-up of the weekend’s biggest results.
Before diving into a heavy week of one-day races, it’s time for a roundup of the weekend’s biggest results from the start of European WorldTour stage races for the men and the continuation of the Women’s WorldTour at Ronde van Drenthe, where SD Worx took out their third Women’s WorldTour victory in a row. Early spring in Europe also saw wintry weather create chaos.
The last two winners of the Tour de France duelled at the 2023 edition of Paris-Nice, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) securing the title well ahead of Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), who finished third overall. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) disrupted the Tour rematch by slotting into second in the week-long stage race.
At the ‘Race of Two Seas’ in Italy, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) exhibited his early-season dominance with an impressive triple of consecutive stage victories and the overall title.
Lorena Wiebes (Team SD Worx) has completed her hattrick of Ronde van Drenthe victories, winning the Dutch race for the third time in a row after also crossing the line first when she was racing for Team DSM in 2021 and 2022. Overnight snowfall forced the race organisers to modify the course to 94km in total length, shortening the race by almost 60km and eliminating the cobblestone sections on the ‘Drentse keien’.
The wintry weather was to blame for two UCI 1.1-level races having to cancel competitions last week, first the GP Oetingen encountered too much snow on March 8 for what would have been its third edition, and then Drentse Acht Van Westerveld nearby in the Netherlands also cancelled.
Adding to the list was stage 6 of Paris-Nice, which was called off due to “exceptionally violent winds”. Reported gusts of up to 100kph had organisers first shorten the stage to just 80km and move the start from Tourves to La Fontaine d’Aragon, then the stage was cancelled altogether.
An oldie but a goody, a new route is slated for the 104th Milano-Torino on Wednesday. The course is suited for the sprinters this year, running 192km from Rho, outside Milan, to Orbassano, on the west side of Torino. The climb of the Superga does not come into play this time out and it’s a flat, fast mid-week Classic ahead of Milan-San Remo.
Last year’s Milano-Torino winner Mark Cavendish made it over the Superga and sprinted to the win. He returns looking for his first victory for his new Astana Qazaqstan team, racing against other fastmen such as Oliver Naesen (AG2R Citroën), Fernando Gaviria (Movistar), Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-AlUla) and others in the hunt for the podium, while Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) seeks to add a fifth visit to a podium in 2023.
Danilith Nokere Koerse
A midweek rush of cobbles returns on Wednesday, March 15 at Nokere Koerse, the 194km one-day race that uses some of the same climbs as the Tour of Flanders. The final cobbled climb comes again on the Nokereberg across local laps around Nokere.
Last year Belgian champion Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) sprinted to victory in his first try at his home region’s event. Merlier returns in Soudal-QuickStep colours and faces competition from fellow Belgian riders such as Sep Vanmarcke (Israel-Premier Tech), former Belgian champion Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Lotto-Dstny duo Victor Campenaerts and Florian Vermeersch.
The semi-Classic has also been a launching pad for up-and-coming riders, and in 2023 the race marks the road debut for cyclocross youngster Thibau Nys (Trek-Segafredo).
Danilith Nokere Koerse voor Dames
The fourth edition of the women’s Danilith Nokere Koerse covers 129.1 kilometres across a course with 15km of cobblestones, six of the nine climbs taking place on the cobbles. While Nokere Koerse is a 1.Pro race, it produces top-tier efforts and serves as a proper tune-up for Trofeo Alfredo Binda in Italy on Sunday.
Like last year’s victory by Lorena Wiebes, the women’s contenders are expected to storm to the finish on the final Nokereberg climb. This time out, there are two local laps in Nokere for the final 56km and two passes up the signature climb, the second crossing the finish line.
Wiebes returns as part of Team SD Worx with Belgian teammate Lotte Kopecky, each already having won a Spring Classic. They’ll face off against strong squads from Trek-Segafredo, Team DSM and UAE Team ADQ, who brings Le Samyn winner Marta Bastianelli.
Grand Prix de Denain – Porte du Hainaut
The Grand Prix de Denain – Porte du Hainaut wedges its way onto the calendar between the two ProTour races on Wednesday and the Bredene Koksijde Classic on Friday. The GP de Denain packs a punch across 195.7km with 12 cobbled sectors in the second half of the contest, providing an appetiser for the roads later in Paris-Roubaix.
Last year Max Walscheid (Cofidis) won the GP de Denain from a bunch sprint and just ahead of Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) at the line. Both return this season and will face eager opportunists from a large number of ProTeams in the field.
Bredene Koksijde Classic
Pascal Ackermann leads UAE Team Emirates in an effort to win a third Bredene Koksijde Classic in Belgium on Friday. Once the peloton makes it over the two passes of the iconic Kemmelberg and a stiff kick up the Rodeberg, the sprinters need to battle wind from the North Sea to have any chance for a field day for the final flat finish, after 190.5km, into Koksijde.
Ackermann will face a strong field of sprinters, including Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep), who was third last year, and Sam Welsford (Team DSM), who was fourth.
Tour de Normandie Féminin
The women’s pro peloton heads to the windy northern coast of France for the UCI 2.1 Tour de Normandie Féminin. The terrain of Normandy rolls constantly for three days across 356 kilometres.
Racing begins Friday with 139km from an inland start at Argentan and a finish in Bagnoles-deL’Orne. Stage 2 takes in 103km in the extreme western region of Manche with punchy hills between La Haye and Flamanville. The race concludes Sunday with 114km on stage 3 from Saint Pierre en Auge to Caen.
The reigning French champion, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, will be at the start line for Zaaf Cycling Team in the inaugural edition of the race. Four WorldTour teams will also be in action, Canyon-SRAM Racing, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB, FDJ SUEZ and Human Powered Health.
The Spring Classics hit high gear for the men with Milan-San Remo on Saturday, March 18, the first of the five ‘Monuments’, noted for their rich histories in the sport. Also known as La Classicissima, this Italian contest is one of the longest races in the world, coming in at 294 kilometres.
The signature climbs of the Cipressa and the Poggio offer opportunities for attacks, and the sprinters who survive can seek great glory.
Two sprint victories at Tirreno-Adriatico puts a bullseye on the back of Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) as a leading contender for this Saturday’s Milan-San Remo.
In the mix will be Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), fresh off his big week at Paris-Nice. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) won the race in 2020 and will be a key favourite once again, as will his regular foe Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), who possesses a similar blend of punch and sprint. The wild card belongs to Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies), a rider in a similar mould.
Trofeo Alfredo Binda – Comune di Cittiglio
The Women’s WorldTour refires on Sunday, March 19 for the fourth race of the Spring Classics at Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio. A total of 24 teams will line up for the start in Maccagno con Pino e Veddasca, all but three of the WorldTour squads which includes the Trek-Segafredo team that saw Italian Elisa Balsamo take the victory last year.
SD Worx has dominated the front end of the one-day races so far, sweeping the victories and UCI points at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with Lotte Kopecky and Lorena Wiebes going one-two, Strade Bianche with Demi Vollering and Kopecky going one-two, and Ronde van Drenthe with Lorena Wiebes taking victory. Trek-Segafredo, however, have won the last two editions of Trofeo Alfredo Binda, so will be looking to break that run.
Absa Cape Epic
The eight-day Absa Cape Epic begins Sunday with a short and sharp prologue of 27km on the trails of Meerendal Wine Estate located in the Western Cape of South Africa. Then the men’s and women’s general classifications will be sorted for the next two stages of the mountain bike race that takes place from the oceanside town of Hermanus, the southern-most point of this year’s race. Two-rider teams will cover 658km and 15,775 metres of climbing across the full eight days for winners to be crowned at Val de Vie Estate.
The men’s division could be dominated by returning teams, including 2022 champions Lukas Baum and Georg Egger of Speed Company Racing. Two-time Cape Epic winner Nino Schurter will pair with fellow Swiss rider Andri Frischknecht for Scott-SRAM while the South African/US team of Matt Beers and Christopher Blevins is a duo to watch, with Beers looking to regain a victory from 2021. Lachlan Morton has also joined forces with Keegan Swenson this year.
Top results are expected from two of the women’s division teams, the NinetyOne-songo-Specialized team bringing together defending champion Sofia Gomez Villafane with veteran Katerina Nash, while the newly-formed e-FORT.net-SeattleCoffeeCo brings together Amy Wakefield with reigning South African XCM champion Candice Lill.
The week at a glance
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How to watch
We have dedicated how to watch pages for the major races this week, with ExpressVPN letting you get in on the action, whether you’re at home or on holiday.
Broadcasters including RAI Sport (in Italy for Milan-San Remo), Eurosport, GCN+ and Flobikes will be airing this week’s racing, so click the links below for our comprehensive streaming guides.