Five races we're looking forward to in 2017

We pick a quintet of pro road events that we're looking forward to watching during the 2017 race season

Luke Rowe in the 2016 Ghent-Wevelgem
Ghent-Wevelgem - now with added dirt. Photo: Graham Watson
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Giro d'Italia's Sagrantino stage

Photo: Graham Watson

Italy, vineyards and bike racing - a perfect mix. Photo: Graham Watson

Giro organiser RCS Sport struck gold a few years ago when it ran a time trial through the Barolo/Barbaresco region and celebrated the famous wines. What could be more Italian than the Giro d'Italia and wine?

Since then, it has continued to celebrate its various wine regions with time trials. In 2015, it visited the Prosecco hills of Veneto and this May, the Chianti vineyards in Tuscany.

>>> Giro d'Italia 2017 route

Early reports suggested that the 2017 race would visit Franciacorta near Brescia – an area Chris Froome briefly called home – but instead it will time trial through the Sagrantino hills in Umbria. After three years of rain, this time around the gods owe the Giro a sunny day.

Ghent-Wevelgem's Plugstreets

Luke Rowe in the 2016 Ghent-Wevelgem

Ghent-Wevelgem - now with added dirt. Photo: Graham Watson
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

The 'sprinters' classic' takes a twist in 2017 remembering the World War I Christmas Truce. The organiser will take the race over three testing semi-paved plugstreets, totalling 5.7 kilometres, around the village of Ploegsteert.

If the weather is nasty, as is often the case in late March, rain will turn the paths into muddy traps. He who sprints to victory in Wevelgem will wear a jersey splattered in Flanders gunk. That imagery is what the organisers and Cycling Weekly secretly want to see.

La Course

Credit: Photo by COUDERT/SPORTSVISION/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock (4916690l) Peloton La Course by Le Tour de France, Paris, France - 26 Jul 2015

La Course by le Tour de France. Photo by COUDERT/SPORTSVISION/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock
(Image credit: SIPA/REX/Shutterstock)

Some complained, but moving La Course on to the side of the Col d'Izoard climb should add extra spice to the women's race associated with the Tour de France.

Tour organiser ASO ran the race on the Champs-Élysées the last three years before men arrived for the final stage. With the race climbing into history, the first summit finish on the Col d'Izoard at 2,360 metres, ASO could not leave behind women's cycling.

>>> La Course 2017 to be contested on Col d’Izoard summit finish

The mountain will rip the peloton to shreds and instead of seeing a top sprinter shine, we will see climbers trading blows for the summit finish first.

Tro-Bro Léon

Brittany's Tro-Bro Léon race may only rank 1.1 on the UCI scale, but it has all the elements Cycling Weekly loves in a race: cobbles, gravel, wind and a piglet.

Between the cobbled and Ardennes classics, the pirate streams will be furiously flowing over the internet with images of this French classic in its 34th year. It runs over farm tracks in western France, taking in 25 ribinou sectors that vary between smooth gravel to loose dirt and nasty cobbles.

>>> Is this the best bike race you’ve never heard of?

It is a French affair, but some foreign teams travel to northwest for the race. Dane Martin Mortensen (One Pro Cycling) won last year over British teammate Peter Williams. And did we mention the farm animals? Supporting the farmers, the organiser brings local piglets on the podium to celebrate with the day's winner.

Milan-San Remo's last 50km

The peloton in action during the 2016 Milan-San Remo

The peloton in action during the 2016 Milan-San Remo. Photo: Graham Watson
(Image credit: Watson)

The Milan-San Remo is the longest day on the WorldTour calendar, with cyclists waking up early to eat pasta and make the start in Milan. It is the finale, 250 kilometres and eight hours later that sends heart rates soaring.

Off the Turchino and along Italy's Mediterranean coastline, La Classicissima hits the high notes with three Capi climbs building to a crescendo over the Cipressa and Poggio.

The sight of nearly 200 cyclists, weak from the climbs, navigating Italy's poor roads cluttered with roundabouts raises the tension. The sprint for position leading to the Cipressa is at times more intense than the Tour's Champs-Élysées kick. The Poggio's descent can either be a Michelangelo masterpiece or a train wreck. And with the finish among the Via Roma shops againg, it recalls Eddy Merckx's seven victories.

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.