Some of the best cycling teams in the world are on their way to the Veneto. Seven WorldTour teams will line up alongside seven from the Professional division and seven more in the Continental category, bringing with them riders of the calibre of Matteo Trentin, Michael Matthews, Simone Velasco, Marc Hirschi and Giacomo Nizzolo.
The Holy Week of cycling in the Veneto, the 2023 Ride the Dreamland series, is already upon us, and begins in earnest on Tuesday with its official ‘baptism’ in the Palazzo Ferro-Fini in Venice, the home of the Veneto regional government. Meanwhile, the heads of state of the next week of racing – the riders – will already be out on the roads, familiarising themselves with what lies in wait at the Giro del Veneto (October 11) and Veneto Classic (October 15).
In total 20 teams will start the two races and no doubt serve up a mouth-watering spectacle. The top tier of pro racing, the WorldTour, will be represented by the number one team on the planet per the current rankings, UAE Team Emirates – also the winners of both the Giro del Veneto and the Veneto Classic last year with Matteo Trentin and Marc Hirschi respectively. Hoping to deny them in 2023 are fellow WorldTour outfit Lidl-Trek; Jayco-Alula and their potent troika of Alessandro De Marchi, Michael Matthews and Filippo Zana; AG2R Citroën and their leader Benoît Cosnefroy; Astana Qazaqstan with the Italian national champion Simone Velasco; finally, the combined might of Alpecin-Deceuninck and Arkéa-Samsic.
The Professional-division challenge looks similarly robust and is spearheaded by Lotto-Dstny and Israel Premier Tech, the former starring Andrea Kron and the latter a trio of Grand Tour stage winners – Giacomo Nizzolo, Jakob Fuglsang and Domenico Pozzovivo. Tudor will be expecting a strong showing from the impressive Alexander Kamp, Uno-X from one of the in-form riders of the early autumn, Tobias Halland Johannessen. Q36.5’s Walter Calzoni has also impressed recently – and, speaking of the Italian contingent, the Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè and Eolo-Kometa teams will want to leave their mark.
One rung down in UCI divisions but not ambitions are the six Continental teams racing this week: Biesse-Carrera, General Store-Essegibi, Mg.K Vis Colors for Peace, Work Service-Vitalcare, the Polish-registered Maloja Pushbikers and the Colombian-registered GW Shimano-Sidermec.
The beauty of both races, the Giro del Veneto and the Veneto Classic, is the unpredictability of two routes that could suit a multitude of riders, both fast-finishing rouleurs and climbers. On Wednesday Monte Berico (1km at 7.1%) will be decisive – four ascents of the iconic hill overlooking Vicenza the prelude to a grandstand finale halfway up the climb. Then, on Sunday, another hallowed location in bike-racing in the Veneto, the climb to La Rosina (2.6km at 6.5%), features four times in a deadly one-two punch with La Tisa (330 metres at 15.2%) before the terrifying Diesel Farm ‘wall’ (1.3km at 10.9%) on the road into beautiful Bassano del Grappa.