The 2018 UCI under-23 road calendar contained few surprises but saw a few interesting changes nonetheless. As in recent years, the calendar has a strong Italian bias, with 13 events classified as “MU” by the UCI being held in the country. France once again goes for quality over quantity, with the Tour de l’Avenir, Paris Roubaix and Ronde de l’Isard providing the highlights.
January sees the five day “Coupe des Nations de l’Espoir Blue Line” in Cameroon, West Africa. The Nations Cup race should attract a numerically strong field, comprising national teams looking to score points in the race for front-of-convoy places at the World Championships. The globalisation of the sport is to be supported, and Cameroon has a relatively long history of putting on UCI stage races, but the value of sending age-grade racing to West Africa during what is for most riders still firmly the off-season appears questionable. Will enough of the under-23 peloton be race fit in January or will we see an expensive training camp for the road riders with UCI points being awarded to cyclo-cross and track specialists?
One event clash stands out: Paris-Tours Espoirs and Piccolo Lombardia running on the same day will undoubtedly dilute both races. Whilst the Italian non-UCI teams rarely stray north of border, the 2017 edition of Lombardia featured several French and northern European squads whose resources will either be split, or more likely sent to one race or the other. Running two events on the same weekend just about works in the WorldTour (San Sebastian and RideLondon, for example) but that’s a world with far greater resources and depth of talent.
Espoirs.world has a constantly-updating events calendar and will be providing race coverage and results throughout the season.