The 2023 racing season is clicking into gear quicker than Mark Cavendish squeezing through a gap.
Winter camps are wrapping up, and teams are prepping for their first races of the year. The Santos Tour Down Under, Vuelta a San Juan, and the Mallorca Challenge will get things moving this month.
After the holiday lull, our editors are also getting the engines revved up for a busy season of chasing races across Europe, Australia, and North America (and perhaps further afield as well — Sri Lanka, anyone?).
Here are the one-day races some of our editorial team are most excited about in 2023:
Sadhbh O’Shea: Tour of Flanders
The Tour of Flanders is where it is at, and the answer would be the same just about every year. For many Belgian riders, and Belgian fans, this is the biggest day of racing in the whole season and, for me, it’s hard to disagree.
Overall, the classics have a distinct allure with the chaotic and unpredictable racing, combined with often tricky weather conditions. Added to that is the fact that there is no do-over. One-day races require riders to go all in for glory, there won’t be a tomorrow to have another try.
There are two things that put Flanders at the top above everything else.
The first is the festival atmosphere that permeates the day, from the rock concert vibes at the start and finish to the lines-deep crowds on the climbs. The atmosphere is second to none on the regular calendar with the Flanders world championships one of the few events to top it.
Second is the all-star line-up that we’ve been seeing in both the men’s and women’s races in recent years. The route and the occasion are enough to attract some riders that wouldn’t ordinarily do the classics and it makes for a top-class race.
Now that Flanders Classics have reworked the schedule for the day, allowing the women to finish after the men, we get double the fun without having to try and watch two races at the same time.
Andrew Hood: Paris-Roubaix
Paris-Roubaix, what else?
Strade Bianche and Tour of Flanders might come close in packing in the emotion, but no race is as enthralling, dramatic, and unpredictable as the Hell of the North.
And now that there’s a women’s edition, it’s two days of bone-rattling fun for the masochists of the peloton.
In many ways, Paris-Roubaix is the antithesis of what modern cycling aspires to be. In any other race, these road conditions would provoke outrage and protest. In Roubaix, the hellish roads are celebrated.
It’s a throwback to an era when pain, suffering, and the almost voyeuristic pleasure of watching (and participating) in the world’s hardest race is cheered.
Also read: Gallery of the 2022 Paris-Roubaix Femmes
For some the race might almost seem gimmicky, but for anyone who’s tried to ride their bikes across the gnarled stones of northern France knows, there’s no hiding. Roubaix is the ultimate test of strength, courage, willpower, and skill.
Add a bit of luck, a few hundred thousand rowdy fans, and whatever Mother Nature has in mind, and Roubaix is the must-see one-day of race of the year.
One of my favorite cycling spring rites is hitching a ride with photographers, and chasing the peloton across the cobbles. With some incessant driving and smart navigating, it’s possible to see four or five sectors before dashing to the velodrome.
We usually can catch the Carrefour de l’Arbe sector, and arrive in grotty Roubaix just in time for final sprint. The drama hits its apex at Roubaix. After that, the spring classics go pfffffft.
Fred Dreier: Women’s Unbound Gravel 200
How will a wave start impact the elite women’s field at Unbound Gravel 200? It’s the biggest storyline I’m following in U.S. cycling in 2023.
Gravel cycling’s mass-start format gives the discipline its egalitarian feel, but it also has a huge impact on the dynamics of the women’s race. The women are tossed into the washing machine of elite and amatuer men, and the winner is often the rider who survives the chaotic opening 50 miles in the best position.
Also read: Big rule changes for Unbound for 2023 — bye-bye aero bars
That’s not going to be the case this year, as the elite women have an eight-minute buffer to the age-group racing field.
Will the top riders push the pace early? Will anyone try to break away? Or, will the race become one of attrition, similar to the dynamics in the men’s event.
We have no clue, and the fact that this unknown is coming in the race’s 17th edition will bring new excitement and guesswork to the event.
Jim Cotton: Strade Bianche
As a millennial with a fondness for tattoos, flat whites, and weird music, I feel it’s my duty to make the hipster’s choice, the monument that’s not a monument, the most beautiful race of the year – Strade Bianche.
The dirt road classic has it all; the parcours, the pick ‘n’ mix start list, and the prestige of a race that most riders rank high on their winning wish list.
Sitting ahead of fellow big-hype classics like Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix, Strade Bianche captures the buzz of a season just clicking toward top gear.
One-day specialists have warmed their legs at the “opening weekend,” stage racers have been Down Under and back, and Tirreno-Adriatico and the monuments don’t feel too far away.
And just look at that parcours.
Dusty white roads with the potential to turn into treacherous paste at the merest hint of rain. Tuscany’s relentlessly rolling hills. A spectacular Siena finish point. It’s a unique combination guaranteed to serve racing thrills and poster-worthy images.
Even Tadej Pogačar’s huge solo last season somehow didn’t become a bore as the Slovenian rampaged through the most picture-perfect landscape of the pro calendar.
Throw in the potential for a podium as diverse as Mathieu van der Poel, Julian Alaphilippe, and Egan Bernal (in the 2021 race), and Strade Bianche is always the best race of the year (just don’t you dare call it a monument).