Last weekend it was Milan-San Remo, the first of the Spring Classics and the big opening race of the single events that precede the start of the Grand Tours. The Spring Classics are perfect for the tough, canny and one day specialists. The riders who are able and willing to put everything on the line to smash the race to pieces and then power on to the finish line are destined for victory.
These are the one day races, along with the World Championships, that any self-respecting cyclist would want to add to their palmares.
If you win a Spring Classic you’re part of the history books, alongside the greats such as Merckx, Museeuw, Bugno, Argentin, Bobet, Van Looy and De Vlaeminck. I could go on…and on and on, but one thing is for certain, you have to be a star rider to win, and if not you’ll be a star rider after a win.
The Spring Classics includes 5 races. These are Milan San Remo (Italy), The Tour of Flanders (Belgium), Paris-Roubaix (France), Amstel Gold (Holland) and Liege-Bastogne-Liege (Belgium). These are the biggest and best supported spring events.
There is also Gent-Wevelgem (Belgium) and Fleche Wallonne (Belgium). These two are classed as semi-classics because they used to be, and still are in some respect, seen as a buildup, or a very hard leg tester for the main Classics. Both used to be held mid-week, but now Gent-Wevelgem has moved from a mid-week event that was between Flanders and Roubaix to a week before Flanders in an attempt to increase its presence and draw a stronger field.
Each race has its own feel. Milan-San Remo is seen as the sprinters race, although in recent years it’s been won by brave riders who know how to descend the final climb from the Poggio and hang onto a slim lead, such as this year.
The Tour of Flanders is for the true Belgian. A course with cobble lined climbs (or bergs as they are known) and crazy locals chasing the riders from one section of the course to the next. Paris-Roubaix is relativity flat but smothered in sections of cobbles that will shake your fillings loose. It’s that tough that it’s known as the ‘Hell of The North’ and rain can make this race the one the real tough guys relish. Both these races are for the hardened and experienced pros and along with experience and legs of steel you need bucket loads of luck. These are races where an untimely flat can cost you a win. Broken bikes and bodies arrive at both finish lines.
Amstel Gold is for guys who can climb up the steep and sharp kicks of the
Limburg province in Holland. Narrow roads and the sheer number of short climbs over the 250 odd kms make for a selective race. The following weekend’s race, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, is hilly again, with a windy course that suits riders who are willing to take the action head on.
At these two races you may see a rider who may be targeting a podium finish later in the year at a Grand Tour, but you’ll also get the one day specialists in the mix too.
Over the next few weeks we here at ProBikeKit will be bringing you blogs on the Classics and we’ll even throw a few in on the semi-classics too for good measure.
It’s the time of the year when, along with the Belgian frites, mayonnaise and beer, you get a side order of pain and action. If you’re not a Grand Tour contender, this is the time of year you will probably be looking forward to most…..along with millions of excited cycling fans too.