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Posts Tagged ‘Spring Classics’

Strade Bianchi baby!  The white roads of Tuscany get another run on the Pro Tour today.

This is a relatively new one day classic, and an Italian take on the cobbled classics of the legendary Belgian spring. Instead of cobblestones, we have hard-packed clay sectors where moves are made, races are won and all the cool photos are taken.

This area is also the scene of THAT stage of the Giro in 2010 when Cadel rode Vinokourov off the wheel. The weather that day was filthy: torrential rain and very cold, making work on the clay treacherous to say the least.

The weather at this time of the year is less wet, or at least has been for this particular race, but the clay is still where the decisive moves are made.

The finale up into the main square of Siena is steep and very difficult at the end of a long day, making this a race for strong men who can punch up tough, short climbs at speed. Gilbert won it last year, Cancellara has been a force here regularly and Hesjedal has consistently been at the business end of the show.

The start list this year has some surprises – Millar returning could be interesting: Dave is an enormous threat when he’s on form; BMC are fielding a ludicrously strong squad; and the Italians will invariably have someone contesting at the pointy end of the race.

My money is on Gilbert from Ryder, with Sagan just dropping off the pace on the final kick.

Will be a great race. I only wish that I could be there!!

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And so the warm weather (excluding Tour of the Med) precursors to the bike season proper have concluded.  Down Under, Qatar, Oman, Algarve, etc have all had their brief moments in the spotlight, Langkawi has kicked off with a win to Zab in the time trial (no surprises that Zab is nowhere near the Classics!  Not a sketchy conditions type of rider is the great DZ.)  Now we head to the heartland of the sport and the portion of the season where the hardmen have their moments to shine.

Today is Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, aka Het Volk, and tomorrow is Kurne-Brussels-Kurne (KBK).  Het Volk starts and ends in Ghent, has kicker steep hills and tough pave (cobbled) sectors; KBK has more of the same, perhaps with a greater emphasis on pave, and less severe climbs.

I remember hearing two of the old timers (Whitey and Jules Dean) in our team talk about showing up together to the start of this weekend year after year (they both lived in the same part of Spain, so their teams would usually fly them to the race on the same flights even when they were on different teams).  It would inevitably be cold, but not cold enough for snow – just a bitter rain.  And inevitably one or both of them would crash at least once over the weekend of racing.  They were laughing about a particular year (their 10th consecutive or some ridiculous number) where neither of them crashed on either day, and how they were both a little freaked out by it.

Suffice to say this is a weekend for hardmen, and depending on the weather (I see it is 10degrees, wet and windy in Ghent today, and 10deg, partly cloudy in Brussels tomorrow – not awful) can be a weekend where less than 10% of the field finish the race.

The crowds in Belgium love it, the madmen of the peloton love it, everyone else dreads it, and I am hugely looking forward to seeing how things get rolling.

Hard Man racing starts today!

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