The Cobbled Classics

Cycling: 14th Tour of Flanders 2017 / Women Amy PIETERS (NED) / Katarzyna NIEWIADOMA (POL) / Kruisberg / Oudenaarde - Oudenaarde (153,2km)/ Women / Ronde Van Vlaanderen / Tour of Flanders / RVV / © Tim De Waele

Its that time of the year when the road racing world celebrates two vintage classics, the Tour of Flanders (De Ronde) and the Paris-Roubaix which make up the corner stone (or should we say cobble stone) of vintage country road racing which together with the Milan – San Remo, the Liege Bastogne and the Giro the Lombardia are called the “monuments”

parish roubaix tour of flanderWhat makes the Tour of Flanders (approx 230 KM day race) and the Parish Roubaix (approx 250 KM day race) special are the extensive cobbled sections that give the race a vintage appeal. The terrain is a nightmare for equipment throwing every type of mecahnical challenge from punctures, to wheel bends to material stress.  The cobbled track is considered an annual test pad for the R&D teams of most manufacturers to test their innovations. And its not just the equipment that is tested. Even the rider. The cobbled sections put that extra stress on the already strained muscles, add to that the raw nature of the race and the lose dust flying which not just enters the pumping lung but also sticks as a thick layer on the sweaty body through the race

The cobbled classics have a traditional and a classical appeal with thousands making the annual pilgrimage. The crowds are huge and lined up throughout the track. ( there have been cases of that over enthusiastic spectator grazing the rider and ending his dream) The Tour of Flanders has challenging sharp hills and twists and turns and narrow streets whereas the Paris Roubaix is more flatter but longer and dustier. Its not rare for the peloton to set a pace of average speeds above 50KM per hour

2017 winners was an all Belgian affair. At Flanders It was Belgian Phillippe Gilbert (Team Quick-Step Floor) who made a solo dash for the final 55 kilometres of the race, having broken clear on the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont – and that after being part of an elite selection that formed on the Muur 40 kilometres earlier. At Paris Roubaix  the finish was a nail biting affair and went all the way to the last micro second at the Velodrome at Roubaix. It was once a Belgian Greg Van Avarmaet (Team BMC) who made it to the poidum top. It was an exciting finish amongst the three who had been a lead pack for the previous 40 KM that included Zdenek Stybar (Team Quick-Step Floors) and Sabastian Langaveld (Team Canondale Drapac). Stybar who was accused by the other two of not cooperating in the finish stages couldnt make it a first Czech victroy ever.The legendary “king of the cobblestones” Tom Boonen announced his retirement in style with a top 15 finish at Roubaix

This years cobblestone deserve a special mention for Slovakian Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe) who was unlucky both times. At Flanders Peter was involved in an unfortunate clip that brought down many including Van Avermaet  and in Paris Roubaix Peter went for an extreme endurance strategy riding alone in the lead pack through the race wanting to be a part of everything but twice suffered a most unfortunate mechanical issue once at the beginning and second in the final stages with a puncture. That that the pit crew wasn’t fast enough and did not give that butt push and the sticky finger from the support car was not good enough and ended his dream as he saw a whole peloton pass

Anyway that’s what the classics are made of. Lot of tradition, spectator participation, spring colors, cobbled sections where one could drop 10-15 seconds, high speeds, peloton crashes . All in all it’s a must watch if you are cycling buff

High profile riders make it to the race. Belgian Vice Prime Minister Kris Peeters and UCI-president Brian Cookson, cycled the 74 kilometers partly under guidance at Flanders. Ex-pro cyclists Ferdi Van Haute and Ludo Dierckxens, Fabian Cancellara and Paolo Bettini also mae it a point to take in the spirit. At Paris-Roubaix the last sections this year had huge protraits of two time winners lining up the track

If it is cycling history that you must experience then it is here

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