It’s all about cobbles this weekend
If any pro cyclists are wondering what’s next after they froze their nuts off at Milan-San Remo. Great news! You now get to cycle over shitloads of cobbles. You’re not missing those nuts quite so much now, eh?
Friday sees a stack of burly Belgians and a few wannabe burly Belgians tackling E3 Harelbeke – the only race named after a motorway which now has a different name. The E3 between Harelbeke and Antwerp is now called the A14 and isn’t used for the race, so it’s perfectly logical to cling to the name. Rather than smooth, flat tarmac, you can expect rough roads, winds and steep hills. The Paterberg, a cobbled 500m climb at an average gradient of 12.5 per cent is the moment you’ll be glad you’re not a pro cyclist. Tom Boonen won this race last year, although he doesn’t seem in great form at the minute.
Taking place on Sunday, Belgian bike race naming conventions dictate that Gent-Wevelgem doesn’t actually start in Gent. It’s in the vicinity though and the terrain is not dissimilar to that seen during E3 Harelbeke. That said, although it includes the steep and cobbled Kemmelberg, the run-in’s pretty flat, so the sprinters aren’t ruled out if they can hang in there over the rougher bits. Again, Tom Boonen won this last year. And the year before. You’re getting the gist when it comes to the Cobbled Classics now, aren’t you?
If you’re a casual follower of cycling and are used to the keeping-something-in-reserve conservatism of Grand Tours, these types of races are fun. It often blows a gale and that combined with the hills and pace means that the peloton generally gets smashed to pieces.