Spring Classics and the start of the cycling season
It’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad tomorrow (or today if you’re reading our email, or a couple of days ago if you’ve signed up to our email via your work account). This might seem insignificant and impossible to pronounce, but Omloop Het Nieuwsblad heralds the start of rather more serious racing. We’re in Europe now and things have turned cold and serious.
The what-loop het what-what?
The Omloop (it’s starting to sound like a catchy name now it’s shortened, isn’t it?) is a Belgian race. As such, it lasts a day and is won by Belgians. This is a fair guide as to what to expect for the next month or so. While Grand Tour contenders come from all over the place, the guys who win the Spring Classics are as often as not from Belgium where most of these races take place.
If you follow the Tour de France, but don’t really keep track of the world of cycling the rest of the year, it’s worth getting into the Spring Classics. It’s a more familiar version of cycling than the Grand Tours for most of us and there’s some good racing as well.
While the stage races of summer generally feature a cast of underfed midgets, an entirely different group of riders comes to the fore in spring. These people actually look like humans. They are big and strong and I like that. It’s good that these people have a place in the sport, because these people are built more like me and so I must have a place in the sport too. Some of them are bigger than me. Tom Boonen – who’s frighteningly victory-prone at this time of year – is 80-odd kilos, for crying out loud.
The racing’s different too. If you’re British, you’ll identify with it more because it’s not about steadily climbing a mountain on a smooth road at a constant gradient. It’s about repeatedly knocking seven shades of shite out of your body, hauling yourself over short but ridiculously steep hills before embracing vibration white finger on a big stretch of cobbles.
Then there’s the weather. Again, if you’re British, you’ll know what this is about. It’s probably going to be pissing it down, but there’s just a faint hint of snow about what’s falling too. Plus it’ll be blowing a gale and there’s mud everywhere.
It’s the Omloop tomorrow (Saturday), a few other day-races of similar significance in the weeks ahead and then from March 17 onwards, there’s a highlight every Sunday. They squeeze in a couple of stage races before then as well, but let’s not risk perusing the full, ramshackle calendar. Let’s just pretend it’s Spring Classics season and try and mostly focus on that. We should all eat frites and drink Belgian beer to get into the spirit of things.