Although most attention is given to the Tour de France, the bike racing season runs from February to October, and March / April can be especially exciting times.
This is the time of the great 1-day classics in Northern France and Belgium, as well as a slight nod to Italy and Holland. Races like Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Het Volk, Fleche-Wallone the Amstel Gold Race and the biggest one of them all, Paris-Roubaix.
Before Lance Armstrong started to concentrate on the Tour de France to the exclusion of all else, these 1-day ‘classics’ were a key part of the season, and for cycling fans these are important races.
One of the biggest of these races, one of the so-called ‘Monuments’, the Milan-San Remo, which took place three weeks ago. Traditionally this race was decided by the series of short, sharp hills near the finish, notably the Poggio.
In recent years sprinters have become so good that they’ve managed to stay on the pace over these hills and the finish of the Milan-San Remo has become the domain of the sprint specialists, with mass sprints contested by the likes of Stuart O’Grady, Alessandro Petacchi, Paolo Bettini, Tom Boonen, Robbie McEwen and Mario Cipollini. The hills towards the end of the course simply weren’t tough enough to weed out the sprinters.
This year’s race would have been of special interest to anyone who watched the prologue of the Tour de France last summer in London. We all saw Andreas Kloden riding super smoothly, and our local hero Bradley Wiggins riding so well to come in 4th. And then the last rider set off, Fabian Cancellara. Before he’d gone 100 metres it was clear that Cancellara was faster, his whole rhythm and speed was different, and sure enough he won by more than 10 seconds in a 9-minute race.
And he did the same in the Milan-San Remo. When he hit the front 2 Km from the end, nobody could keep up. That’s amazing – you’re not supposed to be able to outsprint the field from the front. Those of us that saw him last July saw how good he was, and I was delighted to see him win. Read more about the Milan-San Remo and read about this year’s results at www.cyclingnews.com.
It was the Paris-Roubaix on April 13th. A fabulous, historic race, the most famous 1-day bike race in the world. 260 Km from Paris to Roubaix, the main feature of the Paris Roubaix is a series of cobbled sections, known as ‘pavé’.