Newcomers often start following of the Tour de France as their first introduction to the sport. Even non-cycling fans are familiar with the TdF (if I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if I’m racing in the TdF this year…). There’s no doubt that the TdF and the other Grand Tours are magnificent races, however this is the period of the cycling season I truly love.
The Spring Classics come at a time when we’ve been deprived of races for months with real trophies being awarded. Sure there’s some fantastic racing in between January and April, but this is the first time we see all of the contenders come together at their peak form and racing their guts out. The riders are motivated and the teams are looking to get some wins on the board.
Of all the races on the calendar, I prefer the contenders of the Cobbled Classics over anything else. The cast of characters are usually brawny, more powerful, and more charismatic than Grand Tour riders. I can relate to a guy like Stuart O’Grady who enjoys a drink now and again and doesn’t weigh his food before every meal. It almost gives the impression that any regular bloke can win one of these races. On the other hand, the Grand Tour contenders are super-human. They’re a very different type of athlete. Often more introverted. More calculating.
The Classics bring the potential of treacherous conditions and narrow battered roads. A Spring Classic is raced with intensity and every last rider finishes completely shattered. There’s rarely a race where most of the riders sit-in and wait for it to come down to a bunch kick.
The Grand Tours burn slowly and take two weeks for the plot to thicken. The Classics have fireworks. They bring instant gratification to the fans. After the race is won, the winner’s name goes down in history and the anticipation for next week’s race quickly starts up again. Cancellara rode an amazing Classics campaign this year, but even with a 2nd, 3rd, 2nd, he is not the winner. There is no General Classification in the Classics and consistency gets you nothing. There is no margin for error. No way to make up for lost ground.
I’m pumped for the next block of racing – the Ardennes Classics. Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne, and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. Say goodbye to the cobbles and hello to the hills. Completely different types of riders will emerge and the Grand Tour specialists will come out to play. Get ready for another week of late nights and groggy mornings!
For most riders the Tour de France is the most coveted trophy in cycling. A Grand Tour win would be any cyclist’s dream, but for me as a fan, the Spring Classics is where it’s at. To be able to go over and watch these races one day would be a dream come true.
Which do you prefer? The Grand Tours, or the Spring Classics?