Spring is our favourite time of the year. The evenings start getting a bit lighter, the opportunity to ride your best bike grows and the start of the ‘proper’ racing season starts again.
While we love the grand tours, there is just something about the Spring classics. In true Velotastic style, we sat down with a cup of tea and tried to work out why we like them so much. Here’s what we came up with….
1. They last a day not weeks.
This is one of the key reasons we enjoy them so much. None of this dragging on for days and weeks – you can watch the race and get on with your life.
2. You can usually see the same race more than once
Many of the parcours for the Spring Classics are over a relatively compact area this means that with a bit of prior planning you can see the race several times and even the finish if you are lucky. None of this trudging your way to the top of an alp to wait two hours to see the race for a few minutes and wondering who will win.
3. It gives the big guys a chance
The classics are not a climbers paradise. Many of the climbs are short and sharp and rely on raw grunt to get to the top. This gives the guys with the bigger engines a chance to win rather than being sat in the grupetto suffering when the road goes up.
4. The weather
Being the Spring and Europe the weather can be fickle. Many races have snow, rain, ice and sunshine on the same day. Riders who race the Spring classics practice there art in challenging conditions. Many enthusiastic amateurs (including us) who ride through the winter have empathy for their environment. The suffering just dosen’t seem to be there when it’s 30 degrees in the South of France. The only Grand Tour that does come close to these conditions on an irregular basis seems to be the Giro when it hits the hills.
5. Cobbles, gravel and generally bad roads
The Tours seem to be run over silky smooth ribbons of tarmac. In recent years the Tour de France has had a day on the pave just to shake things up a bit and add a bit of interest to normally bland stages in northern France.
The classics thrive on bad roads. Belgian cobbles, French Pave, Strada Bianche, tracks that are regularly abused by tractors and other agricultural machinery. This all adds up to potential punctures and additional rider skills.
This is also another reason we’ve got empathy with classic riders as these are the type of bad roads that many of us encounter on an all to frequent basis.
6. They are accessible from the UK (well the northern ones are)
With the Eurotunnel it’s relatively easy have a weekend away to go and watch a Flanders Spring classic. At the end of the trip you’ll know who’s won and not had that feeling that you’ve gone and watched the wrong stage when the following days turns into a game changer.
7. No mediocrity. You can’t win on consistancy – you have to to win by being good.
The leaders jersey in the grand tours is awarded to the most consistant rider. Sometimes the yellow (or pink or red) jersey is worn by someone who has not even won a stage or can smash it on a time trial and is mediocre at everything else. With a one day classic you have one chance – there’s no saving yourself for tomorrow or riding in the pack. Spring Classics riders have to see the break, get in the break and know how to win in a single day not a campaign over several weeks.
8. They don’t cut into your riding time (as much).
Every July our riding miles drops. After a day at Velotastic HQ we go home, watch the Tour on the TV from seven til eight and by then it’s not worth the faff to get changed and go riding. Many Spring classics can usually be seen at the weekend after a good mornings ride and do not impact on your time in the saddle.