This weekend marks the start of the Spring Classics season in Belgium, with two historic races being ridden. Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne will be contested tomorrow, while the ‘Omloop het Nieuwsblad’ is unfolding as I type.
‘Spring’ classics is a little bit of a misnomer as the couple of hundred riders in the men’s and women’s races will feel the cold today.
Many of the classics feature long stretches of cobbles and short, steep hills known as hellingen. Both sap a rider’s energy and will to carry on. Especially when the weather is miserable, as is often the case at this time of year in Belgium and Northern France, where most of the spring classics action takes place.
Today’s race will feature many cobbled sections and hellingen. And these contribute to the mythology of the classics races. They also shape the rhythm of the race, as riders jockey for position to be near the front as they approach the cobbled sector or steep climb. Tensions rise and some riders crash hard as a result, while others use the moment to launch an attack.
It feels very different to a typical grand tour stage, especially the longer classics like Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. I often associate these races with a certain style of music.
There is a sort of heavy and primal grind to the cobbled and hilly classics. The riders are either battered in to submission by the road and conditions, or they overcome and ride on to find their place in history.
I have picked two songs I feel go well with the cobbled spring classics. So if you have the chance to watch any of the racing over the next few weeks, why not turn off the commentary for a wee while and listen to these, or find your own rhythm.
In any case enjoy the racing.