The Spring Classics season has just begun, and it looks like we’re in for a treat – not least because they are actually happening in Spring this year (despite Covid), but also because there are more races for the women than ever before.
So, what are the Spring Classics?
They are a set of one-day races that largely happen in the Flanders in Northern Europe, but not exclusively; given their name, they take place in the Spring, except for Il Lombardia which bizarrely takes place in October in Italy. They feature cobbled or rough, gravelly terrain sections, often with impossibly steep climbs; they are A-B races that take several hours to race; they favour strong, skilful riders and often the Cyclocross riders do very well; above all, they are races known for their brutality hence the name ‘The hell of the North’ for Paris Roubaix. They are referred to by several different names: The Classics, The Cobbled Classics, The Northern Classics or even just Classics and include a set of 5 races known as ‘The Monuments’ – the oldest and greatest races of all.
What makes these races exciting?
Given that the weather in early spring is variable, these races are often characterised by grim racing conditions be it rain and mud or dry, windy and dusty; what’s to be sure though, is that changeable weather normally adds to the spectacle and dictates how the racing plays out. Sometimes a lone rider is able to go off the front from a long way out and fight off the peloton, sometimes a breakaway provides the winner, sometimes there’s a bunch gallop for the line sprinting on such tired legs! The cobbled sectors make for dramatic viewing and bone rattling riding with plenty of punctures and crashes – look out for riders taking to the smoother gutter and zig zagging around for a smoother ride. Cycling is normally a team affair but it’s much harder for teams to control these races as they can in the stage races, so interest comes from each rider fending more for themselves, favouring good positioning, fast decision making, strength and fortune. Historic, spectacular, exciting – there is nothing quite like these races, they are well worth a watch.
Who to watch out for?
As always with races like these, there are many riders, the field is strong and anyone can win. However, it won’t surprise you to know that my favourites are the Cyclocross riders! Look out for Matthieu van der Poel (NL), Wout Van Aert (B), Tom Pidcock (GB), Zdenek Stybar (CZ) but another GB interest is Mark Cavendish. For the women, Lizzie Diegnan (GB), Anna van der Breggan (NL), Annemiek van Vleuten (NL).
When do they take place?
Here is a summary of the races loosely known as the Classics and when they take place. It is interesting to note that whilst there are not many races for the Women here, there are more this year than ever before, for which we are grateful. Women’s cycling is improving slowly, but that’s a whole different story!
Races which include a Women's race are in italics.
27 February Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
28 February Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne
2 March Le Samyn
6 March Strade Bianche
20 March Milan-San Remo – Monument
26 March E3 Saxo Bank Classic
28 March Gent-Wevelgem
31 March Dwars Door Vlaanderen
4 April Tour of Flanders – Monument
7 April Scheldeprijs
11 April Paris-Roubaix – Monument
14 April Brabantse Pijl
18 April Amstel Gold
21 April Flèche Wallonne
25 April Liege-Bastogne-Liege – Monument
16 May Tro-Bro Leon
9 October Il Lombardia – Monument
How can I watch these races?
They are largely broadcast on Eurosport and the GCN Racing Pass.
This weekend is Strada Bianche famed for it's beautiful white gravel sectors. Despite being called a Classic, this is actually a recent addition. However, it fully meets the criteria for being a Classic race of attrition and is one of our favourites. It also marks the arrival of Wout Van Aert for this season, defending his 2020 title. Have a watch and let us know what you think! Enjoy!