The recent Tour de France and its controversial Stage 9 ‘mini Roubaix’ has had us looking back to our Classics period and some hard to top experiences, in both riding and being part of the incredible atmosphere that Spring brings.
The Classics are one of a kind. How do you really understand just how tough it is until you experience It for yourself? Having the opportunity to ride some of the most famously brutal stretches of cobbles and the gnarliest of Belgian climbs is by no means a pleasant experience, but incredibly exhilarating and ensures a much deeper appreciation for the riders and the level of extreme suffering they will be putting themselves through come race day. It’s one thing to ‘ride’ over them – to then add high speed, unpredictable, often harsh conditions and an aggressive peloton constantly battling and shoulder bumping for position. It’s a whole new extreme.
Professional cyclists are hard as nails and Spring will only prove that further. The Classics ‘fight’ is inevitably always ‘on’ from the gun and there is rarely a moment to ‘sit back’ in the peloton. Nervous energy fills the air and tension is at its peak as riders brace themselves for what’s to come. The peloton is like a never ending swarm of bees as they circle around in the fight for front line, doing their best to keep their team leaders out of trouble. There’s no rest for the wicked and each sector or significant part of the course becomes a test for teams to ‘lead their leaders out’ to ensure prime positioning when hitting the sector or climb. Each team slowly uses up riders or unfortunately hear ‘crash’ on the race radio as riders get caught up in the chaos or bump a shoulder too many – man down. More often than not, you’ll see fallen riders pick themselves back up without so much as a second thought and charge back on their bikes in pursuit of the race; blood stained, ripped clothes the norm. They’re like warriors and when game face is on, this is war. Gradually the field whittles down, eventually leaving the strongest to battle it out for honours, providing jaw-dropping entertainment as they attack and attack until there can be no more. Adrenaline and elation pumping, the winner fists their arms into the air and a new legend is crowned.
Once you’ve had a taste of the Classics by bike for yourself, you have your new level of appreciation for the riders and can go and truly be part of the Classics atmosphere. Rain, hail or shine – the crowds, the passion and the genuine love for the sport will always be there lining narrow road after road, flags held high, beer and frites in hand. In Belgium, they live and breathe cycling from a young age. The passion is almost comparable to being in Liverpool at a football game, except fans are road side rugged up in the cold and although they’ll likely only see their idols zip by once or twice, they’re grinning from ear to ear all day long, simply buzzing to be there.
Come the finish and no matter who wins or whatever the outcome, the atmosphere explodes and cheers of delight fill the air. Their appreciation and passion for cycling is impressive and to be part of it is an indescribable feeling.
You really haven’t experienced cycling yet until you have lived been part of the Spring Classics!
In 2019 Mummu Cycling will be running a variety of Spring Classics experiences, led by 2007 Paris Roubaix winner Stuart O’Grady. You will ride the most iconic cobbled sectors and Classics stretches, experience the sensational atmosphere for yourself and meet a legend or two along the way. Trips will range from 4 to 11 days and feature the famous Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix or alternatively, the Ardennes Classics.