Your Guide to the Spring Classics

Spring is a fairly exciting time for most, because it represents the beginning of another cycle of life — the renewal that comes after desolate, lonely Midwestern winters turn to rain and 60-degree days. You can try that garden again; you can get outside more. You can give losing those beach pounds another try. And perhaps, most importantly, you can start the process of fooling yourself into thinking the Cubs will win it all this year. I mean, really believing it — really believing it in your subconcious to the point where you avoid saying things to jinx it, because this could really be it, and you could be the asshole to ruin it all by saying something as innocuous as, “Those bats are looking pretty hot right now,” over dollar PBRs, when you should have been drinking Old Style.

Well, I’m not going to do it this year — do you hear me, Lou? — I’m not going to do it, goddammit. I’m not going to memorize the game schedule in 2-week increments, and listen to the official podcast like it holds the secret to immortality. I’m not going to sing “Go Cubs Go,” no matter how many times Reed Johnson hits a walkoff pinch hit homerun to win the game and the ravenous fans tear Wrigleyville apart (even though most of the people at the game don’t even know who’s playing). Sure, you’ll probably win the division, but you’ll just get into the playoffs and mess it up. Do something like ringing up 4 errors in one inning — four fucking errors, one after another! My little league team never even did that.

So… spring. A wonderful time to be alive. Oh yeah, it’s also the start of cycling’s Spring Classics, a handful of races that will help you forget all about a particular team that shall not be named again.

While grand tours like the Giro and the Tour de France are the most followed in and outside of the cycling world (likely the only times you’ll read about bike racing in the sports pages), the Spring Classics are a chance to see the sport in its purest, rawest form.

Officially kicking off with the Milan-San Remo in mid-March and rolling  into late April, the Spring Classics have, for the most part, existed since the start of cycling itself (the Milan-San Remo has existed since 1905, for example). Considering that cycling to this day lacks a major organizing body, each race has developed its own unique brand of history and folklore, not to mention a litany of ways to break cyclists phsyically and mentally.

The Tour of Flanders (the Belgian equivalent of the Super Bowl) will pit riders against merciless cobble-paved hills and equally rabid Belgian cycling fans; the Amstel Gold will burn the legs with over 30 hills to climb; and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege’s frequently terrible weather (it was known as the “snow-Bastogne-snow” in the 1980 race) will test riders and make legends — cycling god Eddie Merckx has five Liege titles to his name.

Perhaps one of the most exciting races of the Spring Classic lineup is April 12th’s Paris-Roubaix, which BBC reporter, Alex Murray, has described perfectly (without using the word “masochist,” no less):

Paris-Roubaix is known as “The Hell of the North” through its close association with the battlefields of World War One and for the sheer brutality of the cobbled “pavé” sections which make it so unique. There is no hill of note, but the toll on riders is enormous – some regard finishing it as achievement enough

Take a look at the Hell of the North in this classic clip (thanks YouTube!), complete with cobbles and mud:

[side note: If you’re unsure of why cobblestones happen to be such kyrptonite to cyclists, wait until it rains and then find a stretch of them near your house. Ride your bike over them. Lose all traction and fall down. Repeat.]

[Cobbles and Hills – via BBC Sport]


2 Responses to “Your Guide to the Spring Classics”

  1. 1 britt
    April 1, 2009 at 2:45 am

    The Cubs…….. They will do it.

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