The Classics signify the “real start” to the cycling season. After ceremoniously racing through the desert, the racing really heats up in the North. Cobbles, bergs, helligen, and cold wet, weather exemplify this season that is known for strong men. Seasons will be made, Fantasy teams broken; the classics are here.
Het Volk (February 25)
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Het Volk, as it was (is) affectionately known, is the kickoff to the Belgian season. This cobbled classic through northwest Belgium offers a true physical test for classics riders as they adjust from the desert heat to the cold, wet, European weather. The Omloop is a good predictor of form for the classics season, however, the Omloop winner has never gone on to win the Ronde, despite racing on many of the same roads. Furthermore, the ‘cobbled double” of Omloop-Roubaix has only been done 3 times, last by Johan Museeuw in the year 2000.
Quickstep- Boonen, Stybar, Gilbert, Terpstra
Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne (February 26)
K-B-K is held on the Sunday after the Omloop. Still a hard man’s race, the parcours offer cobbles and climbs but feature a long flat run-in following the final climb at 53 km. Often referred to as the “sprinters classic”, K-B-K generally finishes with a large group, but look out for a breakaway, ala last year’s winner, Jasper Stuyven.
Strade Bianchi (March 4)
Monte Paschi Strade Bianche
Ah, the white roads of Tuscany. The Strade Bianchi is Gregario Forza’s favourite single day classic. The Strade has rose to prominence and is now on the World Tour calendar. This beautiful race starts and finishes in the medieval town on of Siena. The riders race through the hilly Chianti region before finishing on a roughly paved road that climbs into the Piazza del Palio in historic Siena. This race seems tailor-made for the likes of Peter Sagan and GVA.
Forza’s pick: Kwiatkowski
Forza’s drink: Coffee and Baileys
Milano San Remo (March 18)
La Classicissima di primavera
MSR is the first monument of the year. The true classic, this race tends to be won by a sprinter, but he must be strong to survive 300 km along the coast of Italy and climbs up the Cipressa and Poggio before taking on the final sprint into San Remo. La Classicissima di primavera is sure to provide some fireworks.
Forza’s pick: Degenkolb
Forza’s Drink: Mimosa
Dwars door Vlaanderen (March 22)
Dwars door is a semi-classic race that is known mostly for kicking-off Belgium’s Flemish Cycling Week, “Holy Week”. DdV races through the hilly sections of Flanders and is often used to prepare for the Ronde, which takes place just 10 days later. Dwars door is often won by a “rising star” like last year’s winner, Jens Debusschere.
Forza’s pick: Edward Theuns
Forzas Drink: Fair State’s Du Pounde
E3 Harelbeke (March 24)
E3 Harelbeke, nicknamed the little Tour of Flanders, takes place on the Friday before the week of the Ronde. At a distance of roughly 210 km, E3 is shorter than the Tour of Flanders, but uses many of the same roads and heligen as the Ronde de Vlanderen. Serious contenders for Flanders will use this a s the final “testing grounds” for their form and team going into the biggest week of the Classics season.
Forza’s pick: Sagan
Forza’s Drink: Dangerous Man Belgian Table Beer
Gent - Wevelgem (March 26)
In Flanders Fields
On the Sunday before the Tour of Flanders, the Peloton lines up for a jaunt through “Flanders Fields”. Gent-Wevelgem is slightly different than the other Flemish classics as it races through more of West Flanders and Northern France which lends itself to flatter roads and less cobbles. The race does scale three bergs in succession, 3 times, and finishing the hardest climb, the Kemmelburg, with 35 km to go to the finish. The roads here tend to a favor a breakaway group finding glory but don’t be surprised to see a sprinter win from a select group.
Forza’s pick: Kristoff
Forza’s Drink: Dangerous Man Belgian Golden Strong
Ronde van Vlaanderen (April 2)
Tour of Flanders
The race with the most names must be the biggest race on the calendar. It is. The Ronde is the Super Bowl of Cycling, the “grandaddy of them all” on the Flemish Cycling Week, and one of the most tactical, toughest, and honorable events in all of sport. Grab some Frites, Waffles, and Chimay and enjoy the race!
Forza’s pick: GVA
Forza’s Drink: Chimay Trappist Ale
Paris Roubaix (April 9)
The Hell of the North
Queen of the Classics
The Easter race
A Sunday in Hell
L'enfer du Nord
Equal in it’s importance and prestige is the Hell of the North. Paris Roubaix swaps the heligen climbs of Flanders for the cobbled farm roads of Northern France. Racing across some 50+ km of cobbles, Paris Roubaix, on a nice day, is as hard of an effort as an athlete will face. The race concludes in the Roubaix velodrome making for one of the most iconic finishes in all of cycling. This will be Tom Boonen last stand, and I predict, he will go out with Glory. Tommeke, tommeke, tommeke...
Forza’s Pick: Tom Boonen
Forza’s Drink: Summit Maibock