I don’t know about you, but I was excited for the Omloop/K-B-K weekend. Despite all the races that come before those two, in my mind the season really begins on those crappy weathered, Belgian roads. These are minor races, diminished further by the proliferation of warm-weather rides that take place in January and February. They’re not classics, by any stretch, but to me, they are, in fact, classic.
One new race, and the one we’re talking about today, that I find fully worthy of spring classics season is the Montepaschi – Strade Bianchi, or L’Eroica, a rambling race over technical terrain that includes many kilometers over the famed white gravel roads of Tuscany. This is a race that serves up the same kind of riders-spattered-with-mud photographs that we all love from the actual spring classics.
Also interestingly, MSB is a race that almost immediately captured the imaginations of the pro riders themselves. Inaugurated in 2007, MSB draws a very impressive field and boasts some big name former winners, including Fabian Cancellara (2008).
Who will win? Tell us. Win RKP stickers.
Of course, Strade Bianchi is a Saturday race. On Sunday, Paris-Nice rolls out of Houdan, south of Paris for those of us who still like stage races. The Race to the Sun is usually a big event on the calendar, that intersection sort of race where both grand tour riders and strong one day racers mix it up.
Defending champion Alberto Contador has chosen to ride elsewhere, so look for riders like Peter Sagan, looking to cement his status as a big, young star, Fränk Schleck, Luis Leon-Sanchez and Heinrich Haussler to ride strong, but really there a dozen or more potential winners this year. With a longer time trial and some more difficult climbing, the odds are probably more with an experienced stage racer than someone who is simply strong over this sort of terrain.
That’ll make it much harder to predict, but go ahead and try.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International