Is it me, or is this quickly becoming the longest off-season in the history of professional cycling? Maybe it’s that I was so busy at the end of the summer that I missed the Giro d’Lombardia, but it feels to me like a long time since I watched a road race that mattered, and even the Tour Down Under seems an eon away.
Exacerbating the issue is the Arm(strong)ageddon that has subsumed all the positive things happening in the sport like a wild fire in dry scrub. It’s gotten so I don’t even mind the usual off-season dreck about rider X is looking forward to a strong classics campaign, or rider Y is ready to put last season’s disappointment behind him. I am reading those things now with a keen eye on the future. This is how whalers felt about land sightings, I bet.
The first question I have is: Is it just me? Am I the only one feeling this way? Sure, I am watching cross races and distracting myself with my own off-season adventures, but more than any fall/winter I can remember, I am missing pro road racing.
The second question is: When do you think we’ll have this feeling behind us? I am imagining Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Het Volk will be big races for me. Will they allay this horrible sense of longing, or will it last all the way to the Giro?
This week’s Group Ride is about moving on. What’s it going to take for you to put this whole mess behind you and get back to talking about the races? Or are you over it already, happy to have the brain space for something other than skinny people on plastic bikes? What are you looking forward to for the 2013 season?
Despite all the hullabaloo surrounding the Contador verdict and the Armstrong retirement, I really, really, really needed to focus this week’s Group Ride on something cycling-related, rather legalistic, medicinal or scientific. This need derives not so much from a lack of interest in the former, but rather in a desire to push back the tide of outrage and despair as regards our sport at its pointiest end.
You see, I rode my bicycle this morning. After my plaintive cry of a post earlier in the week, I have been gifted some good weather. Flesh has seen sunlight. Vitamin D has been absorbed. It’s not yet Spring really, but we’ve been given a taste, and for that I am thankful.
So rather than roll around in the misery and controversy, I thought we should talk about riding bikes. After all, as I sped (oh, yes, I sped) across town on my faithful Torelli, neither Alberto nor Lance was riding shotgun. I encountered no blood bags or McQuaids. Cycling, it must be said, doesn’t depend on any of those persons or things.
And so, with all due apology to our readers in the Southern Hemisphere, this week’s Group Ride asks: What are you looking forward to this spring? Is it a long ride, a return to regular training? A big race perhaps? Have you allowed yourself to utter the names Het Volk or Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne yet? Has razor met leg? Is there a new bike in your near future?
Share your hopes and dreams with us. Wax optimistic. Start now.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Het Volk, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Ghent-Ghent, pick your name, just don’t call it a semi-classic. Because, while it lacks the reverence of the monuments, the Ronde, the Paris-Roubaix, et. al., it does take on a special significance merely for opening the Belgian “road” season. By tradition it’s a semi, but in my heart it’s a real classic.
I place road in quotes above, because these cobbled races really sort of mark a transitional state somewhere between ‘cross and the road proper. Yes, there are roads involved. Road bikes are used, but success in these races goes beyond being able to ride a bicycle fast over a paved surface. They are part road race, part bull ride.
And so it begins.
This race has been on since 1945 and only failed to go off three times, all weather-related cancellations, which, in Belgium, is like saying they called it off because there were four horsemen galloping up the Koppenburg. This European winter has been pretty harsh, but we’ll likely get a race in this weekend anyway. I’ve seen that a number of the riders have been spinning around Spain and Italy to top off their training. I wonder what it will be like to step off the plane in Belgium and feel the weather and contemplate the saddle thrashing brutality of race day.
Rather predictably (and mercifully) this week’s Group Ride asks you to pick a winner. Keep in mind that Belgians almost always win this race. In 63 runnings, only nine have been taken by non-Belgian riders, though, in recent years Pippo Pozzato and Thor Hushovd have both claimed the honors.
There are too many potential winners for me to list them all here, which is exciting and saves me a bit of typing. I will ask that in naming your projected winner you give something of your rationale. “He has the best hair,” or “Because he really kicks ass,” are both acceptable, but I’m sure you can do better.
You get extra points (redeemable for blenders or luggage) for naming a winner of the women’s race. You win the day if you can name both in Flemish.
Image courtesy John Pierce, Photosport International