Q: Which Spring Classic Would You Ride, and Why?

Picture this. You are magically given one day to ride with the pros in a spring classic. Which race do you choose? Roubaix? Flanders? Liege? Something different?

Spring classics

Written by
Spencer Powlison

Published on

Posted in
Features

This is the best time of the year to be a bike racing fan. Apologies to the Tour de France, but the spring classics bring an extra element of unpredictability, tension and pure fan fervor (I raise a Duvel to the Belgian hordes). And we are in the thick of it, with the Tour of Flanders coming up April 3.

So the question of the week: A magic wand gets waved. Some incantations are chanted. You get one day as a pro bike racer (with pro fitness) in one of the spring classics. Which race you choose?

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Leave us a comment below explaining which classic you’d pick and why. Next Monday, we'll pick a winner at noon, randomly chosen from the commenters. This week’s grand prize is once again a limited-edition TPC x Lead Out handlebar bag!

At first, this question seems easy and obvious. My gut is to immediately say Paris-Roubaix, the queen of the classics. This brutal one-day race runs across Northern France’s broken cobblestones. It takes on farm roads that aren’t exactly roads — usually only a few tractors make regular use of those paths. Then on a Sunday in April (April 22, 2022, in case you’re wondering), a couple hundred pro cyclists batter their bodies for about 280 kilometers, taking a one-way trip from the Paris suburbs to Roubaix, France.

Sounds fun, right? Maybe not. For my one classics ride, I fear Roubaix would be a little too hard. Not enough opportunities to soak up the ambiance. Plus, to be brutally honest, Roubaix is not Europe’s finest town. The afterparty might leave something to be desired.

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Roubaix is out. What about something on the opposite side of the continent, Milano-Sanremo. Yes, La Classicissima would be a more pleasant day out. It’s the longest classic at around 298km, but it’s not too severe, apart from an early climb up the Turcino and the famous “capi” along the Italian Riviera, culminating in the deceivingly difficult Poggio. The trouble is, there aren’t enough opportunities for heroics. Most of Sanremo is raced in the peloton. There is one early attack, and then the favorites smash the final 20km. Sometimes it merely comes down to a bunch sprint. I want a race with some chances to roll the dice.

Further in the future, Liege-Bastogne-Liege is also a worthy spring classic, another “monument” (as are Roubaix and Sanremo) — that’s what they call the longest, oldest, most prestigious classics races. Liege is one for the climbers. In fact, I’ve ridden some of the route, including a few of the famous climbs, like La Redoute. I think Liege is also out, however, because it’s in the Wallonian region of Belgium, not the cycling-mad Flanders region. Trust me, there’s a big difference. Plus, like Roubaix, the finish town vibes of industrial Liege, leave something to be desired.

There are a number of other classics that are perhaps a half-rung lower than those three too, and also worthy races: E3 is considered a mini-Tour of Flanders; Gent-Wevelgem is a sprinter-friendly classic; Amstel Gold Race and Fleche-Wallonne kick off the hilly Ardennes classics, which culminate at Liege.

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I don’t think there’s any way around it, though. The one spring classic I’d have to ride would be Tour of Flanders, a.k.a. Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Okay, this pick is a bit obvious, maybe even basic, but come on. Flanders, Belgium is cycling’s heartland. The level of fan support is second to none. The terrain is pastoral, beautiful, yet unrelenting. The cobblestones are tough but not agricultural. Just consider the line-up of climbs: Muur van Geraardsbergen, Koppenberg, Taaienberg, Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg. I’d take a flight to Brussels just for a chance to ride only one of those legendary cobbled bergs. Plus the racing action itself is unpredictable and wild. It’s not a grueling slugfest like Roubaix, it’s not a waiting game like Sanremo, and it’s not a pure test of climbing talent like Liege. Flanders encourages unpredictable action, bold attacks, and smart tactics. It’s pure cycling.

So which race would you pick in this fantasy scenario? Let me know what and why in the comments below!

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