The NCAA basketball tournament is winding down (or coming to its climax depending on your point of view), which means April is here and the real racing season is getting under way … that is cycling’s one day spring Classics season. Five one day “classics”, major races which unlike the Grand Tours, which take 3 weeks are under way. In a grand tour, recovery is key for the riders. There’s always tomorrow, you can’t dig too deep, go too hard, because you have to recover to race and ride hard tomorrow. On the one day classics, that’s not the case. You can ride easy, sleep in, tomorrow. But today, there’s a race to ride.

The first of the classics has already run, in Italy (Milan-San Remo). Tomorrow the first of the somewhat more grueling races in Northern Europe are about to commence. The Tour of Flanders is a 260 km (~160 mile) race over short sharp hills mixed with cobbles. The weather tomorrow promises wind, rain, and cold. Tomorrows race includes the Koppe:

Then it is on to the Koppe, the Koppenberg. This climb was made famous by Jesper Skibby when he almost got crushed by the race director’s car in 1987. It has been in and out of the race the last few years. The initial route announcement earlier in the year had not made space for the monster, which rises at a maximum gradient of 22%. Eventually, though, it was put back in – to the delight of the protagonists.

A 22% grade is difficult to walk up, much ride a bike up it, much less race that bike up that hill. Additionally, it turns out, the road isn’t just on a rediculous 22% grade, it’s narrow and uneven. Which means if you want to not lose minutes you have to be in the front and not behind any riders who have trouble. But … remember it’s not just one person that wants/needs to be at the front to have a chance to win … there are 25 teams of 8 riders each in the race. They all want their rider and hopefully one or two support riders to help in in the “break” at the front. That means in the miles coming up to each of the obstacles like the Koppe the pressure at the front as every team tries to position its riders to the front to the race means … well the pace will be murderous.  Read here for more.

Filed under: CultureMark O.Sports

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