The 2009 Ronde de Vlaandrenen (Tour of Flanders) ran today. For those the don't follow professional bicycle racing, the Tour of Flanders is the first, and perhaps one of the truest of the Spring classics. I've been waiting at least a month for the Classics to start, and I hoisted The Lion of Flanders Flag at the house to mark the occasion.
Classics are fun to watch - these are typically long, one-day races that really test each rider. The Ronde, like many of the classics, is brutal - it's got some awful climbs (sometimes pros walk up them), often the weather is cold and wet, and they race on cobble stones for a good part of the way.
I have ridden on cobblestones; I cannot imagine racing on them. I don't even like riding on the bumpy part of the West River Parkway, for God's sake. There's a stretch of cobbles on the north side of the Stone Arch bridge that I have also sampled on many occasions - try these (at over 25 mph and 100 psi for extra credit) and see what I mean. To rides miles and miles on these things, at speeds that I can barely attain on a good day, would be difficult to say the least.
The roads used for many of the Classics also get very narrow. As anyone who has been on a fast group ride can attest, it's sometimes hard to find a place to be in a pack of riders. That's particularly true when everyone is hammering along and the roads narrow. To race up these kinds of roads just makes my head spin.
Stijn Devolder won the Ronde today. He's the former Belgian national champion, so all is right in the world tonight, and this is his second win of the Ronde (second in two years, as a matter of fact). Here's the full story from Pez. A tip of the hat to every last guy that finished this race.
Next week brings us Paris- Roubaix, another legendary race.
In my book, this beats baseball any day.