Saturday, April 2, 2011

The *King* of the Classics

If you're a racing fan (and a traditionalist), you're supposed to light on fire every year for Paris-Roubaix. I like Paris-Roubaix; I've seen a few of them, and they're fun. I even have the documentary, a great piece of work. But the races I've seen don't hold a candle to those fabled, mud-spattered, gore-fests of yore. And the terrain... it's too wide-open, somehow inaccessible.

As far as I'm concerned, you're not a classics fan unless you know by heart how to spell the Tour of Flanders in Flemish.

The Ronde van Vlaanderen is intimate, intense, fast; more small-town Belgium than epic France. The hills are bite-sized; maybe it's because they're like the terrain here in Massachusetts that I can feel the quad-burn of the climbing in this race more vicariously. And, then there's what the younger set, the illiterati, call an "added bonus:" smaller hills means witnessing tough climbs happen at a ridiculous pace.

And while the Queen of the Classics is known for its cobblestones, don't you miss the pavé sections tomorrow -- they're juicy, jolty and jumbled, every bit the real thing.

Finally. There are. The. Fans.

It would be hard to name one country the most rabid cycling nation in the world, but if Belgium ain't the most feared contender, I'll eat Eddy Merckx' 1970 bike shorts (don't forget: made of wool and real leather chamois). A peek at last year's edition bears sufficient witness:

Cancellara soaks in the Flandrian atmosphere

Need I say more?

Just pray that the Internet gods allow 1) a decent feed site, and 2) sufficient bandwidth tomorrow morning, or you'll hear my scream of pain from one end of the state to the other.

For extra-genuine flavor, throw a paper cone of pomme frittes in the air when Cancellara breaks the tape -- again.

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