No more cobbles


The mania for medieval roads is over. There might be one or stretches to come in the weeks and months, but gone are the races where cobbled climbs and farm tracks are the strategic points. Now the races begin to head to the hills and by the end of the month, the mountains. This isn’t to say we’ve not had hilly races, more that the focus of the sport has been on the Belgian classics instead of races like the Tour of the Basque country or Giro dell’Appennino. This is now about to change. The climbs are coming.

Camembert Lepetit
Since 1943

This week sees a couple of revenge races for riders in peak form still hunting for a win and face-saving moments for teams who have lost out. Yes some hilly classics are to come but some riders and teams know they just aren’t suited to these events. First up on Tuesday there’s Paris-Camembert, a tough little one day race with some small hills that are murs towards the end. This race has the distinction of the longest ongoing race sponsorship, cheese maker Lepetit has backed the race since 1943.

There’s also the Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday, also known as the Flèche Brabançonne. Last year winner Sébastien Roessler won to relieve Team Radioshack of a lot of pressure after they’d been near-invisible during the classics campaign, this year look to Quick Step, Sky, Vacansoleil, BMC Racing and Rabobank to work for the win. The course is again hilly but often ends in a sprint. It’s also a symbolic moment, using the Brabant region south of Brussels that stradles from Dutch-speaking Flanders to French speaking Walloonia because eyes now turn to the Walloon region of Belgium and the upcoming Ardennes classics.

Netherlands map

Next Sunday sees the Amstel Gold Classic in the Netherlands. Holland might be famous as a flat land where a quarter of the country is located below sea level but this corner but See that finger pointing south in between Germany and Belgium? That’s where the hills are, some short and steep hills make for furious racing. We’ll see a new cast of riders. One to watch is Damiano Cunego, he made the winning break of seven riders in the Giro dell’Appennino 2011, with no less than four riders from the Androni Giocattoli team… yet he beat them all.

All change
This is a week of transition where the racing goes from cobbles to hills. A new cast of riders will appear, indeed it is now holiday time for many riders who will take a break from a block of racing that may well have started in Australia three months ago. In 10 days’ time we’ll get the Flèche Wallonne where we can expect the likes of Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans to tussle for the win. Then comes Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a one day monument with as much climbing as an Alpine stage of the Tour de France. Then it’s over to the Alps for the Giro di Trentino and the Tour de Romandie, where the Alpine stage races begin. The Giro d’Italia is less than four weeks away.

9 thoughts on “No more cobbles”

  1. Although given Cunego’s involvement in the Mantova investigation, we can hope he is near invisible over the next couple of weeks until prosecutions are brought

  2. Brabantse Pijl will go to one of the guys that crashed out of Roubaix. Revenge consolation of sorts.

    Wow, Cunego took on 4 Androni’s.
    Savio probably sent his boys out for an extra 100k in the dark as reward for their miscue.

  3. @Starr: sounds like Dutch Championship last year. Niki Terpstra vs. Rabobank, the look on the faces of weening and Boom on podium said everything.

    Anyway, I am really looking forward to the Amstel. Directly in my training grounds it is a great spectators’ race. Thanks to uncountable loops and turns and direction changes the race happens to happen in an relatively small area. Thanks to this fact one can easily watch the race at several points and have an a nice bike trip at the same time.
    I also hope to ride to Huy this year and check out either the Redoute or The Stockeu (Hello Eddy Merckx).

  4. I’ll be heading down to watch Amstel. I am hoping for some great racing and perhaps a Cancellara who is ready to find some redemption.

  5. We’ll have to be satisfied with CyclingTV (as we were for P-R) for these next few Sundays. Then it’s over to UniversalSports for the start of the Giro! Better yet, I plan to BE on the Colle Finestre May 28 to see it live. Look for details on the CycleItalia blog.

  6. @Scott: off-topic indeed, but the only reason Nuyens did not start in Paris-Roubaix was because he hadn’t been preregistered for this race. So when Morkov crahed out in a freak accident shortly before the race, Nuyens was inclined to replace him as a helper for the team, but he simply wasn’t allowed because of this.

  7. I love the Ardennes classics – the big bruisers of the cobbled classics largely disappear, replaced by a cast of skinny dudes all trying to kill one another. It’s fun to watch, and the races run through a pretty amazing part of the world. The sheer insanity of the bike racers flashing through hedgerows and dodging cars parked on the side of the (very narrow) road makes for an awesome spectacle. I’m looking forward to it.

  8. No more cobbles. *sad face*

    The Flanders/cobbled style of racing – they way the races pan out and are decided – are by far and away my favourite.

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