The classics season is just about to blossom. It?s vintage-style cycling presented by its true heroes. But what makes a perfect favorite of a cobbled classics?
If you look at the contenders that fight for the win in Tour of Flandres or in Paris-Roubaix, you can see many details that make them unique. They have to unite almost every element of cycling within one person: strength, speed, endurance, and technique. The best sprinter won?t win the Flandres; the winner of the mountainous Ardennes classics will be defeated by strong and tall Belgians when they hit tempo on the wet cobbles.
Even if our hero is well-prepared physically, he also needs many years of experience to succeed. To be efficient on the kasseien you have to be either born in Flandres or spend many years there racing, getting used to all of its specificity. And even that?s not enough: you have to be able to ?read the race? properly, take the risk when necessary and save your energy everywhere else.
What?s more, in the Classics, you heavily depend on your team. It has to be as strong as you are and without any weak links. The leader itself needs a fellow who is able to stay with him during the hardest moments and share his wheel or even the whole bike when his captain has a mechanical issue or a puncture. Also, a few powerhouses who can set tempo or chase the breakaways are nice to have. The last piece of a puzzle is having a guy who will sacrifice himself and make the suicidal move to force other teams to work extra and waste their energy. In such systems, even the strongest individual won?t win anything.
Last but not least is the equipment. Bikes prepared for the cobbled classics vary from those used during the rest of the season. Wheels are the most important. They need to be durable (and in recent years also aerodynamic), but first of all they have to be bombproof. That?s why the cycling stars use special tubulars for the classics: handmade by a talented craftsman (or even an artist). Those tubulars cost a fortune, are produced almost as a single unit and are available only upon special request. There are also other details that make all the difference: softer handlebar tape or even a custom made frame with more clearance left for a tire stuck with mud. All that stuff is needed only for a few days a year to give the cobbles heroes a chance to make history.