“For a Belgian, win the Flanders for the first time is much more important
than wearing the yellow jersey in the Tour” – Johan Museeuw
The first of the Great Northern Classics, the Tour of Flanders. The steep walls and cobblestone roads under the wheels that do not give you a moment’s peace. 250 kilometers of suffering on dips, often with adverse weather, the rain, the cold. The May 25, 1913 on the start line there are 37 runners, ready to face 330 kilometers. With a short break due to the Great War, it is the only race to have been run during the period of World War II. Since 1919, it runs continuously on the first Sunday of April. Those who has tried it knows that it is a race like any other, the route shakes you from head to foot for more than five hours, if you are among the strongest. Each curve is a snare, every stone a possible cause of falling. Hell, as Hinault said. Italians have always distinguished themselves as great specialists, Fiorenzo Magni firstly, Moreno Argentin, Gianni Bugno, Michele Bartoli and then Dino Zandegù, all winners. Magni winning three editions earned the nickname of “Lion of Flanders”. His epic victory in 1951, was his third in a row. Nobody ever managed to do better. Other riders have won three editions, nobody has managed to break the record of Magni. A race so difficult that even Eddy Merckx has struggled for winning.
Every April the Fleche Wallonne takes place. Since 1936, when it was organized to increase sales of a sports newspaper, called “Les Sports”. In recent years, starting from Charleroi, to get to Huy. A race that Italians have always liked a lot: three successes of Moreno Argentin, three of Davide Rebellin, the last one in 2009. The Italians, after the Belgians, are those who have won the most, 18 times. The first was Fermo Camellini in 1948. Coppi won in ‘50. Between 1990 and 1994 we got a series of five victories. Often it is considered as the younger sister of the Doyenne, the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, because the area is the same (we are in the Wallonia region), it runs only a few days before basically in the same roads, the mileage is lower (approximately 200 against about 260 of the Doyenne). Its main feature is the Wall of Huy, a small circuit, uphill, to run three times in succession. And it is there, on that hill, that you can win or get defeated, on those stretches of asphalt that reach also 23%; short climbs, but they can be lethal tear. When you get to that point, you must have “legs” or you have no hope, there are no shortcuts, there is no luck, there is only the strength to get to the top, to the finish line.
“The ascent of Redoute is like Huy Wall, must be approached with a good pace, at the head of the Peloton. The slope is about 14 or 15 percent, and arrives after 220 or 230 kilometers. You don not need to be a genius to realize how difficult it is. “
La Doyenne, not surprisingly. Liege Bastogne Liege. One of the three Ardennes Classics, one of the five Classics Monument, along with the Tour of Flanders, Milano-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix and the Lombardia. It ran the first time in 1892, the route has remained virtually unchanged: it comes down from Liege to Bastogne – about 90 km – and then you go back to Liège for a different path, for another 160 km away. It is called the race of Italians, because of the large Italian community around Liege and also because, as the Fleche Wallonne, after the Belgians, Italians have always been winning, with 12 first places. If Eddy Merckx is the undisputed champion with 5 wins, only one Italian was able to keep up: Moreno Argentin, with four victories between 1985 and 1991 (including three in a row!). To notice that the little big Wladimiro Panizza, a pure domestique, got 3rd in 1974. It is a tough race in many ways: for mileage, for the climbs that come in sequence and do not give you rest and the weather conditions. April can be very variable, in three editions it happened to see snowing. In 1980, as a matter of fact, it began to snow from the Start line and of 174 participating cyclists, only 21 arrived at Finish line. Bernard Hinault, who won that edition, had to wait several days before having back the propert mobility of the fingers. You need to be strong, intelligent and rational. You can not leave anything by chance. It is a complete test of the strength of a cyclist.