Malliot Blanc Column by Toby Miles - Why I love the Spring Classics
PUBLISHED: 14:20 23 April 2018 | UPDATED: 14:20 23 April 2018
Read Toby Miles' Malliot Blanc Column as the 18-year-old aspiring professional cyclist offers his insight into what inspires him to aim for the top.
Each week I write at the top of this column that I am an aspiring professional cyclist. Well, the races that I dream of are the Spring classics.
The ‘classics’ are the mythical single day races in Belgium, northern France and Holland, starting with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February, ending with Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which I managed to catch on TV after I’d raced that morning on Sunday.
To many enthusiasts, they’re the highlight of the season, but outside of the sport, the classics lie firmly in the colossal shadow of the Tour de France.
Each classic covers much more than 100-miles, with the inaugural edition of races like Paris-Roubaix reaching back to the nineteenth century. With courses hardly changed since the Second World War, they’ve created legends from men and turned useless cart tracks, residential streets and rarely used back lanes into iconic battlegrounds over the course of more than a century.
They’re won by the hardmen of the peloton, mostly Belgians, often from the beating heart of our sport: Flanders. The strongmen you’ll see protecting leaders like Chris Froome at the Tour de France in July were likely scrapping for the win in baltic temperatures in early Spring.
Sitting down to watch the likes of the Tour of Flanders, Strade Bianche or Amstel Gold are some of the most exciting days of the year for me. Even sat on the sofa, the buzz as the top cyclists in the world swing onto the famous sections of the race sends shivers, as the crowd’s roar almost drowns out the commentators voice.
With the winner decided after only one-day’s racing, with no following stages to make amends like in the Tour de France, each tactical decision is high stakes and riders hold nothing back. Luck is somewhat of a leveller in these racestoo, meaning the strongest is far from guaranteed to win.
I hope the classics never change. The way the tradition of the races has survived is unique in sport and the brutality of the courses would have been watered down anywhere else.
It’s perfect. Each year I watch, on the edge of my seat as the colour and intricacy of the race floods through the TV, thinking: could I do that one day?
It would be an un-imaginable honour to start a classic. Riding in the wheel tracks of Eddy Merckx, Peter Sagan and Greg Lemond is what drives me to continue aiming high and tackle each hurdle I come to on my journey.
For now, I’ll keeping tackling those hurdles and training hard, with the commentary of iconic moments in the classics running through my mind as inspiration.