We’re only a few days into the Tour and, so far, there has been a lot of excitement. With the first few road stages of the race in Classic country, the riders have brought the buzz of the Spring Classics to the Tour de France.
The first road stage saw all out racing, similar to that of the spring classics, with a Belgian squad splitting the field in the crosswinds of the Netherlands. The final podium for the stage saw one-day specialists Cancellara and Sagan take the lower steps, with the ‘Gorilla’, Andre Greipel taking the honours. A first stage which would not have been out of place as a monument in the early season. But the Tour’s reference to month number 4 doesn’t end there.
The next stage would surely have greeted the riders with sore legs, after the previous day’s efforts. And a route map showing the steep gradients of the Ardennes Classic Fleche Wallonne may have been met with a groan on the team bus. The finish saw the riders tackle the infamous Mur de Huy. A 1.3km climb with a maximum gradient of 19%. A climb that always sees the worlds punchiest climbers leading the charge, in the month of April. The stage was won by Joaquim Rodríguez, a previous winner of Fleche Wallonne, with a perfectly timed attack on the steep gradients. At this point, I’m thinking I’d better check my calendar…
We then move to stage 4. Stage 4 featured the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. The Hell of the North. The roads of one of cycling’s toughest races. Though, yet again, it wasn’t just the organisers route plan that brought the monuments to July, it was the riders. Grand Tour specialists racing over the pave, shoulder to shoulder with riders 20kgs heavier who have made their names on such terrain. The thinning of the group on each section, riders picking their own line through the cobbles and team helpers lining the roads with bottles and spare wheels aloft. It was April all over again.
The Spring classics are among my favourite races of the year. When each April passes I look forward to next year’s instalment. However, four days into the Tour I feel like I have been gifted it all again. A bit like a second Birthday. Let’s just hope the great racing continues for the remaining 17 stages! All that is certain is that this year’s Maillot Jaune will have to be a true all-round cyclist.