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Classics Greatness: Whose Records Are In Play?

Classics Greatness: Whose Records Are In Play?

Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen is the day. There is no more talking about the season to come, or people building to this or that goal. It’s all happening in four days, on the “roads” of Flanders. And it’s going to be … probably incredible? Always beautiful. Rarely dull. Something.

When it is over, or maybe a week later following Paris-Roubaix, it will be time to take stock of what this season is about. For now, it seems pretty clear that it’s not a rerun of last year’s March of the Superteam, when Jumbo Visma — now Visma Lease-a-Bike — won arguably the first five Cobbled Classics that matter, from the Omloop through Dwars door Vlaanderen, and then after a brief pause set about winning all three grand tours. There doesn’t seem to be that sort of phenomenon brewing.

Nor does it seem like there will be a wide range of outcomes in the next month, where every race will have an array of contenders from several super-strong teams, just waging total war on each other. We can hope for that — we see you there Lidl-Trek — but it doesn’t feel overly likely.

No, I would say that with the departure of Tadej Pogačar from the Spring Classics (for now) and the ultra-strong performances of Mathieu van der Poel heading into the Ronde van Vlaanderen, it seems like the best way to describe this current Classics Campaign is the March of the Superstars. Sometimes head-to-head, sometimes alternating dominance, but my guess is that it’s going to be a lot of these two from Antwerp to Liège. Maybe a couple Belgians — Wout Sunday, Remco in L-B-L — will interrupt this narrative, and if nothing more we should all be hoping for robust competition at every stop.

But if we don’t get that, might we at least get Greatness? This subject popped into my head today when I saw this:

Pretty hilarious given that Gilbert, you know, won all four… and some other stuff. I did my requisite number of fawning posts over Gilbert’s career accomplishments but I don’t know that I really gave him his due. As someone who once spent an entire week writing long posts about Tom Boonen, and then appending them to his book, I have set a rather high bar for myself when it comes to levels of fawning over classics stars. And by any measure, Gilbert qualifies for such treatment. But first… let me dig down into what historic performances look like. There are a number of versions.

Oh, and one more ground rule — the races worth including in an historic assessment are…

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