Cycling News

The Paterberg Is Fine! And More Notes From the Fenced-Off Gutters of Flanders

106th Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres 2022 - Men’s Elite

Welcome to Cobbles Season! This is my 18th year of saying this, and probably a good ten years since anyone needed reminding. We all know what’s about to go down. The next several weeks will see a widening war for supremacy across the cobbles of Belgium, France and the Netherlands (mostly Belgium). People will be talking a lot about beer, frites, wheel choices, sportives, and just the passion that makes this time of year so incredible.

In the almost two decades of the Podium Cafe, the Cobbled Classics have evolved into a truly international affair — I’m sure I’ve said this several times before, but the trend continues. The teams from across the Cycling landscape keep getting deeper, the athletes keep pushing the envelope, and the sponsor interest grows alongside it all. If you want to point to a downside, you could say that the Belgian presence has been diluted a bit as of late, but not that much, unless you want to go back a few decades to when the home country dominated and the rest of the world just sort of raised half an eyebrow. Now riders from all over are bred in Belgium to love these races, in the junior academies that take advantage of the affordability and the constant races happening to work their kids into shape. Belgium, a small country, might eventually lose its hold on its own races… but yeah, no, probably not.

Up the Oude Kruisberg, Ronse
Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

I do think the first big American victory is drawing near. Yes, Tyler Farrar won the Scheldeprijs, and George Hincapie is considered a former winner of Gent-Wevelgem — back when the race went from Gent to Wevelgem — in spite of his subsequent doping case. So we aren’t literally starting from zero. And I don’t think an American is going to top all that and win de Ronde this year. But it’s been a long time since riders of the caliber we see in EF’s Neilson Powless or Visma’s Matteo Jorgenson were present and challenging for glory on the Cobbles. I do expect results over the next few seasons. And I’m not putting any particular limits on what those results could be.

Early indications are that we will have true spring conditions for the foreseeable future in the region, meaning cooler temperatures, winds playing a role, and even some rain to help paint a real Classics picture.

Disaster Averted

Earlier this winter…

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