Finally. The classics are here.
This weekend brings us Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the opening act in the theater of the classics season. For many of us, it’s our favorite racing of the year. The crowds are immense. The stakes are huge. Monument wins define careers for riders. Mornings watching these races often define pro cycling for fans. We talked a bit with some of the guys this week about Omloop and the classics in general, and we’ll get you up to speed with each member of our cobbled classics group in the coming weeks. Here are a few snippets from our conversations this week looking forward to Omloop.
“The classics races, in many ways, are one of the few disciplines within road cycling that still escape from real control. You can’t put these races in box, either, in a strategic point of view. You can’t drown these races in science. You’ve got to know the races and you’ve got to feel the way the peloton moves. There’s a lot of stuff that you just have to learn. How the roads are. How the wind blows on certain roads. I discovered this last year even as a director. You just have to approach these races differently. Even as a sports director. They’re unique. There’s a big difference having a team there as outsiders and having a team that’s built around strong leaders. So that’s a different way of riding. In terms of the results we’re trying to get, bearing in mind one of the big things we’re trying to do is develop talent in house, it’s going to really accelerate the learning process for our up-and-coming riders. In the same way that Formolo and co. get real benefit from riding with Uran, I think the same can go for the classics riders.”
—Charly Wegelius, director sportif
“I’m not nervous, but I’m really looking forward. Last weeks in Valencia and Algarve were nice to start racing with the guys. The next period is very important, so I’m really motivated to do well! I already have experience in these races, so no reason to get nervous anymore. Excited is a better word. I’m confident that we will perform well in the next weeks.”
—Sep Vanmarcke, winner of OHN in 2012, then with Garmin-Barracuda
Taylor Phinney was set to make his classics debut with the team on Saturday. Unfortunately, he is out due to a small injury to his knee and will be replaced by Ryan Mullen. This is what Phinney said about the team and the cobble classics:
“Preparing with a new team is great, actually. It’s refreshing. I’m excited to try out some new equipment. Different wheels, different tires, different bikes. It’s another added layer of stress, but it’s a good level of nervous that’s positive and motivating and not a distraction. In all honesty, I’m a little intimidated by our classics team, actually. It’s a strong group of dudes. A motivated group of dudes. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but these guys are here for business. And I respect that.
Obviously the squad is bolstered by the addition of Sep and his brother, Ken, as a director. The Vanmarcke brothers are hilarious to imagine as children, with Ken telling Sep what to do all the time because he’s older. And now Ken is actually in a car, on a one-way radio to his younger brother, still telling him what to do. Which I feel like is awesome.
The squad, on top of that is stout. A lot of us were in Algarve together. We rode really well together. I’m still trying to figure out my place. Where I fit in. And I hope to perform at a level at which I can be respected as much as I desire to be respected by my teammates.”
Cannondale-Drapac for 2017 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Tom Van Asbroeck
Dylan Van Baarle