March – the end of the Northern Hemisphere winter. Remember how that warm sun feels on your face? The smell of freshly cut grass? The daffodils lining the sides of motorways? The newborn lambs playing in the fields? The wicked vibrations transported from the bars to your fingertips, through your hands and down along your arms, sending your body into spasm as you race across the cobbles at 50 kilometres per hour?
No, not that last one?
For cycling fans, March is about so much more. The Spring is when the cycling season comes alive. Sure, there have already been races, and increasing cycling’s global appeal is no bad thing, but with all due respect to the Tour Down Under and the races in the Middle East, Spring is when the cycling season really kicks into gear, changes to the big ring and puts in a ferocious attack that leaves even the toughest Belgians weak at the knees.
Opening Weekend kicks us off and gives fans and riders the first taste of cobbles, a mere appetizer of what is to follow. Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico tell us which grand tour GC men are already in form. The big classics start and come thick and fast from the end of March. San Remo, Flanders, Roubaix, Amstel, Liege. It’s enough to make the head spin. So many amazing stories about to unfold before our eyes. So many emotions. So much hope and speculation….
Heroes and villains
Cycling’s past will linger a little and there may be unpopular winners on occasion, but as the 2014 season approaches a key period, it’s not just the crisp Spring air that’s refreshing. There’s a positive feeling around cycling right now. We’re clearly in a time where riders are more outspoken about their sport’s past and more certain of its present. Anybody who witnessed Daniel Martin cross the line in Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year after a brilliantly played out finale couldn’t help but give a little fist pump, if not for the man’s victory, than for what that victory signified. Proof, it would seem, that our investment is being paid out with champions the fans deserve.
And so it is that we arrive again in March, where we’ll stand on the roadsides, we’ll shout at TV’s, we’ll stream races in the office while the boss is away. Remember to get on your bike, ride your own mini-classics in the sunshine, picture your own name painted on the road as you put minutes into that pensioner in the wheelchair. Spring is finally here so breathe it in, savour the feeling and most of all, enjoy the cycling!
Milan – San Remo 2015: Route maps, height profiles, and more
Click on the images to zoom
Start and finish at Google Maps
Milan – San Remo Tweets
How MSR was won in 2014