Today is March 1. That is a significant date for a lot of reasons.
1. Winter sucks, and somewhere along there in March the beginnings of the end of Winter will happen. A day of 45 degree weather when the snow will clear off the roads, birds return from their southern homes, you can get out for a road ride, a trail will clear within driving distance that we can go and ride a mountain bike etc... You get the picture - Winter, I am breaking up with you. TIme that I start to see other seasons.
2. More importantly, the REAL professional bike racing season starts. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad , KBK, Ghent-Wevelgem, E3 etc... This is what bike racing is all about. This is where hard men like Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddie Merckx, Freddy Maertens, Johan Museeuw, Eddy Planckaert, Jan Raas et al. became heroes.
There absolutely will not be pictures of riders with cute baby kangaroos. I mean, I like kangaroos and koala bears as much as the rest of you, but seriously. No offence to my Aussie friends, that is not bike racing. Riding around in shorts and jersey working on your tan lines in January is not bike racing. Real bike racing should contain a constant risk of hypothermia for riders and fans, brutal cobbles, crazy steep climbs probably littered with those same absurd cobbles, mad spectators, an abundance of roadside purveyors of the only beer that actually counts, glorious frites with mayonaise, horrendous crosswinds on roads and in towns with names that I cannot say. (I mean, If you are not from Belgium what is Flemish anyway?)
This is where it really begins. This is where bicycle racing is real. This is where it all starts for all of us. This is where the men are tough and women are tough also. (They have no choice) I recognize that it’s a big world out there and bike racing happens other places in the world. But, in the end there is only one Belgium. Belgium is the galactic center of cycling afterall. Cycling is somehow in the water here. I think babies are shown how to shave their legs in the hospital, handed a cycling cap and a training program and sent out the door with a learner bike.
The rest of the cycling season could go away forever, and Belgium would not actually change at all. Hordes of crazy fans would still turn out to see their countrymen smash cyclocross races, semi-classics, the classics etc... Those races would just keep on marching. It is a glorious place.
So if you are like me, get the laptop out and figure out all the wonderful places you can stream the races (do yourself a favor and follow one of the Flemish sources, it really does complete the experience), run down to your local beer haunt and clean them out of Leffe or Trappist Ale, learn to make frites, and enjoy. Imagine you are in Oudenaarde, and remember that screaming is well accepted. Listen closely, you can probably hear me.