A week for the hard men of cycling.
In some way, reiterated and reflected 1,000 times Flanders can never be dissociated from the loss of innocence. Out in the fields and the lanes it’s impossible to avoid the carefully manicured meadows of white crosses, some glaring contrast to the chaos and violence that begat them.
Scanning the rows of names for some familiarity or comfort, some lesson learnt or hope gained, in no way aids the comprehension, but rather enhances some strange nobility. The young and the old laid waste side by side in life and death.
Is this the sombre note that adds so much to Flanders Week - the traversing of the fields and hills so critical in their minutiae and hard won yards? So punishing of any mistake?
In contrast the multi-cultural blend of the peloton - young men linked by loyalties and complexities other than petty nationalism. A gaudy train of glory hunters none the less - not cowering to avoid attention, but showing and working to catch the eye.
The freshness of spring and the new racing season herald some strange hope, some harbinger of heroes, life after winter and a return to the inhospitable yet familiar. An inspiration for us, the amateurs, overcome the cold, spin your wheels, the Spring Classics are here!