Jumpers for goalposts…
So, the Spring classics are upon us once again. Interspersed with the odd run to the Sun via Paris - Nice and Tirreno - Adriatico stage racing escapades, we are post Australian summer where the Antipodean riders are in shape; pert bottoms, pigeon chests and legs like thunder, whilst the Euro and continental pro’s hope that hill repeats in Majorca or the karaoke laden Tenerife will have paid off. It is however a time for us biking mortals to enjoy and bid a long farewell to the last ravages of winter here in the UK, and, more importantly, it is time to pretend we are professional bike riders, released from the cocoon of winter, stripping our bikes of lights and running wild like dogs let off the leash.
We used to play three and in over at Monks Park playing fields back in the day. Carefree, and in a moment, we were often Bryan Robson, Cyril Regis, Gary Lineker to name but a few - dependant on the finish applied. This outlook has transposed to adulthood on the bike. The Spring Classics are a time of year when you can wear overshoes, leg warmers, weather shielded gloves and the now ubiquitous all weather, short sleeved rain proof style of over top, pretending to be Boonen, Cancellara, Hayman or Stannard, perhaps even Roger Hammond or Sean Kelly if you are of a certain age.
Best of all you can mimic your favourite rider and apply the classics’ riding style to your own. Pretend you are on the hellish cobbles of Roubaix - effectively a farmyard wall laid down as a ‘road’ with pave designed to give the 1800’s working horse and cart traction. Sit up, nurse the bars from the tops, ride full gas, navigate potholes with the wind in your face and get the legs firing tempo as your inner voice talks to you in a faux Belgian accent… “full gas Pedro, here we go, everybody to the front, lets eat some shit…”. You merge with the make believe peloton and open the legs, your Garmin telling you that based on your numbers your purple patch is just around the corner. Your lungs and legs beg to differ. Kevin Keegan, famous for falling off of his bike on Superstars back in 1976 (You-tube it), once said “Sometimes, it is just nice to know where the corner is, let alone what is around it.” We are at the corner.
I have been applying my classics’ ethos down here in South Devon. In my heart I am ready for a podium spot in L’Enfer du Nord or Milan - San Remo, pipping them all at the line.
It is of course very Belgian here in winter. Toothpaste textured dirt all over the roads given the agricultural location and the battered byways. More often than not you are battling Massey Ferguson and Dolly the sheep, rather than pro cyclists, and as such the C and D roads as I label them are agriculturally ragged. This leads me to play professional cyclist quite a lot, dreaming of being good on a bike. Dodging potholes, divots and holes, sat up, spitting out the toothpaste and using the back of the glove to wipe the bottom of the nose clean, orange lenses inserted to brighten a dull day. I love it. It is how I was designed to ride. See you at the finish bike riding. Forget the romance of a mountain top finish ‘til July. Let’s hammer it, snap the elastic and never look back. Spring Classics are for the big boys.
With all this in mind, I rode through a place called Chudleigh last week on a decent 32 miler with my best bike. On the edge of Dartmoor, sandwiched between Plymouth and Exeter, little there other than a tattoo parlour and some local shops for local people that close at lunch time. It turns out that former England football goalkeeper David James lives there in palatial splendour. Reckon I might knock on his door and ask for a game of three and in.
“You be David James, I will be Ian Stannard…!”