2/28/2024 – Alex Filippov


Professional cyclists spend months training for the spring classics, which are among the most challenging and thrilling races in the world. Rain, fog, cross-winds, tricky navigation, the full-on nature of the races, as well as crashes make the Spring Classics so intense.

“The stress Spring Classic races bring is unlike any other race on the calendar.”

– George Hincapie, winner of Gent-Wevelgem (2001) and 2nd at Paris-Roubaix (2005)

So how do pro riders prepare for such an event? Is it even possible to prepare for the Spring Classics? Here’s what pro riders do to make their suffering a little less intense and what you can include in your daily rides to massively improve your skills.

Mix up your rides as much as possible

You need to be mentally and physically prepared to handle sudden changes in weather and traction to even finish the race. Climbing and defending your position is never an easy task. It’s quite another to do that on cobbles, with crosswinds that try to toss you into a ditch, while you’re wet and cold.

It is not uncommon for pro riders to enter cyclocross and gravel races before the spring season begins so they can become accustomed to different surfaces, weather, and short slippery climbs.

Consider signing up for local races outside your typical cycling style. This will improve your mental stamina and handling skills. You could also try to ride more in rainy and windy conditions.

Climb on less-than-fresh legs

Do you consider yourself a good climber? Good. Now imagine that you’re climbing shoulder-to-shoulder with 40 other racers on wet cobbles, swaying from side to side as your back wheel slips constantly, and you clench your teeth in anticipation of a crash.

When it comes to spring classics, climbing is a whole different game. Racers turn on their afterburners several minutes before the climb actually starts to win a tiny bit of extra room and avoid colliding with other riders while going up a 20% climb.

The next time you’re riding and approaching a climb, imagine you’re in a group that you need to get rid of. Attack the climb five minutes before it starts and you’ll notice how weird it is to have your legs burning at the start of a climb. Make it a habit and eventually, you’ll be unstoppable if you ever enter a race like this.


Know the route like the back of your hand

Belgian, Dutch, and French riders have one big advantage – a lot of Spring Classic routes pass through their hometowns. They know every road by heart. In every section, they and their teammates know which side of the cobbled road to take. They know where to avoid slippery tram tracks and drain grates, and where each pothole or construction site is. Plus, they are aware of all little-known paths along the side of the road they can use in case of pile-ups or crowds.

“If you don’t know the course, you’re out.”

– Lance Armstrong on the importance of having course intelligence during the Spring Classics.

So here’s a tip for your next adventure: Google maps the hell out of your planned route, so tape a cheatsheet to your stem or top tube, and minimize the chances of mishaps. Better yet, try making friends with some local riders and use their knowledge of the area to make your rides safer and more fun.


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