Road BOOK RETROSPECTIVE
Each year we at The Road Book immortalise the results of races large and small, embellished with the words of those who race them, and those who write about those who race them. Indeed, one of our favourite past times at the top secret RBHQ is picking up past editions and leafing through, reminiscing over moments which shocked us, warmed us and re-affirmed our love for the sport. With this in mind, and with the “Classics” now upon us, we asked our editor, Ned Boulting, to have a look back over the last 5 years and the last 5 Road Books, to pick out a few of his favourite “Classics” related pieces. Here is what Ned had to say:
“One of the vagaries of road racing is the important term “Classics”. On the one hand, it is replete with meaning, and any tarmac and cobbles-hardened devotee of the sport will instantly summon up a sense of meaning on the very mention of the word. But, on the other hand, it is a rag-tag lucky dip of a concept. When the word is filed down, it simply means an important one-day race. No matter that some of these races rip through grey and brown Flemish villages in the sleet, while others skirt elegantly around the shores of Lake Como in honeyed autumnal sunshine. For, after all, what has the Ligurian coast got in common with the Ardennes to the south of Brussels? Both landscapes host “Classics”.
The joys of these races are summoned up in manifold different ways. They are LONG, for a start. And they are stand-alone events, which leads to many of the riders simply giving up and stepping off once they are either out of contention, or their job has been fulfilled. There is no tomorrow to consider. It is all or nothing. And for that reason they offer distinctively differing tactics, due largely to the placement of traditional, and therefore familiar obstacles, such as the Kwaremont, the Arenberg Trench or the Poggio. They are distillations often of the culture of the landscape through which they pass: the Elegance of Milano Torino versus the Brutality of the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
At some ill-defined point in relatively recent times, a group of “Classics” raised their proud heads above the rest and became known as “Monuments”. No one knows how, when or why this became the case. But, as if forming a European Super League, five races broke clear of the rest; two in Belgium, one in France and two in Italy. Other venerable affairs were left out of this vague club – Paris Tours, for example, and Omloop Het Niewsblad. These are now loosely referred to simply as “Classics”, or “Semi-Classics” (in case of races like Scheldeprijs, or Tro-Bro Léon). Other races simply appear on the calendar and attain the status of “Unofficial Monument”, such as Strade Bianche. It’s a glorious mess.
Picking writers to delve into this monumental semi-chaos has been one of the great pleasures of editing the Road Book. On six occasions winning riders have written their own accounts of their victories for us, in their words: champions like Lizzie Deignan, Wout van Aert and Philippe Gilbert. While, some of the very best cycling journalists on the planet have applied themselves to mysteries such as “why does no one like Nicki Terpstra?” and “How the hell did Mathieu Van Der Poel win the 2019 Amstel Gold Race?”
Here are a few excerpts from this collection of writing; moments and observations, for you to savour.” NB
2018 Harry Pearson – ‘Friendless in Flanders: The Curious Case of Niki Terpstra’
2019 Michael Hutchinson – ‘Painting (A Masterpiece) By Numbers’
Philippe Gilbert – In The Winners’ Words
2020 Wout van Aert – In The Winners’ Words
2021 Thomas van den Spiegel – ‘The Racemaker’
Jasper Stuyven – In The Winners’ Words
Lizzie Deignan – In The Winners’ Words
2022 Ed Pickering – ‘Paradigm Shift: What the 2022 Tour of Flanders Tells Us About Cycling’
Matej Mohorič – In The Winners’ Words
Over the next few weeks, we will post each of his selected essays in full right here on the Journal. If you can’t wait that long, then pick up a copy of The Road Book from our shop: https://www.theroadbook.co.uk/shop/
Use the coupon code: RETROCLASSICS for a 10% discount.