There's an amusing story that pops up this time of year about how, the Monday after Roubaix, the Brussels airport is crammed with members of the elite professional racing scene coming and going. The Cobbled Classics riders are off to southern Europe or the States or wherever, to rest and dry out, while the climbers are arriving in droves to prepare for the second half of the April Classics season in the Ardennes.
A great image, but is it entirely true? Not if the organizers of tomorrow's Scheldeprijs semi-Classic have any say.
Traditionally landing between P-R and Amstel Gold, the Scheldeprijs marks the closing of the cobble season. The name is literally Dutch for the Schelde Prize, honoring one of Europe's most strategically significant waterways, and the Scheldeprijs is actually Flanders' oldest bike race -- 94 years now, six years older than the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Flanders' Super Bowl.
The quick skinny, and resources...
- The race has an official site, linked above and here again. It's pretty much all in Flemish, but the links on the right side are handy enough even for the Fleming-challenged among us; keep clicking til something looks recognizable.
- The official site lists, of course, the past winners: Thorwald Veneberg last year, Boonen the year before, and other modern luminaries like Robbie McEwen, Franck Vandenbroucke, Erik Zabel, Peter Van Petegem, Servais Knaven... and Mario Cipollini twice. Going back further, Merckx, De Vlaeminck and Godefroot won once each, Rik Van Looy twice, and without counting too closely it looks like the only treble-winner is Piet Oelliebrandt, in the early 1960s.
- Oh and the parcours map or profile. There are two circuits of cobbles in Wijnegem, pretty close to the finish, and apparently a climb or two early on. But if Mario Cipollini got towed over them to victory twice, that's your guarantee that whatever hills and cobbles are there don't break up the pack much.
- My favorite website ever, CyclingStartLists.com, has... wait for it... Tomorrow's start list! Past winners Boonen, Knaven, Van Petegem, VanDenBroucke and McEwen are all signed up, along with last year's runner up Tomas Vaitkus, Nico Eeckhoudt, Gerard Ciolek, the Navigators boys, and a long list of Italians out to prove that Chianti and Cobbles aren't totally incompatible.
Obviously I have no clue who will win, though at the same time all eyes will be on Boonen. He looked pretty pooped Sunday, but far be it from me to question his recuperative abilities. Anyway, CyclingNews posted their preview, but that and Podium Cafe are the only ones on the story so far.
- Is it live on Cycling.TV? Not listed, but I had thought it was...