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A Classic Vacation?

It may be a little late to book your flight to San Seb International right now, but every year I feel a strong urge to do just that, and this year is no exception, thanks to Ursula's photo posting. Which makes me think... what classic race would you plan a trip around if you had to pick? Here's one set of criteria, and who ranks where:

  1. The on-road action
  2. The race atmosphere (let's merge startlist and history into one big set of hype)
  3. The cultural scene
  4. Scenic beauty
  5. Weather
  6. Recreation
  7. Food

And in each category, let's use the 1-5 scale. On the flip...

To narrow the list, I will eliminate all the sub-classics from Belgium and just go with Flanders, Roubaix and Liege. Add in Amstel Gold, which is pretty unique. From Italy, it's the two monuments and what the hell, Monte Paschi Eroica. From the summer set let's use the Klasikoa, Vattenfalls, and Plouay. The Worlds would be in, except for the whole rotating site, so bag that. No Paris-Tours; it's in the class of these races, but no way would it win here. Chronologically...

Monte Paschi Eroica

Action: Very cool race. A tad early, but the first few editions have been hotly contested. Usually the sport is snotty about traditional versus new stuff but don't tell the riders of the last few years this. 4

Atmosphere: Invented in 2007 out of whole cloth. Startlist is fun, but only half of the pro tour teams. 2

Culture: Tuscany? Are you kidding? 5

Beauty: Tuscany? Are you kidding? Slight markdown for being late winter. 4

Weather: They haven't been snowed on yet, but it's going to happen eventually. 2

Recreation: Hm, I have a sneaky suspicion that some of the great things you'd typically do in Tuscany are unavailable in March. I suppose you could get tickets to a Fiorentina match. 2

Food: Tuscany? Are you kidding? 5

Total: 24


Action: Superb, in the last hour or so. 4

Atmosphere: First monument of the season. Ancient race. Everyone is there... but I can't rate it a 5. Italian teams and sprinters have a heavy influence, and not everyone is ready to go yet. 4 

Culture: Milan? The Riviera? Are you kidding? 5

Beauty: OK, the areyoukiddings are piling up a bit. Plus it's spring, and early spring, at least until you get over the Turchino. 4

Weather: Meh. 3

Recreation: From the Milan side, there's always plenty to do. Am guessing the Riviera is still pretty quiet in March. 3

Food: Just accept it. 5

Total: 25

Ronde van Vlaanderen

Action: I can't talk rationally about this. 5

Atmosphere: Or this. 5

Culture: From the international tourist's perspective Belgium isn't that high on the list, though it's not exactly Tacoma either. 3

Beauty: In the eye of the beholder. Most would mark it down from, say, the Riviera, though the little villages look very sweet. 3

Weather: It's disappointing when it doesn't suck, but since this is a vacation post... 1

Recreation: Aside from cycling and drinking, ya got me. 1

Food: Not highly rated, though it's probably better than we Americans would expect. 2

Total: 20


Action: Dear god... 5

Atmosphere: See 125 posts from early April. 5

Culture: Paris and the Nord Department... about as similar as Seattle and Sedro-Woolley, WA. But both interesting in their own way. Paris is a/the cultural capital, but then the race doesn't actually start there anymore. 3

Beauty: Not good. Yes, it's the point, but still... 2

Weather: Same as Flanders. 1

Recreation: Worse than Flanders, except you're closer to Paris. 2

Food: Hm, not sure. I doubt the Nord cuisine is the best in France, but we're still talking France. 4

Total: 22

Amstel Gold Race

Action: Not as exciting as the previous entries. Bonus for the fact that you can see the race go by several times though. 4

Atmosphere: Mixed. It's the biggest race in Holland, and the startlist is generally solid, though a few of the LBL guys like to wait this one out. It's not ancient either, but it's been a pretty big deal for a while. 3

Culture: Am sure Maastrict is cool, but this list has some cultural heavyweights on it. Bonus for the whole national holiday scene. 3

Beauty: Limburg looks really beautiful. Not the ideal month, but it's close. 4

Weather: Slightly better than the last two, but no guarantees. 2

Recreation: Big tourist destination, so there must be something to do. 3

Food: Not my expertise, though I suspect there's a reason the world isn't full of Dutch restaurants. 2

Total: 21


Action: I really, really love this race for a number of reasons, but I'm docking it a point because I can't tell where you would want to sit roadside. All the other items on this list, I think you could pick a spot and say "this is where I HAVE to be." 4

Atmosphere: La Doyenne. 5

Culture: Wallonie... known mostly for coal mining. 2

Beauty: Did I mention the coal mines? 1

Weather: Hinault still has that "ask me about my snowy solo attack in LBL" bumper sticker, no? 1

Recreation: Cycling. Standard Liege matches. Not sure what else. 2

Food: Tempted to kill them here, but most of the locals have either French or Italian in their names. How bad can it be? 3

Total: 18

Clasica San Sebastian

Action: Pretty zesty... see below. 4

Atmosphere: Only dates back to 1981. Startlist is always a pleasant surprise for something right after the Tour. It tends to draw everyone who sat home in July, plus some of the Tour guys who aren't satisfied. Docking a point though for coming between big phases of the season and not being a prime objective for too many guys. 3

Culture: Totally subjective, but this is WAY high up on my list. 4

Beauty: Windswept hills overlooking gorgeous Atlantic beaches, and that's before we get to the people on said beaches. 5

Weather: Assuming the ocean keeps the heat in check, I doubt you could do much better. 5

Recreation: I dunno about cosmopolitan fun, but I'd think between the medium-sized cities, the ocean and the mountains, you have just about everything else. 5

Food: Total mystery to me, but I am completely jonezing for a Spanish regional cuisine tour. Could someone please make me independently wealthy now? Thanks. 4

Total: 30


Action: Not bad, but not exactly fascinating. 2

Atmosphere: Here's Wikipedia: "started as an unimportant race in 1996, but because of the fast growing popularity of cycling in Germany," D'oh! 2

Culture: Hamburg sounds like a fun city, though this list is pretty hifalutin. 3

Beauty: Hamburg does not sound like a beautiful city. 1

Weather: Summer, nothing to complain about. 4

Recreation: Er, head up to the North Sea, I guess. Lots of other cities nearby. 2

Food: Germany's finest! 2

Total: 16

GP Ouest France-Plouay

Action: Doesn't get enough credit. I really like this race, bouncy and difficult. Very Bretagne. 4

Atmosphere: Dates back to 1931, and Brittany is one of the world's great cycling hotbeds. The startlist sometimes gets caught in the summer crossfire; every four years the Olympics mess things up. But I would generally call it first-rate. 4

Culture: Brittany is a world of its own. A tad to the right for me. 2

Beauty: You can drop me off on the Bretagne coast any time. Especially in summer. 5

Weather: Same as San Sebastian. 5

Recreation: A point short of San Seb. After the beaches... what? 4

Food: Probably regional, but I will never complain about French seafood. 5

Total: 29

Giro di Lombardia

Action: Great race. You could argue that like LBL it might be hard to pick the place where the race is made, but I'd be willing to park it on the Ghisallo and take my chances. 5

Atmosphere: Monument. Startlist is handicapped by the whole October thing, but it's still very strong. 4

Culture: Lombardia, Lake Como... 5

Beauty: Beauty, beauty, everything in Italy is about beauty. Why fight it? 5

Weather: Fall isn't summer, though if you're lucky it's even nicer. 3

Recreation: I'd imagine it's still a great time to play around in Italy, and if all else fails, hoof it back to Milan. 4

Food: Again... 5

Total: 31

Wow, that's a close competition. Lombardia edges out San Sebastian, which edges out Plouay. All within the "debatable" margin. What say ye?