- It's the start of something beautiful
Dwars, E3, Gent-Wevelgem, De Panne, De Ronde, Scheldeprijs and Roubaix. No better run of races in the year and Dwars is the sexy little amuse bouche to start things off.
- It's Belgian midweek racing at it's best
A mix of World Tour and smaller hungry local teams for whom this is a big big day makes for a great mix. Wednesday races have the flavor of an older era in cycling. A local club, in this case in Waregem putting on a race and the locals take to the street to cheer the local guys on (or just to drink beer and have a braadworst). So it may have swelled a little, it's part of "Flanders Classics", the big teams roll in and people are watching the thing streamed on the internet, so what? The race is still "Waregem" to the riders and teams.
- Nairo is riding
Just like old dude Valverde last year, Quintana and Movistar are using this spot in the calendar to get acquainted with the cobbles they will be facing in the Tour this summer. Valverde did fantastically well but I think we can expect a more anonymous Nairo. Still, good on him for embracing the challenge and preparing well.
- It's got great sprint/solo-finish balance
Just like Milano-Sanremo we just saw it's one of those races that can finish in many different ways. While the Tour of Flanders looks pretty similar from year to year these days, Dwars can really end in a big bunch gallop, a small group or in a solo-attack. All depending on how the race pans out on the day.
- It goes through Brakel
Admittedly this is a quality that is more important to a very small subset of the population but it is an important one. And few places have more Flanders cred than the little town with the ugliest bike sculpture in the northern hemisphere and the Peter van Petegem pub.
- It's open for the up-and-comers
This is generally the playground for young cobble stars in the making and the lieutenants of the big stars (who are keeping their powder dry for bigger things to come). A Dwars win heralds bigger things to come. Case in point, 2010 winner Matti Breschel who has since gone on to such triumphs as..........signing with Rabobank and ruining his career
- Paterberg without fences
Smaller race, not the same security so we get an un-fenced Paterberg climb. This reveals just who the sneaky ones who want to avoid the cobbles are (hint it's everybody) as they go up the steep little bastard of a climb single-file in the gutter. Somehow it's an even cooler little climb that way.
- It is everything that makes De Ronde and E3 great, but on a smaller scale
Three cobble sections, twelve hellingen. It's a little less than E3 and yet a little less than De Ronde. This is a warm-up after all. No one wants too brutal courses with two big races to come at the weekend and even more down the road. Gentler course not seldom encourages more active racing thankfully and the challenges are still big enough to make a difference when raced hard.
- It's the one that made me fall truly in love with the cobbles
Having first discovered Roubaix is a fantastic spectacle and then that the Ronde van Vlaanderen was the biggest thing since sliced bread in the cycling world it took a few year for Dwars to appear on my radar and it came when even little tiny Flandrian races were suddenly streamed online. In that moment the world opened to all the classics and it turned out they were every bit as good as the big ones. Thank you CyclingTV you malfunctioning little crappy company, you were fun while it lasted and you gave me a great gift!
- The Name!
Dwars door Vlaanderen. Taste it, let the words roll off your tongue, feel the beauty. "Across Flanders" "Straight through Flanders", it's such a beautiful lie. Of course it doesn't actually go through any significant part of Flanders at all, it just goes in a bunch of crazy loops around Oudenaarde like the other races but it has a poetry to it. Like "E3 Harelbeke", another name that is like pure romance. I'm actually getting a little misty-eyed just thinking about it.