SPRING CLASSICS / PARIS-ROUBAIX
Title: The Spring Classics / Paris-Roubaix
Date: 2010 / 2007
Pages: 223 / 223
ISBN: 9781934030608 / 9781934030097
Price: £30 / £30
Here we have two fine examples of the coffee table-style book to which cycling lends itself so well. You might notice that neither are actually newly published, having originally been written in French in 2006 and 2007, and later translated into English: not only are both books still available and selling well.
For both rider and spectator the experience of a single day race is always going to be different to a multi-day stage race, because “there is no next day’s stage. You can get every last bit of energy out of yourself because you don’t have to worry about being eliminated from the race tomorrow”. That makes the style of racing different to something like le tour, but no less exciting.
There are of course lot of important single day races throughout the year, but none more so than ‘The Classics’: this is a small group of one-day races that for various reasons of history, drama, timing, location, or the calibre of the riders have become more important than almost any other event, whether single or multi-day.
Thanks to British cycling success coverage in the UK has already changing, and will surely continue to improve this year. The sporting public’s interest in these races is further fuelled by the sportifs that often accompany them, allowing mere mortals to ride some or all of the same course the day before – all of which helps the fans to ‘connect’ with the event.
There will always be some debate as to which events deserve to be included in the small group of Classics: no-one will argue that Milan-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Lombardy deserve their place – although since the latter takes place in October it may well be out of place in a book entitled Spring Classics.
The first of these races will be with us in March, with interest rising to a peak in April before the Classics take a break during the ‘Grand Tour’ season.
Reviewed by Richard Peploe
The Spring Classics book covers all of the races mentioned, plus several others. Some have historical significance and at one time had a seat at the top table - such as Bordeaux-Paris: first run in 1891, it eventually stopped in 1988. Others are still relative newcomers, but want to be mentioned in the same breath as the old-timers, such as Clásica San Sebastián.Each chapter starts with a page or two about the race in question, followed by several more pages of pictures.
The images are a mixture of iconic locations, noteworthy incidents, and the best riders of their generation – all of whom have contributed to the history that gives the races their status. Some pictures are in colour, some in black and white, and all have informative and relevant captions. Neither book tries to give a detailed race report for each year, although you do get a list of every rider on the podium.
The Paris-Roubaix race has special treatment, because not only does it feature in the first book, but so important is it that it has a second book all to itself. The extra pages allow the authors to explore many of the interesting stories that surround the race, themed around topics such as punctures, the weather, and the velodrome at the finish. Paris-Roubaix is famous for the views of legendary French cyclist Bernard Hinault, which no doubt Sir Bradley will have in mind: Hinault was the best rider of the day, but expressed his hatred of Paris-Roubaix because it owed too much to luck and not enough to the sheer performance that he possessed, so “he absolutely needed to overcome the challenge of the cobblestones, to prove he could win a race he called rubbish”. Our own Chris Boardman said it well: “It’s a circus, and I don’t want to be one of the clowns”.
Paris-Roubaix has not always attracted the best Grand Tour riders of the day because it introduces the risk of injury with very little in reward (unless you win); however, with the inclusion of some of the very same stretches of cobbles in le Tour last year and this, there is a movement towards the best stage racers honing their skills in the race to reduce the chance of losing a whole tour during one day on the cobbles.I found one of the most enjoyable chapters to be Letters of Nobility, where we read stories from “a handful of French celebrities [that] have managed to watch Paris-Roubaix as official race followers”. The celebrities include Prime Ministers and journalists, and they certainly provide a different perspective on the race.
With the Classics season fast approaching there is no better time to brush up on the history of these races; these two books help to explain how each race earned its reputation and why they are held in such high regard.
REVIEW ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED SPRING 2015, AMENDED AND REPUBLISHED JANUARY 2016