Each season as the cobbled and hilly classics approach, the cycling world focuses as closely on the weather as the starting rosters for each race. In cobbled classics like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders particularly, the rainy or windy weather can have a significant influence on who emerges victorious at the end of a tough day of racing.
Monday, February 1, 2010
The rainy, cold and windy weather during the spring in Europe can be downright brutal, and some professional cyclists just aren't as excited about riding in the cold and rain as others. Alessandro Petacchi, Oscar Freire, Filippo Pozzato and Stuart O'Gray all spring to mind as riders that are less than comfortable about riding in tough weather conditions.
For other riders though, a cold and rainy race seems to make them ride better than when the conditions are favorable. Stijn Devolder, two-time defending champion of the Tour of Flanders, seems to perform better the colder, rainier and windier it is. His teammate Tom Boonen too is strong in the wet, and like all true classics hardmen he wears only cycling shorts, never leggings, while riding in the cold conditions.
Some other riders that enjoy riding in horrible weather include the Cervelo Test Team tandem of Dominique Rollin and Thor Hushovd, BMC's duo of George Hincapie and Karsten Kroon, Radioshack's Lance Armstrong, Katuysha's Kim Kirchin and the small Frenchman Thomas Voeckler of the Bbox Bouyges Telecom team all excel in the cold, and each has what it takes to drop the field under the right conditions in the right race. Armstrong for instance would likely sport a wry smile were he to wake up the morning of the Amstel Gold Race to see that there was driving rain, wind and a temperature in the high 30's.
It has been quite some time since the cycling public was treated to an epic Paris-Roubaix in the rain, and while the riders would never hope for poor weather at a monument, cycling fans would not be entirely chagrined were the weather to be poor. Under such conditions, the rider's mind becomes more important than his form as he will himself ever forward in search of glory. Too, any rider who wins a race like Paris-Roubaix in the cold and wet will forever be remembered as a legend, one who was able to not only overcome their competition, but mother nature in the quest for one of cycling's monuments.