THE CLASSICS EXPERIENCE
There is a place for the infamous spring classics in every cyclist’s heart. The ridiculous terrain and bad weather without a doubt contribute a lot to the hype, but the major attraction to me is the stories. The stories from a hundred years ago when the idea for such races emerged, the stories of why the start line was at a certain point and why they had to change it, and the ones of why they didn’t just use normal roads and make it easier. Cycling is a series of amazing stories written over and over again, and yet we still read and enjoy them. It’s a sport that makes me feel like I know everything and at the same time nothing about. I see professional cyclists on a TV screen and I can easily imagine being there because everything seems so logical and natural, but in fact is not. It’s all planed out: a theatrical drama to benefit the sponsors, a moving billboard orchestra if you like.
But like any other orchestra it has to be tuned just right; in order for it to work everyone has to know their place. It’s a constant search for perfection, and if I had to choose one word to describe cycling, it would definitely be perfection.
The classic races are a true test of this perfection, as teams work hard all year round to have the best equipment and it can all go to hell in a few hours. Just like the riders, who train hard all winter to face the possibility of getting scattered on the cobbles in Belgium, which could ruin a whole year for them. But if it all goes right and the equipment works like it has to, and the luck is on the riders’ side, they get to stand on the podium and become heroes alongside Merckx, Coppi, Boonen… a dream that any professional rider is willing to risk their life for. I love watching these races because I would like to take part in them one day, too. I realize that it’s too late for me to do that on a professional level but that does not mean I shouldn’t get my satisfaction at least in some way, right? This is how I get it:
The Classics Experience is a project we’ve been organizing in Slovenia for the past few years; through it we try to bring road racing closer to people who started cycling too late to get into it professionally, or the ones who have never been interested in the racing part of cycling at all. Basically, people like me. On the day of a classic race, such as Paris – Roubaix, we do a tribute ride near the capital of Slovenia. The start and the finish as well as most of the segments are thematically and technically similar to the original race. Participants are divided into groups and every group takes care of its riders just like they do in the pro peloton. This way the participants get to experience the racing and the feeling of camaraderie that exists in the pro tour teams. We like to say that this is not a race but it is not a tourist ride either. It’s a glorification of the cycling spirit and its monuments regardless of the weather conditions.
I highly encourage cyclists around the world to create a Classics Experience of their own, as this project has given me a lot of insight and changed my view on bike racing, but most importantly, I’ve made a lot of new friends through this project and they are the sort of people I know I can rely on when I don’t want to ride alone. Ever since I can remember, the bike has given me the satisfaction none of the other sports have given me, and the fact that I can share that with other people is what gives me the energy to work on such projects.
Have you ever wondered what “panache” looks like? Do your fair share of suffering on a road bike and you will know it when you see it!