The Spring Classics are upon us and we can hardly contain our excitement! Cobbles, rain, grit, attrition... there are too many reasons to list why this is one of our favorite times of year in bike racing.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan of inclement weather cycling, take pleasure in the suffering of others (See: Schadenfreude), or can’t get enough of the cobbled bergs of Belgium, we’ve got you covered.
Today we unveil our limited-edition Spring Classics Ass Saver. The one-of-a-kind design by Boon Design pays homage to the most beloved of the spring Monuments, including Milano-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. Get ‘em while they last!
The Classics – Edition 01 is available exclusively through our website and in limited quantities.
To get you in the spirit, we sat down with eminent Dutch Directeur Sportif Egon Van Kessel who has spent nearly three decades directing Pro Teams including the likes of Cervelo Test Team, Saturn, Farm Frites, Team TIBCO-SVB, and now Wiggle-Honda.
AS: What type of rider does well in the Classics?
EVK: “Big strong riders with bike skills who are able to fight and struggle for a few hours... In fact, just ‘fighters and killers.’”
Ass Savers: Can you tell us a bit about your involvement with cycling? Tell us about your own career as a rider, as well as some of the teams you’ve worked with as directeur sportif?
Egon Van Kessel: I started cycling when I was 12 years old. A Dutch rider won the Tour de France in 1968 and that was motivating me. I was talented and very good at time trialing, but I was not focused enough and had only a short two-month career as a pro rider.
When I quit cycling in 1986, I knew I had done everything wrong in cycling and I decided to be a directeur sportif. My motivation was to help talented riders avoid making the same mistakes I had made.
I worked a total of 14 years for the Royal Dutch Cycling Federation as a National Coach for all categories of riders. Most years I coached the men, but I also spent two years coaching the women.
I was a part of 14 World Championships on the road and two Olympic Games as head coach for the the women in 2004 and for the men in 2008.
“Working with big stars is nice for the results, but the influence on results with young or new riders is much bigger.”
AS: What do you enjoy most about directing professional cycling teams? What is the most difficult aspect?
EVK: What I enjoy most is developing young or new riders. As National Coach, I spent 14 years involved as a coach for junior men and some years also for junior women. This is what I most liked. Working with big stars is nice for the results, but the influence on results with young or new riders is much bigger.
Most difficult is working with management, especially when there is a big cultural difference. I know myself and I am not a person who hides his feelings. That is why working with management is not always easy for me.
“I like the hills, cobble stones and bad weather. These are races for persons with a strong mentality.”
AS: The Spring Classics are coming up. What are a couple of your favorite Spring Classics and why?
EVK: For me, my favorites are: Strade Bianchi, Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix. For the women: Strade Bianchi, Tour of Flanders and Fleche Wallonne - I like the hills, cobble stones and bad weather. These are races for persons with a strong mentality.
AS: What type of rider does well in the Classics like Flanders or Paris Roubaix? What does it take both physically and mentally?
EVK: Big strong riders with bike skills who are able to fight and struggle for a few hours for their positions in the bunch. It’s important to have knowledge of the courses and not be afraid of a crash. In fact, just "fighters and killers.”
AS: What role does weather (like rain) play in these races? Is there any way to prepare?
EVK: The weather in the spring races makes these races only harder. The best is to prepare the last week on location so the rider will be used to the bad weather. You can't practice enough on these courses.
“Nothing is so nice as to finish Paris Roubaix or Flanders in very bad weather…and be proud that you finished and had a hard fight with yourself and all the others.”
AS: How do you define success at this level of cycling and at races as demanding as the Classics? Is survival itself a kind of victory?
EVK: I know that only a few riders are able to have success in these races and most of them have this success after many years of investing and suffering in these races. So for me, it is always important that young riders finish these races in the first years. Only then can you have success in the future.
Nothing is so nice as to finish Paris Roubaix or Flanders in very bad weather and after the race have a nice warm shower and be proud that you finished and had a hard fight with yourself and all the others.
La Primavera | March 22 | 293 kilometers
Often called the “Sprinters’ Classic,” Milan San Remo is the longest professional one-day race.
Ronde Van Vlaanderen | April 5 | 240 km
Belgian riders claim the majority of victories at Flanders, 68 of the past 98 races.
L’enfer du Nord | April 12 | 253 km
This year’s course will feature 52.7 km of cobbles over 27 sectors, three of which will be featured in Stage 4 of the 2015 Tour de France.
La Doyenne | April 26 | 263 km
Established in 1892, the nickname “La Doyenne” translates to “the oldest” of the five Monuments.