As we approach the end of the spring classics season there are a couple of things we can take away from the racing. First was just the great racing. The cobbled classics are usually fun to watch and this year was no exception, unless of course you just really do not like the Quick-Step team.
This leads us to the next take away, Quick-Step domination. They placed 3 riders in the top 10 of several of the races including Flanders. They won all but two of the cobbled races by using a combination of great tactics, teamwork, and form. Of all of their riders Niki Terpstra had the best cobbled classics season with two wins including Flanders, which was a hugely important win to him for his palmares. Quick-Step reasserted themselves as the premier classics team.
Another interesting point to this years cobbled races was several GC riders choosing to ride on the cobbles due to stage 9 of the Tour being a cobbled race. Mikel Landa of Movistar was the first to take to the cobbles in E3 Harelbeke. His first taste of the cobbles included a crash. However he did finish the race. Up next were 3 GC riders taking on Dwars door Vlaanderen. Bardet and Quintana were just there to get some experience and try to finish the race without crashing. On the other hand, Valverde showed up to actually race. He helped to put on a show. He tried a couple of attacks, made the first of the selective cuts and ended up finishing 11th with a couple of the cobbled specialists. His preformance earned him the respect of the cobbled specialists as several of them stated they were impressed with his riding and just his being in that first major selection.
Next we had Nibali take on Ronde van Vlaanderen. Nibali, like Valverde, showed up to actually race. He attacked and animated the race before eventually loosing ground to the specialists. The last of the GC riders to take on a cobbled race was another Movistar rider, the young Spaniard, Marc Soler. Soler took on Paris-Roubaix. Although he did not end up finishing the race, he was there and showed himself well as he got in the early break away and rode in the break away for most of the race.
Although Strade Bianche is not an cobbled race, I will include here as it’s a different type of race which fans and riders alike look forward to each year. Riders look forward to this race so much, that we had Valverde talk his team into his racing it thus ending up with travel issues and not getting to the race until very late the night before the race. Strade Bianche like so many of the races this year had bad weather, yet that also made it an even crazier race to enjoy watching. The top 5 finishing order of this race shows how diverse the riders who show up for it are. Tiesj Benoot win, with Romain Bardet finishing second. Wout Van Aert rounded out the podium. Alejandro Valverde after a travel debacle the night before and no recon ride finished 4th. Giovanni Visconti rounded out the top five.
While Niki Terpstra was able to get his first Ronde van Vlaanderen win, Peter Sagan was able to get his first Paris Roubaix win.