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Hi, I recently started following pro cycling, and had a couple of questions - basically, at what point does a race become a "climber's course" vs a sprinter's course? I ask because it seemed as though Flanders is a very hilly course, but the climbing specialists aren't competitive in that race, it's the sprinters like Boonen etc. Yet guys like Boonen and Petacchi aren't competitive at all in the mountain stages in the Tours. So at what point typically do races start getting dominated by the pure climbers vs the bigger, stronger sprinters?

Also, another question. I've heard that Paris Roubaix is known as the toughest one-day race. I've seen A Sunday in Hell, and it certainly seems very tough because of the cobblestones, competitive field, and potentially bad weather. However, it seemed as though Flanders has all this, including cobbled climbs - PR seems like a flatter course. So why does PR seem to have this mantle?

Thank for the help.
 

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trihiker said:
Hi, I recently started following pro cycling, and had a couple of questions - basically, at what point does a race become a "climber's course" vs a sprinter's course? I ask because it seemed as though Flanders is a very hilly course, but the climbing specialists aren't competitive in that race, it's the sprinters like Boonen etc. Yet guys like Boonen and Petacchi aren't competitive at all in the mountain stages in the Tours. So at what point typically do races start getting dominated by the pure climbers vs the bigger, stronger sprinters?
Terms like "climber's course" or "sprinter's course" aren't always black and white absolutes. There are shades of grey which apply to the characterists of races and the racers who race them.

Races/stages with finish lines on mountains like Stelvio, Gavia, Mortirolo, Aprica, Madonna del Ghisallo, Col du Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux, Col du Galibier, the Hautacam, Alpe d'Huez and Alto de El Angliru are the purest climber's courses on the spectrum.

Giro di Lombardia is widely considered to be somewhat of a climber's race. Paris Tours is widely considered to be a sprinter's race. Tour of Flanders/Ronde van Vlaanderen isn't a pure sprinter's race. Note Petacchi's performance this year. Boonen is not a pure sprinter.


trihiker said:
Also, another question. I've heard that Paris Roubaix is known as the toughest one-day race. I've seen A Sunday in Hell, and it certainly seems very tough because of the cobblestones, competitive field, and potentially bad weather. However, it seemed as though Flanders has all this, including cobbled climbs - PR seems like a flatter course. So why does PR seem to have this mantle?

Thank for the help.
IMO it's a toss-up as to which of these two is the toughest. It really depends on the weather conditions under which these races are run.
 

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trihiker said:
Hi, I recently started following pro cycling, and had a couple of questions - basically, at what point does a race become a "climber's course" vs a sprinter's course? I ask because it seemed as though Flanders is a very hilly course, but the climbing specialists aren't competitive in that race, it's the sprinters like Boonen etc. Yet guys like Boonen and Petacchi aren't competitive at all in the mountain stages in the Tours. So at what point typically do races start getting dominated by the pure climbers vs the bigger, stronger sprinters?

Also, another question. I've heard that Paris Roubaix is known as the toughest one-day race. I've seen A Sunday in Hell, and it certainly seems very tough because of the cobblestones, competitive field, and potentially bad weather. However, it seemed as though Flanders has all this, including cobbled climbs - PR seems like a flatter course. So why does PR seem to have this mantle?

Thank for the help.
Well I don't think the dichotomy is really climbers vs. sprinters, it's climbers vs. guys who go well on the flats (rouleurs is sometimes the term you'll see). Lots of rouleurs can't sprint, but most sprinters are rouleurs, and then there are some really top notch climbers who can sprint well, although they rarely rival the really top-notch sprinters.

Flanders isn't that hilly of a race in that as I understand it it's largely flat punctuated by the relatively short climbs in the 2nd half of the race. Plus many of the climbs are cobbled which hurts the smaller riders (i.e. climbers) or so I've heard it said. In Paris Roubiax there are many more kms of cobbles and they are much worse to ride over and yes it's almost totally flat. I don't think there are any proper climbs.

Once you get to the Ardennes classics after Roubaix then the course favors more of the climbers types. But some of the guys who have been racing well in the cobbled classics so far will also do well there. I don't know if there's been anyone who has won both Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege recently, but in the 90's Michele Bartoli won both Flanders and LBL.
 

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Word usage.

As everyone said, there is no sharp line separating climber's courses from sprinter's courses. But traditionally, "climb" in cycling jargon implies a hill long enough for a rider to go into a long, sustained, measured and rhythmic climbing mode punctuated only by occasional attacks or responses to attacks. Short hills of, say, 1 km or less really wouldn't be considered "climbs" in that sense of the word.
 

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The classics and the "hard men"

It has often been said that the classics (Tour of Flanders, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, etc.) favor the "hard men" of cycling. Like the others have said, the hills in the these may be steep and difficult, but not particularly long, so they can be climbed in 5 minutes or so, whereas the climbs during stage race "climbing stages" can be 15 minutes or longer. Longer hills tend to favor those with the best aerobic power, where as shorter hills favor those who can ride hard above their anaerobic thresholds.

Because the classics tend to be quite long (200 km or longer) and feature short but steep climbs, the riders that tend to do well in these races are the ones who can both ride long distances with intensity, and still have enough gas in their tanks to put out multiple huge anearobic efforts when required. Riders who can do this are called "hard men".
 

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Have to agree with MarkM.Short steep hills like Tour of Flanders etc are suited for power climbs where the big strong men excell like Boonen,Hincapie and Fiere whereas long mountain climbs is where the "pure climbers" like Heras, Danielson,Basso, Simoni do best. Of couse there have always been riders like Armstrong,Eddie Merckx, Anquetil etc who do well under all conditionds from the flats to short hills and long climbs and even sprints. Valverde is another example of this type of rider.
 

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In the Flanders v. Roubaix question, yes Flanders has cobblestones but they aren't the cobblestones of Roubaix. Bob even talked about it last sunday on cyclism, while there are cobblestone streets in Flanders they are kept up and were even resurfaced (albeit with the original stones) and smoothed this year. The Roubaix is unkept, ate up surfaces, plus the high probability for crap weather is what really makes it hell.
 

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longlegs said:
Of couse there have always been riders like Armstrong,Eddie Merckx, Anquetil etc who do well under all conditionds from the flats to short hills and long climbs and even sprints. Valverde is another example of this type of rider.
Could Armstrong really sprint? There are certainly climbers who pack a fast finish like Valverde, Cunego and Garzelli but I don't think Armstrong really did. In fact, anyone outsprinted by Boogerd immediately becomes a non-sprinter and I don't care how long he sat on him :)

For that matter, at least post-cancer, I don't know that Armstrong really ever showed that big anaerobic power that is probably necessary to separate oneself from the others on the short hills of the Belgium classics.

I would say Valverde is probably the closest thing to an exceptional all-arounder (maybe Bettini as well) but both probably too small to hold their own in Paris-Roubaix if they rode it.
 

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LetsGoOutside said:
In the Flanders v. Roubaix question, yes Flanders has cobblestones but they aren't the cobblestones of Roubaix. Bob even talked about it last sunday on cyclism, while there are cobblestone streets in Flanders they are kept up and were even resurfaced (albeit with the original stones) and smoothed this year. The Roubaix is unkept, ate up surfaces, plus the high probability for crap weather is what really makes it hell.
And I believe there are almost twice as many kms of cobbles in PR than in Flanders.
 

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Would Vino be considered all around. I know he doent ride the classics too often but I have seen him in the field sprints before?
 

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longlegs said:
Have to agree with MarkM.Short steep hills like Tour of Flanders etc are suited for power climbs where the big strong men excell like Boonen,Hincapie and Fiere whereas long mountain climbs is where the "pure climbers" like Heras, Danielson,Basso, Simoni do best. Of couse there have always been riders like Armstrong,Eddie Merckx, Anquetil etc who do well under all conditionds from the flats to short hills and long climbs and even sprints. Valverde is another example of this type of rider.
What happened to LA last year on the Kemmelberg? Seemed to be getting a kicking!
 

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My favorite quote on the roads of Flanders vs Roubaix:

"Let me tell you, though - there’s a huge difference between Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. They’re not even close to the same. In one, the cobbles are used every day by the cars, and kept up, and stuff like that. The other one - it’s completely different . . . The best I could do would be to describe it like this - they plowed a dirt road, flew over it with a helicopter, and then just dropped a bunch of rocks out of the helicopter! That’s Paris-Roubaix. It’s that bad - it’s ridiculous." - Chris Horner.

Cheers,
Ari
 

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IMO weather is still the key

LetsGoOutside said:
In the Flanders v. Roubaix question, yes Flanders has cobblestones but they aren't the cobblestones of Roubaix. Bob even talked about it last sunday on cyclism, while there are cobblestone streets in Flanders they are kept up and were even resurfaced (albeit with the original stones) and smoothed this year. The Roubaix is unkept, ate up surfaces, plus the high probability for crap weather is what really makes it hell.

Granted all of that is generally true however, the cobblestones on 17 walls of Ronde van Vlaanderen aren't exactly kept up. Yes the cobblestones roads between the climbs may be better but not necessarily much better on the hills. The Koppenberg was reconstructed a couple years ago but not all of the cobblestone surfaces of the Ronde's roads have been reworked ...have at least recently. The fact that passages such as the Koppenberg are generally only used by tractors that tear up the road plus the drainage issues cause them to be quite nasty. Toward the top stones are missing and the gaps in between get larger and larger. The Koppenberg has already deteriorated to the point were it was questionable as to whether anyone was going to be able to ride up it. In the race a select group at the front made it but most had to walk. That's just one of 17 examples. Weather conditions are the key. If it had rained nonbody was going to get up the Koppenberg on their bike. Paris-Roubaix has twice the distance of nasty cobblestones but it's basically flat while the Ronde equalizes with it's 17 nasty cobblestoned climbs. Again IMO weather conditions are the key factor. If it's dry an ample portion of Roubaix's cobblestoned sectors can be ridden in the smooth albeit mud-dusty gutters which makes one level or degree of hell. If it's dry at the Ronde the contenders can get over all of the hills and again it's one degree of hell. However if it rains, it's windy and cold then these races become another ultimate level of hell. IMO if all weather conditions were equal then Paris-Roubaix might have the edge of difficulty but those conditions are never equal.

...Maybe they should find a way to combined these two races into one giant slice of hell. :)
 

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21 sections of pave that are horrid

riding on them when they are wet at 25 mph into a crosswind with rain, that's why.
 

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atpjunkie said:
riding on them when they are wet at 25 mph into a crosswind with rain, that's why.

Exactly, if there is rain and crosswind. :)


P.S. On the other hand, I see that Boonen said that La Forêt d'Arenberg is worse than the Koppenberg after his PR reconnaissance ride today.
 
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