This week is the most important week of the year in the cycling calendar. From the Tour of Flanders last Sunday to Paris Roubaix on Sunday next these 8 days can define the entire career of a rider.
The Tour of the Basque country in Spain is part of the 29 races that are used to make up the UCI World tour rankings and always takes place in the week between the two Classics. It’s currently led by Alberto Contador.
The Scheldeprijs Classic in Belgium is a major semi-classic which has launched the likes of Mark Cavendish onto the world stage. The start list for tomorrow is like a who’s who of all the current crop of major classics riders.
Fabian Cancellara rode a spectacular race in Flanders to claim his third victory and firmly establish himself in the history books. He even managed a celebratory beer shortly after crossing the finish line.
This week, just like most of the other riders he has been based in a hotel in Belgium recovering and training for Roubaix next Sunday. He will ride Scheldeprijs tomorrow but will just use it as midweek training for his major goal next weekend.
Rarely does any rider combine the classics and the Tour of the Basque country. Rarely, but there is always an exception to that rule. That exception was a man named Sean Kelly.
In 1986 Kelly once again dominated the early season stage race Paris Nice. This he followed up with victory in the Classic Milan San Remo. Next up for Kelly was The Tour of Flanders where he was narrowly beaten by Adri Van der Poel. For Kelly there was no beer. Just after the finish Kelly changed and jumped into a car to make his way to the airport to catch a plane to Spain. The following morning as his fellow competitors in Flanders awoke with weary limbs and aches all over Kelly was already on the start line of the Tour of the Basque country.
Going in to the final stage time trial Kelly was over three minutes in arrears on a Anselmo Fuerte when he produced the time trial performance of his life to take back all of his time defect and more. That was after having sprinted to victory in the road stage that morning also.
He won the race overall and again made a dash to the airport to catch a plane back up north in time for Paris Roubaix the following day.
Kelly dominated the race to win his second Hell of the North.
Fabian Cancellara is a legend, the type of rider we only see once in a generation. But Kelly was at another level above that again !