Travelling through Northern France it reminds me today of the suffering I endured in April, crossing this landscape of shifting winds. Although in the grand scheme of beautiful parts of France I’m sure by the Tourist Boards standards any guide would say don’t stop and press on for another 150km, yes it’s a little bleak.
But strangely in this savage area which hones people and riders out of rock, I find a strange beauty. The area in many ways is a lost province of Flanders as many of the town names show signals to the previous ownership. Dunkirk is the most obvious, which refers to a ‘church on the hill’ in old Flemish. The whole border area embraces more closely each others traditions with the French people enjoying beer as much as wine and the people of west Flanders making sorties over the border for the fine seafood that is available.
I’m amazed that the rolling roads of the Vendee and Brittany have not created their own semi classic. The terrain as witnessed in this years Tour shows clearly that the area has everything going for it to do so. Italy in recent years has created the Eroica which covers many kilometres on the Strade Biancha, or the White Roads. It’ll be a slow burner and if can make it past 10 editions there is a good hope that it may become a permanent fixture on the calendar.
When to hold this race, well september springs to mind, or maybe even august. Not all riders will compete in the Vuelta or the Tour of Poland so those looking to hold a higher degree of form heading to the worlds a couple of hard races could really be a key to seeing more classic’s guys making the move up to the top step in the worlds biggest one day race.
Making this a reality will be a lot more complicated than my easy theory of just doing it. Firstly there needs to be an appetite to stage these races In the first place. But let’s not forget that although the Tour was originally started to push sales of a newspaper it has done everything to be a positive advertisement for the French tourist board over the last 50 years or more.
I love the tradition of the classics, monuments and grand tours – but the sport needs to evolve otherwise we will forever be trading on history and not the living, breathing energy that will flow through passion to see some new challenges for this generation of riders.