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Here at Sports Tours International we take pride in going above and beyond to ensure our customers have memorable sporting trips. The people who are the front line of this are our fantastic overseas team. As the cycling season starts to take place our overseas team prepare themselves for another year of creating memorable holidays.
Cycling rep Roy has written this blog to give you an insight into Ardennes Classics and what you can expect from this famous collection of Spring Classics races.
First thing first – A little more about Roy…
Roy has huge amounts of experience as an International Cycling Rep. Roy has also had the fantastic opportunity of being a bike mechanic on the professional cycling circuit so you know you are in safe hands. Roy will use his excellent knowledge of the Spring Classics to take you on rides where you’ll be able to see the professionals race at fantastic viewpoints that combine beautiful scenery with locations that give you a real sense of the atmosphere that makes the Spring Classics so famous.
The difference between Spring Classics week and Ardennes Classics
Spring Classics week is famous for featuring a lot of cobbled road surfaces at the Tour of Flanders and Paris -Roubaix races. These races require cyclists to be more powerful and favour specialist cobbled riders, hence why the likes of Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet are always names in contention for victories (and perhaps this year 2018 newcomer 3 times Cyclocross World Champion Wout Van Aert will be too). Whereas the Ardennes Classics sees the nature of the routes favour the cyclists who you expect to be strong contenders in the General Classification. This second week still has some cobbled sections but also has more hills for the riders to overcome. The Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege are sure to provide fascinating spectacles as there will be a great mix of GC riders rouleurs and sprinters.
What races can I see during the Ardennes Classics week?
The Amstel Gold Race
The Amstel Gold Race is the only one day cycling spring classic in Holland on the UCI World Tour. The start is in Maastricht and the finish comes after 260km of winding, narrow climbs in nearby Valkenburg.
La Fleche Wallonne takes place in the Wallonia region of Belgium. The race takes place mid-week on a Wednesday in between the Amstel Gold Race and Liege Bastogne Liege. Be in the heart of the action with cycling hospitality on top of the Mur de Huy, the super steep finale of the Fleche Wallonne route. From here you will see the riders of the women’s race twice and the riders of the men’s race 3 times.
Liege-Bastogne-Liege is the oldest of cycling’s classics. First run in 1892, Liege Bastogne Liege, or LBL, takes you through the hilliest parts of Belgium, along routes typical of the Ardennes.
Over to Roy:
Friday: We start off based in Maastricht for the classic Amstel Gold Race. I describe the Amstel like Flanders, but without the cobbles. It is very similar to the Flanders classic with its narrow twisting roads with short steep climbs. The scenery is stunning and there are beautiful roads to ride and perfect cycle paths to use. This year’s edition starts from Maastricht and finishes in Vilt, the finish line for the past few years, but with the new approach missing out the final climb of the Cauberg.
Arriving in good time to check your bike over. Our mechanic will be on hand if you have any problems or just need help assembling your bike again.
Saturday: Your chance to see for yourself the Amstel Gold route, Sportive day. Riding the 150km route Amstel Gold Tourversion, allows you to ride the most famous parts of the course and finish in the VIP tent at the end with time to enjoy the rest of the day. Valkenburg is a beautiful town, packed with bars, restaurants and shops, right at the base of the Cauberg climb. There is a castle and caves to visit within the town.
Sunday: Pro Race day. Catching the train from Maastricht allows us to access Valkenberg easily. We’ll watch the start in Maastricht centre then catch the train to Valkenburg to watch the race unfold.
Monday: Another opportunity to ride your bike around the Amstel course, criss-crossing through the lanes, try a local café, visit a bike shop.
Tuesday: Change for 2018 – we will give you the opportunity to ride the Mur de Huy! From Maastricht we shall take you to Huy to ride this classic climb.
Wednesday: Fleche Wallone race. Called a semi-classic race as its mid-week and has not been running as long as the big weekend races. However it falls perfectly for us during this trip and the VIP package that’s included is one of the best hospitality and viewpoints of any pro race. The race is based around Huy, a small town just a short ride or drive from Liege. We will have the VIP package which was excellent value, within the last 100m of the finish line. Running on the same course is the female Fleche Wallone race, so you get to see two races. Tonight we shall move to our hotel in Liege.
Thursday: A Liege Bastogne Liege recci day. See the start and finish climbs with a short sharp ride. A good chance to see some pro’s out riding too.
Friday: Registration day. A short walk from our hotel to the sportive village making it easy to register. Leaves you with time to relax in Liege city centre or maybe spin your legs.
Saturday: Liege Bastogne liege Sportive Day. It has been called the race of the four seasons, with the terrain of rolling hills. Each valley seems to give you different micro climates. This is the long route (273km) and you actually ride further than the pros, as you have to ride back from the last climb in Ans, to the start village near the hotel. A truly epic day out.
Sunday: LBL Pro Race Day. After breakfast we walk the short distance into Liege centre to view the pro riders while they get ready and sign on for the Liege Bastogne Liege. From the start we head off to view the race out on the road. Houffalize is a brilliant town to view the race. The past three years there has been a gazebo run by the locals of the town, selling burgers, brochwurst, fries and drinks too (Beer & soft drinks). The atmosphere is truly amazing, we get to see the race at a number of places throughout the day finishing up in Ans, 300m from the finish on the last bend. With a local bar nearby and the big screen, it’s a perfect location.
Monday: Departure day.
These weeks are really amazing if you are a cycling enthusiast. We are flexible with what we do depending on the group with us. It’s your holiday and we want you to love every second of it.
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