It all starts today. Omloop het Nieuwsblad. The UCI teams have returned to Europe and the early season classics, the freezing, miserable races
across mud and cobblestones that are the ambition of every one-day cyclist, have begun. Over the next few weeks, we are going to be obsessed each and every weekend as we follow the season, punctuated by the great classics throughout the early season.
For most of the world, when interested in bicycle racing, the early season races, grand tours and championships, enthusiasts are limited to that they can find on the internet. But for us here in Belgium, we get daily newspapers publishing magazines featuring the UCI teams for the year, races and course maps, rosters for the early season classics and more. The newspapers here compete for the all-valued audience.
It is such a far cry from the high-priced, obsessive, sports world of both the UK and North America. Distant from the football and baseball filled pages of the dailies. The major sports in North America, in the UK, take a far lesser role here. Well, maybe football (soccer) is very important here.
I remember living in Canada and the fervour that would meet every new (ice) hockey season. The teams, the chewing gum cards, seasonal books and more. Now, here in Belgium, cycling gets the same.
When I was young, into cycling, I used to look at Belgium as the haven for racing cyclists. Now I live here and cycling, the sport itself, is massive here. Every weekend, I can head to the local café and watch the race on the big screen. Every Monday, the pages will be fixed wt the weekend races. And, when the grand tours come, I will be adding even more full colour magazines to the reading list.
Europe will always be the heart of bike racing.