by Michael Pincus
In the sport of professional cycling, no other single-day races bring as much prestige as the one-day classics, the monuments of the sport. Some of these classics include Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo, and several others.
Two main things make these races the monuments of cycling: how long they’ve been around and also the uniqueness of the roads that they take place on. Paris-Roubaix has the cobbled sectors and the Forest of Arenburg. Flanders has the cobbled climbs such as the Koppenberg and the Paterberg. And Milan-San Remo has almost 300 kilometers of racing, including the climb over the Poggio near the final.
However, in the great state of Texas, we have our own set of “classics,” which take place in the final weekends of February and the first weekend of March. They include Fayetteville, Apache Pass, Pace Bend, and Lago Vista. Each of these Texas races have been around for many years, drawing racers of all categories and abilities from all around the country, even the world.
The Fayetteville Classic will kick off the Texas Classics this season. Even though this is the first time it will be taking place in February, it’s a race that has been around for many years.
Originally a two-day, three-stage race taking place during mid-March, Fayetteville will be returning in 2017 as a one-day event. Located off of Highway 71 between Austin and Houston, Fayetteville offers a bit of everything for Texas racers: long loops filled with short punchy climbs, long false flats, and exposed roads that leave racers at the mercy of the cross winds. What makes Fayetteville unique among the other classics has to be its middle ground between a pure flat road race and a pure climber’s race.
Traditionally the same weekend as Pace Bend, this race has been pushed to Sunday, April 30 due to road construction. Originally called the Walburg classic, Bat City’s Apache Pass shares many similarities with its predecessor, including having the longest, straightest roads with the most exposure to harsh winds in the state.
The field is often left exposed to the elements, where even a light wind can cause havoc to the peloton. Riders form echelon after echelon to provide some shelter from the winds.
A unique twist to Apache Pass is the “rough road” section of the course. While it’s not quite the same as the European cobbles, it does add a little flavor to what is always a tough, exciting race. The rough roads require racers to be a bit more careful as they navigate through light gravel, bumps, cracks, and narrow roads.
Boneshaker Projects’s Pace Bend Road Race is the next classic on the Texas race calendar. Probably the best known road race in the state, it takes place in Pace Bend Park off of Lake Travis and is the only classic that changes the finish line every few seasons to keep racers on their toes.
Other unique features include full roads in the fight for the finish line and also the punchiest climbs out of the classics. Racers take advantage of these climbs by spring-boarding themselves off of the front and using the short sight lines and twisty roads to try to escape the chasing peloton. At the same time, the hills here offer a great roller coaster for the group, allowing racers to hold high momentum and making it difficult for the group to completely come apart.
Beautiful scenery makes Pace Bend a favorite not just for the racers, but for spectators as well.
Considered by many to be the hardest road race in Texas, the final spring classic is La Primavera at Lago Vista, Texas’ longest-running road race at 26 years.
Like Pace Bend, Lago Vista is located off Lake Travis and takes place on several short laps. This gives spectators plenty of opportunities to see the race give the racers more chances to decide if they want to end their race a little early and get that mysterious “flat tire” that is oh-so-common here.
Lago is a true strongman’s road race where hardly anyone goes to “sit in”.
Lago Vista is unique because it’s a two-day event, running clockwise on day one and counter-clockwise on day two. Each day suits racers of different abilities. Clockwise, the course winds up a long gradual hill, followed by an ear-popping 50+ mph decent before heading right back for another lap. Counter-clockwise, riders prefer to use climbing gears as they tackle a wall of a climb before coming down a long gradual downhill to the finish.
Lago is a true strongman’s road race where hardly anyone goes to “sit in”. All racers in all categories are tested to their limits.
In the end, we Texans are very fortunate because there aren’t many places in the U.S. that host this caliber of races in February and March. The Texas classics draw racers in from of all levels from all over the country, and this season will be no different.
Who will make Texas race history this year?