By Michael Pincus, Super Squadra pb Austinbikes. Photos compliments of Don Hutchison and the Lago Vista & Jonestown Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB
Milan-San Remo. Flanders. Paris-Roubaix. Liege. These are the “Spring Classics,” the monuments of the sport of cycling. The names of these historic WorldTour events will turn the head of anyone with a passion for bike racing. And much like the WorldTour, Texas has its own set of spring classics: Walburg. Pace Bend. Lago Vista. Most Texas bike racers recognize the names of these races and dream of one day winning one of these Texas monuments.
In February and March, much of the country is still plowing snow. But here in Texas, legs are being readied for some of the oldest and most historic races in the state. Actual pros and full-time amateurs travel from across the country to train and race in Texas this time of year, and it’s not uncommon to line up against racers who’ll later be competing on the NRC circuit, in the Tour of California, or in the USA Cycling Pro Challenge. In the lower categories, Cat fours and threes and twos seek early season upgrade points. New and talented racers who’ve put in the requisite winter work announce themselves to the scene. Local legends cement their status.
Walburg is the first classic of the trio. To many, it is the season opener. A relatively flat road race, Walburg does not look too difficult on paper. However, the windswept fields span out in all directions, so that any moving air is felt ten-fold in the peloton and light breezes become gale-force gusts. Crosswinds tear through packs of racers like a knife through hot butter. The wind leaves groups of riders in scattered echelons and strung out in the gutter. Mix in the all-too-frequent rain and cold, and this race truly becomes Texas’s own “Hell of the North,” where the hard men and women of Texas assert their dominance on the windswept plains.
Perhaps this race (Pace Bend) is our own Milan-San Remo…
The following day, Texas racers are greeted to the Pace Bend road race amidst scenic lakeshore views. A circuit race on a closed course through the Pace Bend State Park, this race offers many more obstacles than Walburg does in terms of terrain. Hard turns, quick power climbs, short sight lines, and a full road of racing come into the mix when planning a conquest to the top step of the podium here. With multiple laps per race, Pace Bend is one of Texas’s most spectator-friendly road races, and friends and family cluster around the feed zone and start/finish line. Perhaps this race is our own Milan-San Remo, where the sun always seems to shine and the winner is frequently a strong racer equipped with a fast finishing kick.
For good reason, most racers consider Lago the hardest event on the Texas calendar.
The last great classic of the spring is La Primavera at Lago Vista, Texas’s longest-running road race at 23 years. Located just across Lake Travis from Pace Bend, one can look across the water and see the ghosts of the previous races’ triumphs and defeats just a week or two prior. Like Pace Bend, Lago is characterized by several short laps, making it a great spectator venue. For good reason, most racers consider Lago the hardest event on the Texas calendar. The course is characterized by a long gradual ascent, followed by an ear-popping, 50-plus mile-per-hour roller-coaster descent on the other side. With less than a mile of flat roads between ever-undulating ups and downs, it’s often not long before many are racing just to finish.
In recent years, after a decade of roughly the same course on Saturday and Sunday, the promoter has returned to running a counter-clockwise circuit on Sunday, forcing racers to creep up the same steep ascents they barreled down the day before. The winners of the men’s Pro 1&2 category at Lago Vista get their names printed on a poster board that’s prominently stationed near the start/finish, forever immortalizing them in Texas bike racing tradition.
For those who’ve never raced one of these Texas classics, it’s important to understand this history and the races’ prominence on the regional calendar. On more than one occasion, Yankee bike racers have arrived in Texas, shocked to find the local racers so tan and lean, and in some of their best form of the season. In February and March, nowhere else in the country will you find races of this caliber: the Spring Classics of Texas.
Don’t miss your chance at becoming a legend. Register for all three races today on BikeReg.com.