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The illogical names of cycling's Cobbled Classics

Joe Robinson
27 Mar 2019

Never trust a Spring Classics' name, it's almost always wrong

If you're looking ahead to an exciting few weeks of Classics racing across the next couple of weeks and scratching your head in utter confusion, it's perfectly ok. You're not reading it wrong, the Classics do not make sense, you're right.

By not making sense, I don't mean the style of racing, who's there or why it happens but actually something a lot more obvious, the names of these races.

The identity of these seven or so Cobbled Classics that are going to dominate our thoughts until the professional peloton up sticks and travel to the Belgian Ardennes in mid-April.

Happening today, as I write, is the Driedaasgse Brugge-De Panne, commonly known to us by its English name Three days of De Panne.

That suggests starting today, the race will ride around the Flemish coastal town for three stages before finishing on Friday. You'd be wrong.

The Three Days of De Panne isn't a three-day stage race rather a one-day Classic.

It was a multi-stage event for a total of 40 years, taking place in the week leading up to the Tour of Flanders. Taking place over three days, the race actually contested four stages by 2017, just to confuse the race's name a little further. 

Unfortunately for De Panne, it was booted out of its regular slot in 2018 by another race, Dwars door Vlaanderen, which wanted to run in that pre-Flanders Wednesday slot. 

As the Tour of Flanders and Dwars door Vlaanderen are organised by the same people, as opposed to the local clubs running De Panne, the stage race had no choice but to go.

Instead of losing the race altogether, the organisers begrudgingly brought the race forward a week and reduced it to a single day.

Didn't think to change the name of the race, mind. So now the former three-day four-stage road race is a single day.

The confusion doesn't stop there.

After De Panne comes E3-BinckBank (formerly E3-Harelbeke) this Friday. A race named after the long International E-road European motorway that linked Portugal to Denmark. 

But that road hasn't been called the E3 since 1992 when the section between Lille and Antwerp was renamed the E17. 

So, there will be riders lining up at the start line of E3 this Friday who were not even born before this stopped being an actual motorway, which just doesn't make sense, does it?

Then you've got Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday which doesn't actually start in Gent. It starts in Deinze which is a city in its own right 19km south-west of Gent.

De Ronde van Vlaanderen, or the Tour of Flanders, makes sense because that is a single day tour of the Flandrian region of Belgium. As does Dwars door Vlaanderen (Across Flanders) that races across Flanders.

While De Ronde makes sense, Paris-Roubaix is another confusion as despite having two place names in its title, the race only actually visits one, Roubaix, because the race actually starts in Compiègne - which is a full 80km north-east of Paris - and has done since 1977, with it actually moving from Paris to Chantilly in 1966. 

Even the evergreen peloton stalwart Alejandro Valverde was born after the race moved away from the French capital. 

It's not exclusively the Cobbled Classics that shroud themselves in mystery, either.

Amstel Gold Race, which is mistakenly labelled the first Ardennes Classic instead of Brabantse Pilj, isn't actually in the Ardennes rather the Limburg region of the Netherlands.

Then, in May, comes arguably the most confusing of the lot which is the Four Days of Dunkirk which has grown from four stages to five and now to six after briefly going through a period of seven stages in the 1990s. In fact, the last time there were only four days was in 1963.

It doesn't make sense, none of it does, but honestly, it's part of cycling's allure, part of its uniqueness. Things functioning and being understood despite not making sense.

Plus nobody dares change the name of the Queen of the Classics or any of the other races for that matter as, after all, Compiègne-Roubaix, Deinze-Wevelgem, the one-day of De Panne and Six Days of Dunkirk do not have the same ring to them.