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Sunday is a day of rest. Not so if you're a cyclist. For today is the day that many of us will go long. We will measure our courage, character and resolve against kilometres clocked, metres risen and elements thrown down.

 

Today is the day we show our mettle, signify our intent and fulfil our cycling wanderlust. Today is Sunday.

 

The Sundays of Spring also mark the beginning of the European cycling season. They are not days of rest. Far from it. For throughout March and April, brave riders will don their new liveries to challenge themselves in thrilling one-day races known as the Spring Classics. Races such as the Strade Bianchi, Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are not competitions typified by marginal gains, watts-per-kilo or stifling tactics. But by bravery, suffering and, very occasionally, luck.

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These 'Monuments' evoke the true spirit of cycling. A feeling often lost to power data and weight gains. These races are about heart. Not heart rate. These races are the reason we love cycling. The sight of daring riders pitting their wits against rough terrain and biblical conditions. And spectators looking on in equally animated fashion, gulping beer, gesturing with flags or spare wheels in one hand and hot, mayonnaise-drenched frites in the other.

 

The winners of these races, commonly victorious under stormy Sunday skies, can be typified by similar characteristics – their insane determination, incredible bravery and a beautiful streak of romanticism. The crowd? As compelling as they are to watch, they're just as crazy. In love.

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'Spring is nature's way of saying let's Party.' – Robin Williams

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In this, the first of a series of articles celebrating our favourite Spring Classics and the heroes who have conquered the Monuments, we turn our gaze to last week's twelfth edition of the Strade Bianche as seen through the eyes of Italian photographer Chiara Redaschi.

 

What she witnessed was eerily typical of these gladiatorial races. Men and women at the limit of their suffering. Suffering they couldn't wash off – it covered their bodies from tip to toe. Horrendous conditions in the days prior had left Tuscany's famous white roads, from which the race earns its name, into brown, barely rideable dirt. But within that struggle, two people, Anna van der Breggen in the women's race and Tiesj Benoot in the men's race demonstrated the boldness and bravery it takes to win a Classic. Both went solo. Both felt winter become spring.

 

We salute them. Those successful in the past. And those who will soon have their day. Make way Monday, we want Sunday Roads Forever.

FOLLOW BLACK SHEEP'S STORIES AS WE MAKE OUR WAY THROUGH THIS YEAR'S SPRING CLASSICS PAYING TRIBUTE TO THE MAGNIFICENT 'MONUMENTS' THAT HAVE DEFINED OUR SPORT.


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