Some say politics is a spectator sport.
And in France in 2022, that certainly will be the case.
The first round of the quinquennial French presidential elections, set for April 10, is throwing a wrench into the 2022 spring classics calendar.
Instead, the “Hell of the North” will be contested on April 17, two full weeks after the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Teams and riders in the men’s and women’s peloton are already taking note.
“Those date changes were already set a few months ago now,” Brent Copeland, general manager at BikeExchange-Jayco, told VeloNews. “It will make things a little more complicated for logistics and doing the final recons, but I think after two COVID seasons, we’re pretty used to doing things a little differently by now.”
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The women’s race is also impacted, with what will be the second edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes slotting in on April 16. That’s preceded by both Flanders and Amstel Gold, and followed by Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liège.
In today’s finely tuned peloton, having a race as technical and important as Paris-Roubaix one week later than it typically is will have some consequences.
How much will an extra week between Flanders and Roubaix count?
In what’s already a long and heavy spring calendar, having an extra week between such punishing races as Flanders and Roubaix could provide a bit of respite.
Yet, as Copeland pointed out, simply having Paris-Roubaix back on the schedule near its traditional date in April is already a good sign.
Paris-Roubaix was canceled outright in 2020 due to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2021 edition was postponed and finally contested in October, which delivered the first wet and muddy edition in nearly two decades.
Yet for riders who specialize in the rough and tumble cobblestone classics, especially on the men’s side, having an extra week between Flanders and Roubaix could be both a blessing and a curse.
“It does change some things, but not all,” Ag2r-Citroën’s Oliver Naesen told VeloNews. “The same guys will be there, the same guys will finish at the front. What will change is how they fill the calendar.”
It might give riders extra recovery time and could favor riders like Peter Sagan or Wout van Aert who also like to mix in Amstel Gold Race — now sandwiched in between Flanders and Roubaix on April 10 — as part of their spring classics calendar.
But it also could mean riders who absolutely specialize in the one-day classics of northern Europe will have to try to taper and hold top form for a longer period of time. Other riders hoping to head out of Roubaix and into the Giro d’Italia will see one less week of recovery this spring.
“Peak shape has to stay up there for an extra week, but in reality, we all do big seasons year in, year out, with many goals in different periods without too many big ups and downs, so that should be OK,” Naesen said. “Some might race Amstel where otherwise they wouldn’t add it to their spring. I’ll be doing a mini-stage race in between [Circuit de la Sarthe], and that could also be an option for many.
“Some might start in the third week of February instead of the first week,” Naesen said. “We’ve all survived classics in October, so to conclude, I don’t think the race will look or feel different. Which is nice.”
At the top level of the sport, even an extra week one way or the other can make a big difference on race day.
Heinrich Haussler: ‘Either the form’s there or it’s not’
VeloNews also reached out to Heinrich Haussler, who rode to his third career top-10 at Roubaix with 10th in October, to ask how much the difference one extra week in April will play out across the men’s peloton.
Here’s what he had to say about the “election delay” edition of Paris-Roubaix for 2022:
“I don’t think guys are going to go into the season and thinking, ‘I’m going to start my season two weeks later,’ but maybe you’re going to have to be a little more careful in training or choosing the races in between,” Haussler told VeloNews.
“It is going to be different, but it won’t be a big, big difference,” Haussler said. “It doesn’t really change much. It’s a week later, but once you get that late into the season, you’re not doing much training anyway. It’s racing, recovery rides, racing, recovery rides.
“The base has to be done now in December, January, and February because once the classics start, there’s no way to catch up,” he said. “Either the form’s there or it’s not. And if you’re a little bit fatigued, you’re better backing off, and going even more fresh into these races.”
And with Bahrain-Victorious’ Sonny Colbrelli returning as defending champion in 2022, Haussler and his teammates will be even more focused on arriving in peak form for the “Hell of the North.”
“With Sonny winning this year, we want to go there with the strongest team possible to defend the title,” Haussler said. “It’s still two weeks you really have to stay motivated and keep your head on. It’s such a long period and all these races, you need so much energy. The muscles need to be fresh, powerful, and full of acceleration. And not just physically, but mentally, too, you need to be so prepared and fresh because these races are so hard and so stressful.”
Cyclists are long accustomed to tweaking schedules due to Olympic Games, pandemics, injuries, or illness.
Will an extra week between Flanders and Roubaix make that big of a difference on the men’s calendar?
The winners and losers will tell us in April.
Of course, seeing Paris-Roubaix a week later than usual is certainly better than scheduling it for October, or not at all.
Women’s 2022 spring classics schedule
Trofeo Alfred Binda — March 20
Gent-Wevelgem — March 27
Ronde van Vlaanderen — April 3
Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition — April 10
Paris-Roubaix Femmes — April 16
Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes — April 24
Men’s 2022 spring classics schedule
Milano-Sanremo — March 19
Gent-Wevelgem — March 27
Ronde van Vlaanderen — April 3
Amstel Gold Race — April 10
Paris-Roubaix – April 17
Liège-Bastogne-Liège — April 24