1996 Ronde van Vlaanderen/Tour of Flanders

Here’s a clip from the race my mind returns to whenever I think of Flanders.

In fact, if you were to ask me to encapsulate everything Pavé represents in a single image or moment, it might be this one.

First, the weather. Gray. Not rainy, just gray.

Second, we have the Muur de Geraardsbergen, the Kapelmuur as some call it due to the church located at it’s summit. A little over 1km long and with an average gradient of about 9%, the Muur has some sections at or over 20%. Furthermore, here, we have the vintage Muur, before it was resurfaced and the stones were re-laid. Bartoli choose this as the moment to take the race into his own hands, launching an attack none could follow.

Next, we have Bartoli himself. A rider who would go on to add several more classics to his name, this is the race where he established himself as an all-rounder to be reckoned with. He would never win this race again, but with wins at Het Volk, De Panne, the Brabantse Pijl, Fleche, Liege, Amstel, and Lombardi, he was truly one of the best of his generation. It’s a shame the clip ends as the last leaders summit; Bartoli’s form as he solo’s to the Bosberg is a sight to behold.

Finally, the equipment. The Coppi aluminum, horizontal top-tubed frameset. Mavic Paris-Roubaix SSC rims, laced to Dura Ace hubs (possibly tied and soldered), glued with Vittoria Professional All-Weather tubulars (green and black with the TAN sidewall). And don’t forget the hat under the helmet and the Briko shades.

Perfection if you ask me. Everything about this is truly “classic”.

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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