Some races stand above others on the international racing calendar, and the Ronde van Vlaanderen is certainly one of them.
The prospect of the world’s best riders tackling the famous cobbles of Flanders was certainly a source of excitement at RCUK Towers back in March, as the pros geared their preparations to the Ronde and, of course, Paris-Roubaix, which followed seven days later.
Those very riders must have been wishing to fast forward too, when they lined up for the first Momument of the year earlier in the month – Milan-San Remo – only to find themselves battling a snow storm.
Snow in Italy became a recurrent theme early in the year, with the torrential weather battering the Giro d’Italia too, and it wreaked disruption on the Milan-San Remo, forcing part of the route to be bypassed.
After a brief delay, as the riders returned to their team buses, the action restarted with one final twist in store – MTN-Qhubeka’s Gerald Ciolek pulling off a shock victory by outsprinting Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Leopard).
The weather was not much better on these shores either – not that we let it stop us hitting the roads and clocking the miles, particularly with the sportive season about to begin in earnest.
Nevertheless, Endura’s Equipe winter clothing range was certainly a welcome arrival at RCUK Towers among the gear we’d called in for test.
Whichever you chose however, our coaching columnists were on hand to help any budding sportivists progress from bronze times to gold times with a series of top riding tips.
British time trial champion Alex Dowsett was also on hand with training advice, having wrote the foreword for new training manual Fitter, Further, Faster.
Sadly, the beginning in earnest of the sportive season also brought with it the terrible news Orange Bikes main man Michael Bonney had been badly injured after falling during the Eden Valley Epic.
The injuries he sustained from a freak fall have resulted in him being paralysed below the neck, but such is his resilience we are happy to report he returned home this month, December, after nine months of hospital treatment and care homes. Inspirational is an over-used word but Michael Bonney’s courage could serve as a dictionary definition.
Back in March, attention turned from Milan-San Remo to the cobbled Classics for the professionals, and having missed out in Italy, both Sagan and Cancellara were keen to make up for lost time.
Not all riders were engaged at Wevelgem, however, with the Three Days of De Panne helping absentees to tune form in the days between Sagan’s victory and the Ronde.
The Volta a Catalunya was also well underway, and Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) showed a first glimpse of the form which was to make him a household name by the end of the year, by bagging overall victory.
Tour de France champion Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), preparing for the Giro d’Italia, had to settle for fifth place.
Both Martin, and his cousin Nicolas Roche, were to fly the flag for Ireland throughout the year but it was Nicolas’ legendary triple-crown winning father Stephen whom we caught up with in March to discuss the season ahead.
Away from the professional road scene, there was plenty to keep us occupied at home too – not least Madison’s iceBike 2013.
At Milton Keynes, the brand’s annual exhibition allowed us to feast our eyes on Ben Swift’s Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Think 2.
Madison-Genesis’ team kit, which was already attracting positive reviews as the London-based team made their debut on the professional scene, was also showcased alongside offerings from Giro, Selle San Marco and SiS, among others.
For those with a bit more money to spend, there was also news BMC and Lamborghini had joined forces to create a €25,000 super bike.
So, with all that going on to keep us busy through March, did the Tour of Flanders live up to its billing come March 31?
We’ll leave that up to you to decide, relive the race here.