The cancellation of northern Europe's toughest one-day races has left a cobble-sized void. In honour of what should be the peak of the Spring Classics season, we've selected six vintage moments to watch. Crack open a Leffe, throw some chips in the oven, and relive five great cycling moments.
1. 1981: Hinault hits a dog
It is 1981 and Bernard Hinault is battling over another section of cobbles. To most fans it looked like he was out of the Paris-Roubaix, having already chased back six times, following a succession of punctures and crashes. Finally, with 13km left of the race, he rejoined the lead group containing favourites Francesco Moser andRoger De Vlaeminck. Hinault was probably thinking he could take a breather and assess his options before the attacks started flying. But no; in-walks Gruson. Gruson was a small black poodle who left his owner's side, walked into Hinault's path, and left the Frenchman no choice but to pile into the naughty pooch.
Most riders would probably have given up at that point. Not Bernard. He gets up and gets going once more, chasing down his rivals, and rejoining them before the race enters the famous Paris-Roubaix velodrome, and sprinting to victory. After the race, Hinault commented: "Paris-Roubaix is bulls**t." And that was the only time the great Bernard Hinault won Paris-Roubaix.
2. 2010: Boonen vs. Cancellera at the Tour of Flanders
Tom Boonen was already a legend of cobbled classics in 2010, and Cancellera in the Swiss champions jersey had a win in Paris-Roubaix and Milan San Remo to his name. Everyone knew the 2010 would be a season of showdowns between these two. It was no surprise when Boonen and Cancellera reached the Muur van Geraardsbergen alone in the Tour of Flanders. The question was who was going to make the first move on the cobbled ascent that touches 19.8% in places?
3. 2015: Ian Stannard out-rides Tom Boonen and co.
Het Nieuwsblad opens the classics season and it is one of the few classics races that Team Sky have won. Do well at Het Nieuwsblad and you set yourself up as a favourite for the bigger races in the classics calendar. In 2015, Ian Stannard, who happened to have won the race in 2014, found himself alone in a breakaway with three riders from the same team: Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, and Zdeněk Štybar. It looked like Stannard would not come out of this equation well. Most fans thought they'd spend the final 40km of the race watching textbook team tactics. We were wrong; 2015's race became a lesson in how to throw away every advantage.
4. 2010: Did Cancellera have a motor?
Poor Fabian Cancellera, the Swiss champion's monstrous performance in the 2010 Paris-Roubaix will always be dogged by the mythical tale that he had a motor hidden in his bike. Having seen off Tom Boonen the week before in the Tour of Flanders, fans tuned in eagerly for round two, Paris-Roubaix. At just over 50km Tom Boonen attacks the field. Keep watching because at 49km the race gets lively.
5. 2013: Dan Martin in Liege-Baston-Leige
The heart-pumping final kilometres of the 2013 Leige-Baston-Leige were extraordinary, and it elevated Dan Martin's status from being a 'nearly man' to being a winner. It was a win by epic proportions too.
Unfortunately, Dan Martin didn't fair so well in the 2014 edition of the race. Everything looked perfect for him until the fateful final corner.
2016: The one-footed bunny
It was not Fabian Cancellera's year in 2016. What should have been his swan song ended up being a race full of crashes and frustration. It did produce a legendary move by Peter Sagan. As Fabian slipped out on the cobbles, Sagan managed to hop over the crashed Swiss legend and save himself from carnage, and that is why cycling's spring classics are loved by so many — unpredictable, exciting bike racing at its best. We can't wait for 2021!