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Be a pro spectator at the Spring Classics: It's all in the preparation!

The Spring Classics are upon us and if you're lucky, one day you'll find yourself cheering on the superstars of the sport at one of these amazing events! For many, going to watch a Spring Classics race is a once in a lifetime experience, so make the most of it. Heck, you even want to make the most of spectating a local race, so here are some tips.

Research in Advance:
Using the "World Wide Inter-web", you can learn much about the race, the course, the athletes, the best places to spectate, and where to stay. However, sometimes language can be a barrier. As time goes on, there is more and more complete info available online about the big races and even published spectator guides for some of them.

Accept the fact that nothing is fact or real until you see it with your own eyes:
In my 2003 Amstel Gold Race Adventure with friend of Cyclova XC Dave Gabrys, we had found athe website of campground that looked nice in Maastricht, the city in which the race started. We drove for 12 hours across Europe (from Poland) in our little Peugot rental car, arrived to the campground address at 11PM only to find that it was closed and was out of business. Plan B: we were tired, so slept in the car until first light. This highlights why it is important to get to the race are well in advance!

Your critical resource - locals: After waking up from our night of sleeping in the car in the parking lot outside the gates of an out of business campground, we drove into town. We began to figure out the lay of the land, and chatted it up with some locals. Locals are always excited to see people from out of town and are keen to help you out. I believe that a friendly conversation with locals is the single greatest resource in preparing for a great spectating experience at a Spring Classics Race. Thanks to some friendly locals, we found a
campground right on the finishing Valkenberg climb of the Amstel Gold Race.
Our first campsite at the Camping Den Dreisch campsite in Valkenberg, Holland. Thank you for the tip locals!

Additionally, the friendly locals helped us out in developing our race day spectating strategy. Not only is wandering around town chatting with locals educational, getting to know the people can really give you the true experience of the country and be a major highlight of the trip. As a bonus, as you're seeking out friendly locals, you'll probably find yourself in all kinds of amazing Euro cafes and bars, which is part of the goal of being on vacation and experiencing a Spring Classics Race!

On the hunt for help from locals in Maastricht, Holland.

Cool places like this cafe with this unique Spring Classics sign will be found in scouting out the area of a Spring Classics Race!

Reconisance: So, now that you've got the inside scoop from the locals, are well hydrated with a Dutch Micro Brew or coffee, it's time to set out on foot, bike, or train and do some scouting! Go check out the start area. Can you go experience the pre-race hype, athlete sign in, local shenanigans, and start and still make it to your planned primary spectating location(s)? In my case back in 2003, we didn't think we could. After scouting out the start and the train schedule, we decided to hang out around the start for a few hours and then leave about 10 minutes before the start to beat the rush of people to the train station.

Choosing your spot: Now, where to spectate the race... A very big question. You know that epic things happen on the climbs or cobbles. The Valkenberg climb is exactly where we planned on spectating. We decided to watch the race from a single location on the climb, about 100 meters before the finish line. What made this such a spectacular location is the fact that the racers went by us 3 times as they lapped up this hill 3 times throughout the race!, including the finish! While scouting the hill and finish area out, we checked out the course side grand stand and analyzed the pitch of the climb.

Frank checking out the finish grand stand while scouting the 2003 Amstel Gold Race, 24 hours before battle was waged here!

Frank and Dave inspecting the final pitch of the Valkenberg climb, a challenging 12% grade.

Eyes Open: Finally, you're likely used to seeing your cycling heroes on TV or online. Well, pay attention as you'll see the top athletes and teams out scouting the course, just like you're doing! While scouting the Amstel Gold Race, we saw a number of teams out riding including the US Postal Service, T-Mobile, Saeco, and others.

US Postal Service riders scouting the Valkenberg Climb. I believe from L to R the riders are Ekimov, Livingston, and Rubiera.

Just like training for a race: Well there you have it. The moral of the story is that in order to have your best spectating experience ever, you need to thoroughly prepare, just like you need to prepare/train for doing a race yourself. The best part is that you'll have a blast in the process and anticipate race day that much more!

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