Beeld: Kåre Dehlie Thorstad
Sibiu cycling tour
I don’t remember when, but at some point, I grew tired of Le Tour de France. Undoubtedly the most prestigious race amongst pro riders, but in my head it had just grown into an overcrowded spectacle stuck in a highly controlled and tedious formula, lacking the energy, dynamics and enthusiasm of old school racing. Come July, the feeling of being betrayed by a close and good friend forced me to move on and search the cycling horizon for a quick fix. In a quiet ceremony, I buried Le Tour in a dark corner of my backyard, dived into the underground and went digging for gold. And I found it, in Romania, believe it or not, deep down in the heart of a godforsaken Transylvania: The Sibiu Cycling Tour.
This is a small, intimate affair, revolving round the medieval city of Sibiu, Romania’s cultural capital. It is ranked 2.1 on the UCI calendar, meaning that only a few WorldTour teams are eligible to line up alongside Pro Continental and Continental teams, in addition to a team made up of national athletes. Consequently, this gives a mix of riders with highly divergent skills and savoir-faire, which makes it challenging — almost impossible, really — for one single team to control the race from beginning to end.
Sure, there are different types of racing. There’s that downright brutality that comes from the fatigue accumulated over a series of abnormally long stages and a line-up stacked with talent — typically found in your three week Grand Tours. Then there’s the sort of brutality I found in Romania: short stages, small teams, and outright chaos — a format forcing the larger teams to throw the usual playbook out the window. One hundred kilometres full gas, and no way catching the breakaway with 10k to go! Put simply: more action, more of the time. One type of racing isn’t necessarily superior to the other, but I know which of the two I prefer…
In a country stuck in the past, torn to pieces by Ceauşescu’s deranged dictatorship, it suddenly became clear what the future of racing will look like! Small, independent races like the Sibiu Cycling Tour are a large leap forward (or maybe even backward? — it doesn’t really matter), as they introduce a level of complication (or simplification, I don’t know) that is oh-so-refreshing in comparison to the French deadlock of July. Short stages, hard stages, and small teams all make racing better. It’s raw and pure, goddamn hard, and just a lot more appealing and less predictable.
If you liked this story consider purchasing Soigneur Cycling Journal 18 where it was first printed.