Belgium's 'opening weekend' races of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne are the unofficial official start to the new cycling season. This year's events took place in completely dry, but brutally cold conditions, which rarely rose above 3 or 4 degrees and were combined with a substantial wind chill.
Riders layered up with the latest and greatest their teams' clothing providers offer in an attempt to cope with the freezing temperatures. The latest technical fabrics helped to take some of the edge off the cold, although doubling up on gloves, booties, jackets and neck scarves was still necessary for most of the riders.
Quick-Step Floors' Classics hard men Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra used tricks from a bygone era in conjunction with their modern cycling apparel. To shield his face from the wind chill, Terpstra chose to smother his face with Vaseline to add a veil of extra protection during the races.
Again to combat the driving wind, and perhaps with an inclination of knowing he would be lighting up the front of the race for most of the day, Stybar used an old piece of cardboard to add an extra insulating layer in between his jersey and jacket, a trick that has been used by seasoned cyclists since the days of Fausto Coppi and before with bits of cardboard and even newspapers.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad changed its course for 2018 to mirror the old finish of the Tour of Flanders. Both races from opening weekend use many of the same Kassien (cobbles) sectors and Hellingen (climbs) as 'De Ronde'. With this in mind, most teams switched to more robust tyre compound than the usual supple rubber used, although the majority stuck with the common 25mm size choice.
Most of the teams lined up on their preferred race bikes although Team Sky raced on their updated endurance frameset, the Pinarello Dogma K10.
Away from the conditions and courses, with the Classics comes the expectation of disc brakes being used in the WorldTour peloton. Disc brakes have already been seen in the Australian and Middle Eastern races this season, with certain teams outwardly committing to the extensive use of them for 2018.
Interestingly however, just a handful of disc brake equipped bikes were seen and even then just as spare bikes on the roof of the Quick-Step Floors and BMC Racing team cars. No disc brake equipped bikes were seen within either of the races themselves.
Click or swipe through the extensive gallery above to see how the riders battled the cold and all the tech that was on show at the first Classics of the 2018 season.
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