The spring classics season kicks off today with the traditional double-opener weekend of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne - and less traditionally, Omloop van het Hageland for the women (Sunday). If you haven't already, fall in love with another beautiful part of cycling.

Can you remember the first time you fell in love with pro cycling? It was probably late at night - in Australia anyway - watching the scenery in France fly by to a soundtrack of passionate tones and puns from Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. You express your commitment for three weeks every year as you drink coffee and chow down on snacks while the clock ticks over to 1am. 

Then as your love grew, you discovered the Giro d'Italia. You love it more than the Tour de France, which of course you tell everyone. And you've probably rolled your eyes when people asked "When will Caleb Ewan win the Tour?'

Many fans stop there. Or watch the Vuelta. But for us tortured others, we also fell in love with the spring classics. The grand tours are a spectacle we'd never miss, but the classics? They're something else.

It's hard to explain what it is we love about the classics. Dusty roads, some white, some brown. Climbs called the Poggio or the Koppenberg. Places called Roubaix and Liege. Snacks called frites and beer called Duvel. Cobbles the size of your head. 

Many of us perhaps unconsciously identify with the fields of Flanders as our nations' citizens bled there in various wars. The Italian classics - well, they're just beautiful. 

Or we adore men and women who endure cycling in the toughest circumstances - like warriors. If we cycle ourselves, we like to imagine when we're riding in rain and wind we're Tiffany Cromwell struggling on for glory. Or if we forget to wear gloves, we pretend we're Heinrich Haussler or Tom Boonen feeling the vibration of the road.

We watch expecting anything to happen. A rider in front all day suffering a puncture, their race over. Or someone is in the wrong position before going in to a cobbled section, cruelly left to pedal home alone. We marvel at the sheer speed we only see in the classics as the peloton splits to be the first on the cobbles or a decisive climb or bend. 

SBS this year will bring to you live the following major classics: Strade Bianchi, Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold Race, Fleche-Wallone, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Find more details here

While SBS is not broadcasting the 71st Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Omloop) and the 68th Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (KBK), we bring you the following snippets from around the cycling world as teams and riders prepare for this weekend's opening double-header.

Omloop

The men's peloton departs from Ghent and will cover 13 hills ("bergs") and 10 cobbled sections over 200km. There are many opportunities to attack on bergs such as the Muur-Kapelmuur, Valkenberg or Taaianberg, and the cobbled sectors of Haaghoek, Paddestraat or Lange Munte. This year, the new final climb Boembekeberg replaces the Molenberg and comes at 32km to the finish. The likes of Philippe Gilbert, Greg Van Avermaet, Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Alexander Kristoff and world champion Peter Sagan are all hungry for victory. 

The women's race is 123km and also starts in Ghent. 

KBK and Omloop van het Hageland

Less than 24 hours after Omloop, the men line up for KBK, the women the Omloop van het Hageland.  In KBK  cobbles and bergs also feature in this 203km race however, it's more for the sprinters as the last hill comes with 50 kilometers left of the race. Cavendish has won here before, but so has typical classics rider, Tom Boonen - three times. 

Here's a teaser for the Omloop van het Hageland

 

Saturday 27 Feb 2016

Their line-up is formidable. For Omloop: Tom Boonen, Iljo Keisse, Nikolas Maes, Tony Martin, Niki Terpstra, Stijn Vandenbergh, Julien Vermote and Lukasz Wisniowski. For KBK, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, and Martin Velits, replace Tony Martin and Niki Terpstra. 

Team captain, Tom Boonen wonders how a slightly different parcours for Omloop will affect the race.

"It's more or less the same parcours, a nice and fast one. The arrival is different, with a slight uphill finish, which may change things," he said. 

"I feel good and today I enjoyed a nice day on the course. We have a strong team and we look forward to the week-end. Omloop will be an important race also to see the level of our opponents.  

"I'll try to do a good race, but my goals, as everyone knows, come later in the season. Still, we will do our best to deliver a nice result for the fans and the team."

Following course recon, three-time ITT World Champion Tony Martin enjoyed the new experience of preparing for spring classics. 

"It was a nice experience, a mix of cobbles on the climbs and on the flat. I really liked it. Of course, it will be different during the race, when 200 guys will fight to get to the front. I'm feeling good, I'm happy and I can't wait for Saturday to come. 

"My teammates explained to me today how important is to be at the front when the real race starts. I will also watch some videos of the past editions again, to get the feeling of the race, and I'm sure I will be ready for Saturday," he said. 

While they are a strong team on paper for Omloop,anything can happen. In 2015, Ian Stannard (Sky) was outnumbered by three Etixx-Quickstep riders, but still managed to outsmart his colleagues. 

Wiggle High5 lines up in Ghent today with two past winners, Emma Johansson and Amy Pieters, and 2015 Tour of Flanders victor, Elisa Longo Borghini. Johansson said the team is eager to get the spring classics season started.

“I think everyone is very motivated; the whole team has been having a good winter - good preparations - and it’s good that we have been able to get together a bit,” she said. “We got to do Qatar together, and that was a good start for us, and I think everybody is just really motivated to get the European Classic season started.

“Classics. Cobbles. Strong team. It’s going to be good!” said Johansson.

Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s new  rider Pieters denied Johansson a third title in 2014. Pieters too is eager to display her good form developed in Qatar. 

“I think I had a good winter. Everything went to plan; I had good training, and everything was good,” Pieters said. “Qatar was also a good race with the team, and I’m really looking forward to racing with the team on Saturday.

“It’s time. The winter was long enough!' said Pieters. 

Tour of Flanders champion Borghini has been suffering from illness in recent weeks, but wants to get her Classics show on the road.

“I feel excited to be racing in Europe, and for Het Nieuwsblad,” she said. “It’s a race that I really like. My form is not the best, because I’ve been sick for more or less a month, and I’m getting better only now. So I hope to be good for the team there.”

Elia Viviani (Sky) lines up for Omloop and KBK this weekend and will compete at the Track Cycling World Championships just five days after. Viviani relishes the challenge.

"KBK is a big focus for me after finishing third there last year. I don't know exactly what my shape is after two weeks on the track though - sure, I am really explosive, but I need to see if I also have the legs to get good results this weekend. Maybe Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is a little too hard for me - but I think I can perform well at Kuurne," he said.

"I love the Belgian Classics - they're a big focus for me. It will be good to be back on the cobbles then hopefully I can do good work on the track at the Worlds, and after I've raced Tirreno-Adriatico I will be ready for Milan-San Remo, Gent-Wevelgem and the rest of the Classics. It's a great month of racing, starting from this weekend."

Despite downplaying the omnium worlds favourite tag, Viviani remains confident.

"With the two-week training spell on the track - I am more prepared. But we are in Olympic year so all the riders are ready, and it's the last big test before Rio. Every rider wants to see the level of other riders. My condition is good, the time in my legs is good - I think I am ready."

Tiesj Benoot:

“I start in the opening weekend with a little more confidence compared to last year. I know the course very well, but a lot of others too. We’ll have to make sure that we’re on the right positions at the crucial moments and we’ll have to ride attentively at the front of the peloton.”

“In my opinion, the Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix are more important races, but I won’t start the Omloop with less ambition. I was already in good shape last year in the same period and now as well. I feel good, especially after the Volta ao Algarve. I went a few times full gas in several stages so perhaps I can count on a supercompensation, we’ll see.”

“The new hill in the finale won’t determine the race I think. The difference will be made before this hill. We want to be with as much riders as possible in the finale, then we can try something and attack. It would be great if I could win the race. But if someone else of the team wins, I’ll be equally happy of course.”

Jürgen Roelandts:

“Until now I didn’t start with a 100 per cent positive feeling in the races. But I didn’t participate at the recon today so hopefully I’ll be in a good shape. I stayed in Algarve till yesterday, the final stage was really tough and I took my time to recover as good as possible.”

“I don’t mind that there are other riders in the team that can win the race. In my opinion it’s even better for us as a team. You have to make sure that you’re attentive in the front of course. This year’s selection is one of the stronger ones of the past few years, maybe it’s even the best selection. If we could win a race during the opening weekend, it would give a boost to the whole team. It depends on how the race will evolve of course, but we stand a good chance. Even more than the previous years.”

With their eyes ultimately on Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) glory, Canyon/SRAM are keen to warm up with the 124km women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. After success in Qatar with Trixi Worrack claiming the overall win, the team needs what the desert couldn't bring. 

"The cobbles, narrow roads, constant left, right, up, down, the climbs are steep and ugly," said Worrack. "A good reminder of how bad the pain is."

"It's really not much easier than Flanders. Every team is here. The profile is similar. And Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is made harder because it's early in the season. If you've not done many races until this time it will hurt much more." Worrack said. 

2013 winner Tiffany Cromwell can't wait until the gun sounds today.  

"It's a mini Flanders, the same character, you need to focus the whole time and it'll be a big field with something like 22 teams. I think we can take confidence from Qatar, we're all in good form and I'm looking forward to it. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is always a nice race, I would love to win again. It's good to see where everyone's at, who is up for the Classics and who is still lagging behind in their winter training."

Lidl an Etixx-Quickstep sponsor is running an interesting promotion. Starting in Omloop, fans will be invited to squeeze as much orange juice as possible riding a bike, as Tom Boonen demonstrates.