This weekend’s races at Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne mark the beginning of the classics season in professional cycling. It also marks the renewal of the sport’s best rivalry, between QuickStep and Omega Pharma-Lotto.
But what’s that? You’d like to know some of the backstory behind this grudge match? Well, have I got a chart for you:
Yes, that’s the “route” of the rivalry, so to speak, laid out over a map of Belgium, running from Oostende to Roubaix (or the French border very near it), with each province representing a different year. I simplified the borders in a few places—Belgian fans, I apologize for messing up your map.
I had initially planned to make this more data driven but for a variety of reasons older results can be hard to find/less reliable, especially for the smaller classics. I also tried to focus mainly on Roubaix and the more major Belgian races (they are Belgian teams and this a map of Belgium, after all) and limit the storyline to other events only where the teams clashed directly.
Plus, rivalries aren’t about numbers—just go back in time to 2003 and ask a Red Sox fan. And which do you think ads more spice to the conflict: QuickStep’s edge in Dwars door Vlanderen wins, or the mattress ad that featured McEwen’s headbutt?