The term ‘threat of rain’ was one you can be sure did not originate from the Dutch, for them it’s a form of normality not a threat. A mere part of everyday life. Something to never put asunder to people gathering to celebrate a bike race. This weekend saw the opening of the Ardennes classics in Maastricht. Although we all know Amstel Gold isn’t actually in the Ardennes, but let’s not let semantics ruin a beautifully chilly, Dutch day out. Being a Yorkshireman, a nippy spring day wouldn’t put a dampener on photographer Russ Ellis’ day. In fact his lens seems to thrive on it.

The bridge out of Maastricht was lined with people as the riders rolled out. Being pavé-free the Ardennes are typically bemoaned as being an anticlimax to the cobbled classics. They are a tough act to follow you can’t deny that, but ask any rider and they’ll tell you different. These courses still pack a punch with hilly terrain.

This year Easter Sunday was one for worshipping the ‘bergs’ as every climb was lined with a cheering congregation drinking beer, a different type of communion.

The resurrection of the women’s race was praised by the masses. Starting twenty minutes after the men’s race and taking in much of the same route, giving fans two races for the price of one.

The rain never really came and the party at the top of the Cauberg was rocking all day, the Dutch do like to hire a DJ.

The Cauberg, known for it’s race splitting quality, delivered blow after blow on the women’s peloton as they ascended it multiple times. Golden girl, Anna Van Der Breggen emphatically took the win by a 55 second margin, with team mate Lizzie Deignan taking second.

The Quickstep classics crusader, Philippe Gilbert demonstrated to Michał Kwiatkowski how not to lose your cool with a stampeding peloton just metres behind.

Words: Russ Ellis, Hannah Troop Photos: Russ Ellis