With Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this Saturday (27th), and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne on Sunday, we’ll be getting the first tastes of the forthcoming classics season. The warm-up races in Qatar and Oman are over, and now the real racing begins – both for riders and fans alike. Out go deserted desert roads lined with one man and a bemused camel, and in come the fanatical Belgians for whom racing is in the blood (sweat, and tears).

Timm Kölln‘s excellent photography (above) captures the gritty atmosphere of the northern classics, where bleak agricultural and industrial landscapes play host to the hardmen of the sport.

At the moment I’m scouring the start sheets of the early races I’ve entered, and my heart quickens as I contemplate the reality of pinning on a number and getting stuck into the racing. With summer still seeming very far off, it’s easier to relate to battling the cold, muck and pavé of the classics than with the heat and sand of the desert.