Freezing, wet and freezing, and non-existent: when cycling's weather gods don't play ball

This year's La Flèche Wallonne was tough – but there are others to match it

Riders power through the rain in the men's Fleche Wallonne 2024
(Image credit: Getty Images / Jasper Jacobs)

Belgium: sometimes it gives, sometimes it takes. The Classics can offer up warm air run through with the scent of blossom. But days later – almost in the same breath – they can pummel riders with the kind of unbearable weather conditions that send riders home swathed in blankets, shattered and shivering, thousand yard stares looking vacantly through excited onlookers and eager TV cameras.

Wednesday's La Flèche Wallonne was one of those days, one of those races. In the women's race not much more than half the field finished, while in the men's event the weather scythed through the field like a farmer on a hot September afternoon. But Flèche was anything but hot. Seven degrees and less, with a north-westerly that drove cruelly through the bunch, paring it down despite efforts to the contrary, with jackets and even leg-warmers abound.

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After cutting his teeth on local and national newspapers, James began at Cycling Weekly as a sub-editor in 2000 when the current office was literally all fields. 

Eventually becoming chief sub-editor, in 2016 he switched to the job of full-time writer, and covers news, racing and features.

A lifelong cyclist and cycling fan, James's racing days (and most of his fitness) are now behind him. But he still rides regularly, both on the road and on the gravelly stuff.