The five greatest one-day (classic) cycling events on the planet are known as the Monuments of Cycling.
These races—Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and the Tour of Lombardy carry the distinction of being called the Monuments. So-called because they began prior to World War I; the youngest of the events was first run in 1913 – The Tour of Flanders, and the roads they used during the wars (and now the courses) are lined with the monuments and memorials to those who gave their lives during the war.
These Spring Classics are a unique collection of historic one-day races that span Northern Europe – Italy, Belgium, Holland and Northern France to be precise. From the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix to the punchy bergs of the Tour of Flanders, they are a part of cycling’s tradition and provide some of the most exciting and memorable moments in the sport’s history.
These iconic races are so vastly different to the challenges, riders find in the Tour De France, and other Grand Tour races. They are often defined with bad weather, challenging small roads and even cobbled streets. They will truly test physical and mental capabilities and even the resilience and strength of the mechanics!
These races are prestigious and in professional cycling they boast a rich heritage that every rider hopes, can add to their list of conquers!
Each of the five races has its own unique characteristics and for the spectators and fans alike, they are hotly anticipated races each year. They are guaranteed to be action packed and highly entertaining!
First Edition: 1907
This is the first Monument of the cycling calendar. It’s known in Italian as La Primavera, the Spring, for it is held annually in late March.
First raced in 1907, only in three subsequent years, 1916, 1944 and 1945, has the Milan-San Remo not been run. Its course travels along Italy’s Ligurian coast, from industrial Milan to San Remo upon the Italian Riviera. It is known for being a long race, c300km in length, but it is also known for having a predominantly flat profile, giving rise to its nickname of the Sprinter’s Classic, for a flurry of sprints towards the finish line is likely, unless an attack is launched on the Poggio climb, 6km from the finish line, to break the hearts of the sprinters.
Tour of Flanders – Belgium
First edition: 1913
Also known as: De Ronde, Ronde van Vlaanderen. The second monument of the season, the Tour of isn’t solely reserved for the Belgians. First held in 1913 this gruelling race is teeming with short, sharp and steep climbs. Riders leave from Antwerp and the the finale is marked by the cobbled climbs up Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. This hardcore route takes in some of Flanders’ most iconic short cobbled climbs, which, packed into the latter half of the race, ensure that only the strongest and strategic will emerge at the finish with even a shot at the victory.
Paris-Roubaix – France
First edition: 1896
Paris-Roubaix, named the ‘queen of the classics’, dates back to 1896 and sends riders over cobbled roads that only open for one day of the year, and finishes in the Roubaix velodrome. This is a race most cyclists whom have taken part, love to hate in equal parts. It’s varied i difficulty and the cobbled sections were initially used as there was no other roads available to use. It’s an unpredictable race and takes a rough toll on the bicycles themselves, which need reinforcement when it comes to specialised frames, wheels and tyres. Punctures and mechanical failures take out many competitors and have become a deciding factor in the race overall.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège – Belgium
First edition: 1892
The fourth Monument in the season is one of the oldest Classics on the cycling calendar and travels from Liège to Bastogne and back. The route takes in eleven of the toughest climbs in the Ardennes. The majority of the climbs being left for the final 100km, proving a relentless barrage of climbing that barely allows any respite for tired riders.
Il Lombardia – Italy
First edition: 1892
Known as the Race of the Falling Leaves this is the only Monument to take place in the autumn rather than spring, the Tour of Lombardy is very different than its northern European cousins. It’s a picturesque route taking in long ascents rather than the power climbs of the Flanders Tour. It’s often the final outing for these Grand Tour riders and signals the end of the season.