Classic cycle races

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Joost Posthuma rides the 2008 Paris-Roubaix, one of the classic cycle races.

The classic cycle races are the most prestigious one-day professional road cycling races in the international calendar. Some of these events date back to the 19th century. They are normally held at roughly the same time each year. The five most revered races are often described as the cycling monuments.

For the 2005 to 2007 seasons, some classics formed part of the UCI ProTour run by the Union Cycliste Internationale. This event series also included various stage races including the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a España, Paris–Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré. The UCI ProTour replaced the UCI Road World Cup series (1989–2004) which contained only one-day races. Many of the classics, and all the Grand Tours, were not part of the UCI ProTour for the 2008 season because of disputes between the UCI and the ASO, which organizes the Tour de France and several other major races. Since 2009, many classic cycle races are part of the UCI World Tour.

Problems with definition[edit]

Although cycling fans and sports media eagerly use the term "classic", there is no clear consensus about what constitutes a classic cycling race. UCI, the international governing body of cycling, has no mention at all of the term in its rulings. This poses problems to define the characteristics of these races and makes it impossible to make precise lists. Several criteria are used to denote the importance of a cycling race: date of creation, historical importance and tradition, commercial importance, location, level of difficulty, level of competition field, etc. However, many of these paradigms tend to shift over time and are often opinions of a personal nature. One of the few objective criteria is the official categorization of races as classified by the UCI, although this is not a defining feature either, as many fans dispute the presence of some of the highest-categorized races and some older races are not included in the UCI World Tour.

Because of the growing ambiguity and inflation of the term "classic", the much younger term "monument" was introduced in the 21st century to denote the five most revered of the classic cycling races.

Classic cycle races[edit]

Given the lack of a clear definition of classic races, these are professional races mostly regarded as classics. It includes some of the one-day events of the UCI World Tour and additional races of historical importance.

Spring classics[edit]

Together, Milan–San Remo, the Cobbled classics and the Ardennes classics make up the "Spring Classics", all held in March and April.

  • Italy Strade Bianche – race that includes sections of strade bianche gravel roads. Despite its relatively short history, the Strade Bianche has quickly gained prestige. First held in 2007.
  • Italy Milan–San Remo – the first true Classic of the year, its Italian name is La Primavera ("The Spring") or La classicissima. This race is normally held on the Saturday closest to the vernal equinox. First run in 1907. It's the longest classic.

Cobbled classics[edit]

  • Belgium E3 Harelbeke – the first of the "Spring Classics" in Flanders, first held in 1958.
  • Belgium Gent–Wevelgem – first raced in 1934, in recent years held on the Sunday between Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders.
  • Belgium Tour of Flanders – (Ronde van Vlaanderen) is normally raced in early April, first held in 1913.
  • France Paris–Roubaix – La Reine ("Queen of the Classics") or l'Enfer du Nord ("The Hell of the North") is traditionally held one week after the Tour of Flanders, and was first raced in 1896.

Ardennes classics[edit]

  • Netherlands Amstel Gold Race – normally held mid-April, it is the first of the three Ardennes Classics or hill classics, one week after Paris–Roubaix. First run in 1966.
  • Belgium La Flèche Wallonne – the Walloon Arrow is the second Ardennes Classic, since 2004 held mid-week between the Amstel Gold Race and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. First run in 1936.
  • Belgium Liège–Bastogne–Liège – La Doyenne, the oldest Classic, was first raced in 1892. It is the third Ardennes Classic, held in late April, one week after the Amstel Gold Race.

Summer classics[edit]

The summer classics are held from July to September.

Autumn classics[edit]

The autumn classics are held from September to November.

Season openers[edit]

Season openers are usually not regarded as highly as other classics, but receive a lot of attention because of their position early in the season, typically in February.

Past classics[edit]

Some Classics have disappeared, often because of financial problems.[1] These include:

Cycling monuments[edit]

The Monuments are generally considered to be the oldest, hardest and most prestigious one-day events in cycling.[4][5][6] They each have a long history and specific individual characteristics. They are currently the one-day races in which most points can be earned in the UCI World Tour.

  • Italy Milan–San Remo – the first major Classic of the year, its Italian name is La Primavera (the spring), because it is held in late March. First run in 1907, it is notable for being considered the sprinter's classic. This race is particularly long (ca. 300 km (190 mi)) though mostly flat along the Ligurian coast, enabling sprinters to compete.
  • Belgium Tour of Flanders – the Ronde van Vlaanderen in Dutch/Flemish, the first of the Cobbled classics, is raced every first Sunday of April. It was first held in 1913, making it the youngest of the five Monuments. Notable for the narrow short hills (hellingen) in the Flemish Ardennes, usually steep and cobbled, the route forces the best riders to continually fight for space at the front. The course changes slightly every year: since 2017 the race starts in Antwerp and since 2012 finishes in Oudenaarde.
  • France Paris–Roubaix – the Queen of the Classics or l'Enfer du Nord ("The Hell of the North") is raced traditionally one week after the Tour of Flanders and is the last of the cobbled races. It was first organized in 1896. Its decisive sites are the many long sections of pavé (roads of cobblestones) making it the most unpleasant one-day race. It is considered by many to be the most heroic one-day cycling event of the year.[citation needed] The race finishes on the iconic Roubaix Velodrome. At the end of the race, riders are usually covered in dirt and/or mud in what is considered one of the most brutal tests of mental and physical endurance in all of cycling.
  • Belgium Liège–Bastogne–Liège – held in late April. La Doyenne, the oldest Classic, is the last of the Ardennes classics and usually the last of the spring races. It was first organized in 1892 as an amateur event; a professional edition followed in 1894. It is a long and arduous race notable for its many sharp hills in the Ardennes and uphill finish in the industrial suburbs of Liège, favouring climbers and even grand tour specialists.
  • Italy Giro di Lombardia – the Autumn Classic or the Race of the Falling Leaves, is held in October or late September. Initially organized as Milano–Milano in 1905, it was called the Giro di Lombardia (Tour of Lombardy) in 1907 and Il Lombardia in 2012. It is notable for its hilly and varied course around the Como Lake with a flat finish in Bergamo or a hilly finish in Como. Since 2012 it has a new, earlier date at the end of September, one week after the World Championship. It is often won by climbers with a strong sprint finish.

Both Belgian 'monuments' – The Tour of Flanders and Liège–Bastogne–Liège – also have women's events.[7] A women's version of Milan–San Remo, named Primavera Rosa, was initiated in 1999, but cancelled after 2005.[8]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Index des courses disparues".
  2. ^ "Giro del Lazio is dead, long live Roma Maxima". Cycling Weekly. 18 February 2013.
  3. ^ "Presentato il Memorial Marco Pantani - anche Giro della Romagna". GS Emilia. 19 May 2013.
  4. ^ Cycling Hall of Fame: Introduction, 2010, retrieved 2010-07-12
  5. ^ Cycling Monuments, 2010, retrieved 2010-07-12
  6. ^ "Cancellara dreams of all winning all five of cycling monuments",, 2010, retrieved 2010-07-12
  7. ^ "New-look route for Liege-Bastogne-Liege as debut women's parcours unveiled". Immediate Media Company. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  8. ^ Westemeyer, Susan (26 January 2006). "Women's Milan-San Remo cancelled". Retrieved 18 May 2015.

Further reading[edit]