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, Milan–San Remo 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.
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.
Until the 1980s there were originally eight recognised classics, the five Monuments (see Cycling Monuments below) plus La Flèche Wallonne, Paris–Brussels and Paris–Tours. Due to various traffic and organizational problems these events came and went in various guises (for example, Paris–Tours became Blois–Chaville, before returning in its current form). Paris–Brussels disappeared altogether between 1967 and 1976. Flèche Wallonne was always on the Saturday before Liege–Bastogne–Liege (it was known as The Ardennes Weekend), before being shortened and moved to the preceding Wednesday. The remaining five then became known as the 'Monuments'.
Rik van Looy is the only rider to win all eight. Eddy Merckx and Roger de Vlaeminck both won seven, both missing out at Paris–Tours.
Together, Strade Bianche, Milan–San Remo, the Cobbled classics and the Ardennes classics make up the "Spring Classics", all held in March and April.
The summer classics are held from July to September.
The autumn classics are held from September to November.
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.
Some Classics have disappeared, often because of financial problems.These include:
The Monuments are generally considered to be the oldest, hardest and most prestigious one-day events in cycling.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.
Both Belgian 'monuments' – The Tour of Flanders and Liège–Bastogne–Liège – also have women's events.A women's version of Milan–San Remo, named Primavera Rosa, was initiated in 1999, but cancelled after 2005. A women's Paris–Roubaix was held for the first time in 2021.
Constant ("Stan") Ockers was a Belgian professional racing cyclist.
Johan Museeuw is a retired Belgian professional road racing cyclist who was a professional from 1988 until 2004. Nicknamed The Lion of Flanders, he was particularly successful in the cobbled classics of Flanders and Northern France and was considered one of the best classic races specialists of the 1990s.
Paolo Bettini is an Italian former champion road racing cyclist, and the former coach of the Italian national cycling team. Considered the best classics specialist of his generation, and probably one of the strongest of all times, he won gold medals in the 2004 Athens Olympics road race and in the 2006 and 2007 World Road Race Championships. He is nicknamed Il Grillo for his repeated sudden attacks and his sprinting style.
The Giro di Lombardia, officially Il Lombardia, is a cycling race in Lombardy, Italy. It is traditionally the last of the five 'Monuments' of the season, considered to be one of the most prestigious one-day events in cycling, and one of the last events on the UCI World Tour calendar. Nicknamed the Classica delle foglie morte, it is the most important Autumn Classic in cycling. The race's most famous climb is the Madonna del Ghisallo in the race finale.
Roger De Vlaeminck is a Belgian former professional racing cyclist. He was described by Rik Van Looy as "The most talented and the only real classics rider of his generation". Nicknamed “The Gypsy” because he was born into a family of traveling clothiers, he is known for exploits in the cobbled classic Paris–Roubaix race, but his performances in other “Monument” races gave him a record that few can match. His record in Paris–Roubaix earned him another nickname, “Monsieur Paris–Roubaix”.
John James 'Sean' Kelly is an Irish former professional road bicycle racer, one of the most successful road cyclists of the 1980s, and one of the finest classics riders of all time. From turning professional in 1977 until his retirement in 1994, he won nine monument classics, and 193 professional races in total. He won Paris–Nice seven years in a row and the first UCI Road World Cup in 1989. He won one Grand Tour, the 1988 Vuelta a España, won 4 green jerseys in the Tour de France and had multiple wins in the Giro di Lombardia, Milan–San Remo, Paris–Roubaix and Liège–Bastogne–Liège, as well as three runners-up placings in the only 'Monument' he failed to win, the Tour of Flanders. Other victories include the Critérium International, Grand Prix des Nations and shorter stage races including the Tour de Suisse, Tour of the Basque Country and Volta a Catalunya.
Henri "Rik" Van Looy is a Belgian former professional cyclist of the post-war period, nicknamed the King of the Classics or Emperor of Herentals. He was twice world professional road race champion, and was the first cyclist to win all five 'Monuments': the most prestigious one-day classics – a feat since achieved by just two others. With 379 road victories he's second to Merckx only. He is ninth on the all-time list of Grand Tour stage winners with thirty-seven victories.
The UCI Road World Cup was a season-long road cycling competition held from 1989 until 2004 and comprising ten one-day events.
Rolf Sørensen is a former Danish professional road bicycle racer. He is currently working as a cycling commentator and agent. Born in Helsinge in Denmark, Sørensen moved to Italy at the age of 17, where he has lived since. He was a client of Francesco Conconi and Luigi Cecchini. He goes under the name Il Biondo due to his blonde hair. He is married to Susanne.
Michele Bartoli is a retired Italian road racing cyclist. Bartoli was a professional from 1992 until 2004 and was one of the most successful single-day classics specialists of his generation, especially in the Italian and Belgian races. On his palmarès are three of the five monuments of cycling – five in total: the 1996 Tour of Flanders, the 1997 and 1998 Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the 2002 and 2003 Giro di Lombardia. He won the UCI Road World Cup in 1997 and 1998. From 10 October 1998 until 6 June 1999, Bartoli was number one on the UCI Road World Rankings.
Hendrikus Andreas "Hennie" Kuiper is a Dutch former professional road racing cyclist. His career includes a gold medal in the Olympic road race at Munich in 1972, becoming world professional road race champion in 1975, as well as winning four of the five “Monument” classics. He rode the Tour de France 12 times, finishing second twice and winning the stage to Alpe d'Huez on two occasions. Kuiper, Ercole Baldini and Paolo Bettini are the only riders to have won both the Olympic road race and the world professional road race.
Filippo "Pippo" Pozzato is an Italian former road racing cyclist, who rode professionally between 2000 and 2018 for the Mapei–Quick-Step, Fassa Bortolo, Quick-Step–Innergetic, Liquigas, Team Katusha, Lampre–Merida, and two spells with the Farnese Vini–Selle Italia/Wilier Triestina–Selle Italia teams.
Alfons ("Fons") De Wolf is a retired Belgian road race cyclist, a professional from 1979 to 1990. He represented his country at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Philippe Gilbert is a Belgian professional road bicycle racer, who currently rides for UCI WorldTeam Lotto–Soudal. Gilbert is best known for winning the World Road Race Championships in 2012, and for being one of two riders, along with Davide Rebellin, to have won the three Ardennes classics – the Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège – in a single season, which he accomplished in 2011. Gilbert also finished the 2011 season as the overall winner of the UCI World Tour.
Alessandro Ballan is an Italian former professional road bicycle racer who most recently rode for UCI World Tour team BMC Racing Team. He is best known for winning the World Road Race Championships, in 2008. Although he possessed a frame that was usually more associated with climbing, Ballan established himself as a leading spring classics contender. His nickname, Bontempino, is a diminutive reference to Guido Bontempi, to whom he bears a resemblance.
Greg Van Avermaet is a Belgian professional cyclist, who currently rides for UCI WorldTeam AG2R Citroën Team. Considered one of the most versatile riders of modern cycling, Van Avermaet is a specialist of the classic cycle races, but has also won stages and the general classification in stage races, particularly when run on a hilly terrain, such as the 2016 Tirreno–Adriatico, and the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire. His strong sprint finish enables him to win sprints of small lead groups, but he has also won races after solo breakaways.
The Monuments are five classic cycle races generally considered to be the oldest, hardest and most prestigious one-day events in men's road cycling. 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.
Michał Kwiatkowski is a Polish professional road bicycle racer, who currently rides for UCI WorldTeam Ineos Grenadiers.
Cycle racing is a popular sport in Belgium. It is governed by the Royal Belgian Cycling League since 1882, which became a founding member of the International Cycling Association in 1892 and later of the Union Cycliste Internationale in 1900. Since 2002, the Royal Belgian Cycling League is composed of the Wielerbond Vlaanderen (WBV), which governs the cycle racing in Flanders and of the Fédération Cycliste Wallonie-Bruxelles (FCWB), which governs the cycle racing in Wallonia and Brussels. Belgium has been one of the major countries in different categories of cycle racing over the years, including road cycling and cyclo-cross. The best Belgian cyclist of all times, Eddy Merckx, nicknamed the Cannibal, has won all of the 3 grand tours and all of the 5 monuments of cycling. He also won the UCI Road World Championships 3 times and set the hour record, among other achievements.
The 2020 UCI World Tour was a series of races that was scheduled to include thirty-six road cycling events throughout the 2020 cycling season. However, some of races were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tour started with the opening stage of the Tour Down Under on 21 January, and concluded with the final stage of the Vuelta a España on 8 November.