Classic cycle races

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Joost Posthuma rides the 2008 Paris-Roubaix, one of the classic cycle races. Paris-Roubaix-61.jpg
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, 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.

Problems with definition

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

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.

Spring classics

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

Italian spring classics

  • Flag of Italy.svg 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.
  • Flag of Italy.svg 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 is the longest classic by distance, and is often considered a 'sprinter's classic' despite a number of notable climbs, as it tends toward bunch sprint finishes.

Cobbled classics

  • Flag of Belgium (civil).svg E3 Harelbeke  – the first of the "Spring Classics" in Flanders, first held in 1958.
  • Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Gent–Wevelgem  – first raced in 1934, in recent years held on the Sunday between Milan–San Remo and the Tour of Flanders.
  • Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Tour of Flanders  – (Ronde van Vlaanderen) is normally raced in early April, first held in 1913.
  • Flag of France.svg 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. Arguably the most iconic of all the classics, the race is dominated by multiple pavé sections, and ends in a circuit of the Roubaix Velodrome.

Ardennes classics

  • Flag of the Netherlands.svg 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.
  • Flag of Belgium (civil).svg 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.
  • Flag of Belgium (civil).svg 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. A race characterized by multiple short, steep climbs, it is often considered the most physically arduous of the classics, rewarding stamina and explosiveness.

Summer classics

The summer classics are held from July to September.

Autumn classics

The autumn classics are held from September to November.

Season openers

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

Some Classics have disappeared, often because of financial problems. [4] These include:

Cycling monuments

The Monuments are generally considered to be the oldest, hardest and most prestigious one-day events in cycling. [7] [8] [9] 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. [10] A women's version of Milan–San Remo, named Primavera Rosa, was initiated in 1999, but cancelled after 2005. [11] A women's Paris–Roubaix was held for the first time in 2021.

See also


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