The five monuments of cycling
In addition to the three Grand Tours, five monuments stand out in the cycling calendar. Milan–San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris–Roubaix, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and Il Lombardia are annual highlights for professional cyclists and fans alike.
- What are the monuments of cycling?
- An overview of the five monuments
- Milan–San Remo
- Tour of Flanders
- II Lombardia
BORA - hansgrohe / Sprintcycling
BORA - hansgrohe / Chiara Redaschi
BORA - hansgrohe / Etienne Schoeman
What are the cycling monuments?
In addition to the famous three-week Grand Tours – Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España – the five “monuments of cycling” also send cycling fans and professionals into raptures. Whereas the cycling calendar is dominated by the Grand Tours from May to September, the one-day races such as the monuments mainly take place in spring and autumn.
The five monuments include Milan–San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris–Roubaix, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and Il Lombardia. Four of the races take place in spring, while Il Lombardia rounds off the road cycling season in October.
These races, together with other smaller one-day races which are also known as classics or semi-classics, are characterised by their special traditions and their long history of success.
As the five biggest classic races, these monuments seen as the most important one-day races together with the UCI road world championships. These events have a long tradition and their magic captivates cycling enthusiasts worldwide. For fans up-close, they are almost like being at a folk festival. The demanding routes which go past iconic points and the enthusiastic crowd by the side of the road make these races so special for everyone involved.
An overview of the five monuments
Milan–San Remo – the first monument
For the first monument, cycling elites gather in northern Italy: the starting point of the Milan–San Remo. This year, the race will take place on 18 March. “La Primavera” (the spring), as this race is affectionately known, covers a distance of almost 300 km, making it the longest one-day race in professional cycling.
This year, for the first time, the riders won’t be starting directly in Milan, but in Abbiategrasso, a town near Milan located on the banks of the Ticino river. After 30 km, the riders will rejoin the original route, heading over the Turchino Pass to the Mediterranean coast before reaching the Ligurian spa report, San Remo.
The race is also known for two short yet challenging climbs, Cipressa and Poggio, towards the end of the route. These call for explosive attacks on the way up and daredevil manoeuvres on the way down. If none of the riders have broken away by this stage, the sprint turns into a showdown between all those who are still in the peloton after the chase over Cipressa and Poggio.
Ronde van Vlaanderen– the highlight of the Flemish cycling season
The next monument takes place shortly afterwards, on 2 April in Belgium. As the highlight of the Flemish cycling season, the “Ronde van Vlaanderen” (Tour of Flanders) is a real treat for Belgian and international fans and a kind of national holiday for the locals.
“De Ronde” is known, amongst other things, for its special race dynamics. With its numerous cobbled sections and some short yet intensive climbs (known as “Hellinge”) it is essentially an elimination race: only the best riders can fight for the win here. The iconic sections are decorated with yellow flags featuring a lion – the Flemish flag.
The windy and rainy weather regularly creates special riding conditions. Climbs such as the Koppenberg, Paterberg or Oude Kwaremont captivate thousands of fans and reduce the number of riders to such an extent that by the time they reach the long home straight in Oudenaarde, where the winner is crowned, there are only a handful left, or sometimes just a lone rider.
Paris–Roubaix – the King of the Classics
Just one week later, on 9 April, the “Queen of the Classics” or the “Hell of the North” (as the Paris–Roubaix race is often referred to) takes place. And there’s good reason for this nickname because the race (which was first held in 1896) covers around 250 km with numerous breakneck cobbled sections (“pavés”). These make up around 55 km of the total route and are much bumpier than the cobblestones we find in modern city centres.
The mostly historical and thus very rough sections of the route place high demands on riders and their equipment and often lead to spectacular falls or wheel damage. The cobbled sectors are categorised according to their difficulty on a scale of one to five stars, with one being the easiest and five being the hardest. A five-star sector features cobbles that are sometimes loose or smooth, very uneven or with lots of gaps. This difficulty is compounded by the dirt and dust kicked up by the riders as they surge through the Hell of the North. So much so that by the time they finally cross the finish line in the Roubaix Velodrome they can barely recognise each other.
The April weather often plays a key role here, as the cobblestones can be a real slip hazard in bad weather. One of the best-known and hardest section is the “Trench of Arenberg” (“Trouée d’Arenberg”) which runs through Arenberg forest. The finale of this classic race begins with the highest difficulty level and crowds of spectators lining the edges of the seemingly endless straights. The winner is traditionally awarded a cobblestone trophy in Roubaix Velodrome.