The Classics are cycling’s biggest one day races and take place in Northern Europe in the spring, well for the most part at least. These races are known by every cycling fan and have different names – the Spring Classics, the Cobbled Classics, the Northern Classics, or simply the Classics – for many fans and riders alike these races are the best time of the year, in cycling and in life.
The Spring Classics are often more entertaining than any given day of a Grand Tour or other stage race as big teams can’t kill off the excitement or viewing pleasure with metronomic control and nor can those with ambitions on the win sit back, limit their losses and make up for it the following day. One-day races are all or nothing and for the spectators all the better for it.
The Monument Classics are the five biggest one-day races on the calendar. They take place in three different countries, over cobbles, up and down climbs and often in the foulest of weather conditions. The Monuments are cycling’s oldest one-day races. Liege-Bastogne-Liege is the oldest of the five races as it was first run in 1892, and has been named La Doyenne (“The Old Lady”) to reflect this. The event comes after the cobbled races and is better suited to a tactically astute stage racer who’s brought their climbing legs.
Milan-San Remo is the first Monument of the year and is most noted for its length as the parcours covers almost 300km. Some short, sharp climbs towards the end such as ascents of the Cipressa and Poggio, but it still carried the nickname ‘The Sprinters’ Classic’.
The Tour of Flanders takes riders over the cobbles and bergs of Belgium’s Flemish north. One for the all-out Classics specialists, De Ronde is a huge draw for fans wanting to see the best riders giving it their all on the small climbs on their way to the finish line.
Paris-Roubaix, rightly named the Queen of the Classics and referred to by many as the Hell of the North, is a truly grueling day out for the riders but an incredible spectacle for fans – both on the side of the road or watching at home on the television.
There are three Ardennes Classics, although one of them is actually in the Dutch Limburg region. The Dutch event comes first in the shape of the Amstel Gold Race, followed by La Fleche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The three races now take place in an eight-day period and tend to fall later in April, after the Cobbled Classics, due to the hilly terrain covered by the three races.
Overview of the races:
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
When: Saturday 27th February
Distance: Men’s – 200km / Women’s – 130km
When: Sunday 28th February
When: Saturday 7th March
Distance: Men’s – 176km / Women’s – 103km
When: Saturday 20st March
When: Friday 26th March
When: Sunday 28th March
Distance: Men’s – 240km / Women’s – 115km
Dwars Door Vlaanderen
When: Wednesday 31st April
Tour of Flanders
Monument / Cobbled Classic
When: Sunday 4th April
When: Wednesday 7th April
Monument / Cobbled Classic
When: Sunday 11th April – Easter Sunday
When: Wednesday 14th April
When: Sunday 18th April
When: Wednesday 21st April
Distance: Men’s – 199.5km / Women’s – 188.5km
Monument / Ardennes Classic
When: Sunday 25th April
Distance: Men’s 260km / Women’s – 135km
Monument When: Autumn
Photo credits @facepeeters