The classic cycle races are one-day professional cycling road races in the international calendar. Most of the events, all run in western Europe, have been fixtures on the professional calendar for decades and the oldest ones 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 'Monuments'.
For the 2005 to 2007 seasons, the 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, and various non-Classic one-day events. The ProTour replaced the UCI Road World Cup series which contained only one-day races. Many of the Classics, and all the Grand Tours, were not part of the 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.
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.
Given the lack of a clear definition of classic races, these are professional races mostly regarded as classics. It includes all of the one-day events of the UCI World Tour and additional races of historical importance.
Together, Milan–San Remo, the Cobbled classics and the Ardennes classics make up the "Spring Classics", all held in March and April. Milan–San Remo – the first true Classic of the year, its Italian name is La Primavera ("The Spring"), this race is normally held on the Sunday closest to the first day of spring. First run in 1907.
E3 Harelbeke – the first of the "Spring Classics" in Flanders, first held in 1958.
Gent–Wevelgem – first raced in 1934, in recent years held on the Sunday between Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders.
Tour of Flanders – Vlaanderens Mooiste ("Flanders' Finest") is normally raced in early April. The biggest bike race in cycling-crazed Flanders, first held in 1913.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Clásica de San Sebastián – known as Donostia–Donostia in the Basque Country
EuroEyes Cyclassics, formerly HEW Cyclassics and Vattenfall Cyclassics – also known as the Hamburg Cyclassics
Trittico Lombardo – three separate races in Lombardy, traditionally in August but recently moved to September:
Coppa Ugo Agostoni
Tre Valli Varesine – the Three valleys of Varese, the most prestigious of the three
Bretagne Classic – held in late summer on a circuit near the small Breton village of Plouay
Laurentian Classics – two one-day races in Canada, named after the Saint Lawrence River that runs through Quebec, organized since 2010
Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec – raced on a Friday in early September
Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal – held two days after the Grand Prix de Québec
Paris–Brussels – First held in 1893, since 2013 renamed the Brussels Cycling Classic and only run on Belgian territory
Grand Prix de Fourmies – held since 1928 in Northern France
Paris–Tours – known as the "Sprinters' Classic", first race in 1896
Trittico di Autunno – three Italian races in the week after the World Championship late September:
Milano–Torino – first run in 1876, the race had some continuity problems due to financial problems but has returned to the UCI calendar in 2012.
Giro del Piemonte – first run in 1906
Giro di Lombardia – also known as the "Race of the Falling Leaves", first held in 1905 as Milano–Milano. Considered the biggest Autumn Classic in cycling
Giro dell'Emilia – one week after the Giro di Lombardia, one of the hardest Classics on the calendar, with the famous San Luca, Bologna circuit.
Japan Cup – held since 1992, at the end of October, around Utsunomiya
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. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – opening the Belgian cycling season, forming a double header with Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne which is held the following day
Grand Prix d'Ouverture La Marseillaise – opening the French cycling season
Gran Premio della Costa Etruschi – opening the Italian cycling season
Trofeo Pollença – opening the Spanish cycling season as part of the Vuelta a Mallorca
Some Classics have disappeared, often because of financial problems. These include: Paris–Brest–Paris – an exceptionally long event (ca. 1200 km), held once every 10 years from 1891 to 1951 as a professional race
Bordeaux–Paris – the gruelling 560 km, partly motor-paced event, run from 1891 to 1988
Wincanton Classic – held from 1989 to 1997, the most important British race in the 1990s
Porto–Lisboa – held from 1911 to 2004 (the longest one-day classic from 1989 until it was cancelled)
Züri–Metzgete – also known as the Championship of Zürich, held from 1914 to 2006; in its heyday considered the sixth Monument
Giro del Lazio – held from 1933 to 2008 (The race returned briefly in 2013 and 2014 as the Roma Maxima)
Giro della Romagna – held from 1911 to 2011 (the race merged with the Memorial Marco Pantani in 2013, as they were both held in Emilia–Romagna)
The five 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 (100 pts for the winner). 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.
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 1998 it starts in Bruges and since 2012 it finishes in Oudenaarde.
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 by many considered to be the most heroic one-day cycling event of the year. 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.
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.
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. 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.
Except for the Tour of Flanders, the 'Monuments' currently have no women's events. A women's version of Milan–San Remo, named Primavera Rosa, was initiated in 1999, but cancelled after 2005.
Only three riders have won all five Monument races during their careers: Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx and Roger De Vlaeminck, all three Belgians, and only Eddy Merckx won each of them more than once. Five riders won four of the Monuments. With victories in all the other Monuments, Seán Kelly almost joined the top group, finishing second in the Tour of Flanders on three occasions (1984, 1986 and 1987). Dutch rider Hennie Kuiper won each Monument, except Liège–Bastogne–Liège in which he finished second in 1980. Frenchman Louison Bobet, also won all but Liège–Bastogne–Liège. Belgian rider Fred De Bruyne also came close, finishing second in the Giro di Lombardia in 1955 and winning the other four races during his career. Germain Derycke also won four races, all except the Giro di Lombardia. Twenty riders have won at least five Monuments in their career.
Riders in blue are still active. Number of wins in gold indicates the current record holder(s).
Only Eddy Merckx has been able to win three 'Monuments' in a single year - and he did it four times:1969: Milan–San Remo, Tour of Flanders and Liège–Bastogne–Liège.
1971: Milan–San Remo, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and Giro di Lombardia.
1972: Milan–San Remo, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and Giro di Lombardia.
1975: Milan–San Remo, Tour of Flanders and Liège–Bastogne–Liège.