These iconic events are called the Spring Classics, the Cobbled Classics, the Northern Classics, or just the Classics. They begin in February with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo, Gent Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix, and a few less well-known.
Following these are the Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, known as the Ardenne Classics, each with its special and unique character and atmosphere. Some of these prestigious events are also called monuments, of which there are five: Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and the Tour of Lombardy and each holds the badge of distinction for the grand title of a monument. The legendary monuments have rich historical pasts and countless stories to tell. They are deeply enshrined in history and heritage, returning to their roots in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Many fans the world over, as well as passionate cyclists, see these iconic Spring Classic races as their favourite time of the cycling calendar, which is at the start of the new cycling season from around February until the end of April, laying the foundation for the exciting Grand World Tours like the Giro and the Tour de France. These one-day Classics races are an all-or-nothing attempt for victory after what is usually a hard slog over gravel, cobbles and long distances in inclement weather and overcoming all barriers. It's a race about overcoming mishaps and falls while taking advantage of opportunities and following through on changing strategies at short notice to chase and claim a prestigious victory.
The Spring Classics are not only about the survival of the fittest and fastest in the peloton but also about the smartest, who can think fast tactically, mitigate losses and make gains throughout these long races. For that reason, the races hold immense prestige for the riders and the opportunity to follow one's race heroes and teams fighting a bloody battle of sweat and tears against their opponents to the finish line.
The grand opener, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
In late February, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is the season's grand opener race. A famous cobbled climb, among others, called the Muur to the chapel at the summit or Kapelmuur, is the focal point on a prestigious and renowned route in Geraardsbergen in Flanders dating back to 1945 on cobbled roads from mediaeval times. This event's winners in history were the legendary figures of Eddy Merckx, Freddy Maertens and Johan Musseeuw. The course has short and sharp climbs or 'bergs' and cobbles.
Above: 2018 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) and Zdenek Stybar (CZ)
Above: Ride up the iconic and steep Muur of Geraardsbergen or Kapelmuur on ROUVY
Distances: Men 202 km, Women 127 km
Winners of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2023: Men: Dylan van Baarle (Jumbo-Visma), Women: Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx)
Strade Bianche, a traditional and Classic race over the white and dusty Tuscan hills
Although not officially a Spring Classic race in early March, the 184 km Strade Bianche is a newer one-day Tour race over rolling and typical hilly gravel roads through beautiful Tuscany. Earlier, in 2007, the race was held in October, inspired by the L'Eroica vintage bike event, a throwback to the old days of racing with vintage bicycles ridden over these rough, gravel roads around the Siena countryside.
Above: Strade Bianche 2012 edition with Fabian Cancellara and Philippe Gilbert
Above: Riding in Tuscany virtually in the Strade Bianche on ROUVY
Those same tricky gravel roads and short and sharp climbs now present the battlegrounds for attacks by the pros, where technical cycle-cross skills are an advantage. In the climbs, it is easy to lose traction on the back wheel while climbing out of the saddle, so staying seated is the best way to get over the hills using a high cadence. For that reason, wider tires of around 28 mm are the tires of choice with lower pressure for better rolling resistance. Those with the best bike-handling skills, strength, and early-season fitness will have an advantage.
Above: The gravel roads in Strade Bianche
The pros race over 60km of the 184 km on rough gravel roads called sectors, usually in gusty conditions in the open countryside exposed to the wind. Enjoy segments from Strade Bianche in the beautiful Tuscany countryside on ROUVY.
Distances: Men 215 km, Women 137 km
Winners of Strade Bianche 2023: Men: Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), Women: Demi Vollering (SD Worx)
Milan-San Remo, the longest race and first of the Monuments
Milan-San Remo, often referred to as "La Primavera" or "The Spring Classic," is one of the world's most prestigious and longest one-day professional cycling races. It typically takes place in March, marking the beginning of the European cycling season. The race starts in Milan, Italy, and finishes in San Remo, covering a distance of approximately 300 kilometres, making it the longest race on the UCI World Tour calendar. Milan-San Remo is known for its varied terrain, including flat sections, rolling hills, and a series of climbs, with the iconic ascent of the Poggio di San Remo being the final decisive point before the finish.
The race often ends in a thrilling sprint finish along the Via Roma in San Remo, but breakaways and attacks on the climbs before that can also shape the outcome. Milan-San Remo is considered one of the Monuments of cycling, and its status as the "Sprinters' Classic" makes it a highly anticipated event on the cycling calendar, attracting top sprinters and all-rounders alike. The most successful rider with seven victories is Belgian Eddy Merckx.
Distances: about 300 km
Winners of Milan-San Remo 2023: Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) RCS Sport announced that there will be a women's edition of the race in 2024.
Gent-Wevelgem in harsh conditions on the cobbled climbs
Gent-Wevelgem, its first edition back in 1934, is held annually in late March in Belgium. It will start from the Menin Gate in Ypres, a memorial to the victims of World War I, and end on Vanackerestraat in Wevelgem. The challenging course has sections of cobbled roads and often unpredictable weather, causing difficult conditions with wind and rain.
The terrain is brutally hilly and includes several climbs, including two ascents of the infamous steep and cobbled Kemmelberg, providing opportunities for breakaways. As a result, few editions end in a bunch sprint on the last flat stretch, and the winner often comes from a smaller breakaway group that has split off the main peloton. Keep an eye out for the Kemmelberg! It is 1.3 kilometres long and covers 111 metres of elevation with an average gradient of 8.7%.
Above: The Kemmelberg climb in Gent-Wevelgem
Distances: Men: 253 km, Women: 162 km
Winners of Gent-Wevelgem 2023: Christophe Laporte (Fra) Jumbo-Visma, Women: Marlen Reusser
The Tour of Flanders, where true tenacity meets the cobbled climbs
The Tour of Flanders, also known as Ronde van Vlaanderen, De Ronde, or Vlaanderens Mooiste in Dutch, takes place early in April in Belgium. It is a UCI World Tour, a one-day classic, one of the five famous monuments in cycling races, and one of the two cobbled classics, Paris-Roubaix, held one week after.
Above: Peter Sagan on Oude Kwaremont at the Tour of Flanders 2017
The long route typically covers undulating terrain, including iconic cobbled climbs and narrow, winding roads that test the riders' endurance, skill, and tactical acumen. The duo Oude Kwaremont-Paterberg will again serve as a significant obstacle in the full finale, which will undoubtedly be decisive points where the riders can launch attacks or get dropped from the lead group.
Above: Climbing up the Koppenberg in the Tour of Flanders on ROUVY
The race's inaugural edition took place in 1913 to reinvigorate cycling in Belgium and provide the Flemish people with an event held entirely within Flanders. It's renowned for its passionate crowds, festive atmosphere, and unpredictable outcomes, making it a highlight of the cycling calendar and a true test of champions.
Above: Climb up the Paterberg in the Tour of Flanders on ROUVY
Characteristics of the main climbs:
Koppenberg: Probably the hardest of all! It is 600m long with a gradient averaging 10% and with a maximum gradient of 22%
Watch how the guys at GCN manage the Koppenberg
Oude Kwaremont - 2,6 km 3,5% average gradient 1600m in length max 11% Muur van Geraadsbergen is the centrepiece, with legendary battles conquering this eventually very narrow and steep climb known as Kapelmuur, Muur-Kapelmuur, or the Muur. It is usually the 8th climb on the route and approximately 95 km from the finish. The road starts wide and then narrows to the width of a car. The central part of the climb is 75 m long, an average of 9% to a maximum of 20%, eventually decreasing slightly to reach the most famous location in cycling, the Kapel or Chapel.
The Paterberg - the final climb after Oude Kwaremont - 360m in length average 13% STRAVA KOM
Distances: Men 270,8 km, Women 163 km
Winners of Tour of Flanders 2023: Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx)
Paris-Roubaix, fight for survival on the flat cobbles
Paris-Roubaix, or Hell of the North, also known as Queen of the Classics, is the third monument of the cycling Spring Classics season and is one of the most legendary, taking place in early April. There is a men's (257 km) and a women's field (146 km from Denain to Roubaix). Starting in Compiène, north of Paris, the men follow the 257 km course with numerous gruelling pavé or cobblestone sections or 'sectors' varying in difficulty and length, making their way to Roubaix in the north of France, near the border of Belgium.
Above: Paris - Roubaix cycle race winner, Mathieu van der Poel leads the race through secteur 12 at Auchy-lez-Orchies, France
The first 100 km are paved roads, followed by the first of the many cobbled sectors with their five-star rankings that open up to the riders with 55 km of notorious bone and teeth-rattling cobblestone and narrow roads. The winner has a mind-boggling speed of 45 km/hour over this brutal terrain. Fortunately, on your trainer, you won't feel this!
Above: Riding on the cobbled sectors in Paris-Roubaix on ROUVY
The race runs in a mix of organised chaos and drama: punctures, broken wheels, snapped saddles and seat posts, bicycles snapping in half, riders getting thrown off their bikes by spectators in the way, cobbles coming loose out the ground, riders bunny-hopping their bikes over and around ruts and ditches, riders running instead of cycling, riders missing corners, getting stuck, taking each other down in mass pile-ups causing jammed roads - pure chaos that is known as the Sunday in Hell for the riders but guaranteed entertainment for the crowds.
The race ends with a one-and-a-half lapped circuit around the Velodrome André Pétrieux, which makes for an edge-of-your-seat moment if there is a sprint finish.
Distance: Men: about 280 km, Women: 120-140 km
Winners of Paris-Roubaix 2023: Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Alison Jackson (EF Education-Tibco-SVB)
The Amstel and the Cauberg go together hand-in-hand
The Amstel, established in 1966, holds a special place in Dutch cycling culture, drawing enthusiastic crowds who line the route to witness the thrilling competition and contribute to the vibrant atmosphere of this iconic event.
Above: Climbing the Cauberg in the Amstel Gold race on ROUVY
The Amstel Gold Race unfolds annually in the picturesque southern region of the Netherlands, specifically in the province of Limburg. Commencing and concluding in the charming town of Valkenburg, this one-day classic has become synonymous with challenging, hilly terrain, showcasing the undulating and challenging landscape. The race spans approximately 250 km, presenting riders with a demanding course with numerous short, steep climbs.
Above: Tadej Pogacar goes solo Amstel Gold race in the Valkenburg Netherlands 2023
Notably, the race culminates with the iconic Cauberg, a short yet pivotal ascent near the finish line in Valkenburg. With its inclusion often proving decisive, the Cauberg has become a symbol of the Amstel Gold Race's tactical and unpredictable nature.
Distances: Men: 253 km, Women 155 km
Winners of Amstel Gold 2023: Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Demi Vollering (SD Worx)
Flèche Wallonne, evil climbs in a fairytale setting
The Flèche Wallonne, French for the "Walloon Arrow," dating back to 1936, is a prominent fixture in professional cycling, captivating enthusiasts with its challenging course and storied tradition. Held annually in the Wallonia region of Belgium, the course typically covers hilly terrain, featuring a demanding route through the picturesque Ardennes landscape.
Above: A picturesque setting in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of southern Belgium
One of the defining characteristics of the race is the renowned Mur de Huy, a steep climb with gradients exceeding 20%, which often serves as the decisive point in the competition. Riders must navigate challenging climbs and descents, including the Côte d'Ereffe, before facing the Mur de Huy's punishing ascent toward the finish line.
Above: Profile of FlecheWallonne
Distances: Men 200 km, Women 127 km
Winners of Fleche Wallonne 2023: Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Demi Vollering (SD Worx)
Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the old lady of Spring
Liège–Bastogne–Liège, also known as La Doyenne or 'The Old Lady,' is a one-day classic cycling race held in the Wallonie, French-speaking region of Belgium and is made for the climbers. First held in 1892, it is the oldest of the five Monuments of the European pro road cycling calendar ridden over 260 km. It is usually the last Spring Classics in the Ardennes region in late April. Cycle on a hilly segment on ROUVY that includes the iconic climbs of the Col du Rosier, Côte de la Redoute and Côte de la Roche-Aux-Faucons from outside via Remouchamps to Liege.
Above: Climbing the Côte de la Redoute on ROUVY in Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Distances: Men 258 km, Women 142 km
Winners of Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2023: Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step), Demi Vollering (SD Worx)
Spring into action on ROUVY and take part in the exciting events
Kickstart the new season with the joy of the Spring Classics Challenge, races, or group rides, and while riding, think of the triumph, grit, and history sealed into the stones and the gravel. Ride short segments from home on your trainer and get inspired and motivated, enjoy the atmosphere, and share some of the experience in your own time, space, and pace. After the ride, you can reward yourself as you relax, put your feet up, and watch the pros race virtually on the same roads you have ridden.