Right across the World, the governing body of cycling, the UCI administers an annual calendar of professional road cycling events. Many events early in the year as really seen as “warm ups” for the top races later in the year, such as the Classics, Monuments and the Grand Tours. There are then some other events steeped in history or with other sporting significance.
Here is our guide to some of the main cycling events you need to know about.
These are made up of three events, the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana and are the back bone of many riders’ seasons, riding up to 4,000km over 21 or 22 days.
Le Tour de France is the oldest and most important cycle race in the World, not to mention the largest annual sporting event which takes place. First created in 1903 by a French newspaper to help stimulate sales, the TDF has grown over the years to be more than just a cycle tour of France, with it venturing to countries all over Europe engaging with cycling communities in these areas. The fabled Yellow jersey for the cyclist with the lowest cumulative time for riding the distance is the most sought after trophy in the world of cycling.
The Giro d’Italia is the first Grand Tour of the year and typically follows a similar pattern to the Tour de France in terms of having a mix of race stages, whether for sprinters or climbers and venturing outside of Italy to spread the reach of the event, although it still has a very “Italian” feel to the event and an intimacy sometimes missing from its’ French rival. 2017 sees to 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia, which will increase the importance of this event as the top cyclists will want to be there to take the crown and add this to their palmares.
La Vuelta a Espana has a place in the calendar towards the end of the summer and always has a more interesting and original route composition than the other two Grand Tours, sometimes focusing on certain regions of Spain or taking in new fearsome climbs. The timing of this tour also leads to the emergence of future new young talent for the sport and in recent years, the Vuelta has provided some of the most exciting racing in all of the season.
These are one day races held during the year which are either featured on the UCI World Tour or are one day races with a lot of cycling history. They tend to be grouped by area or time period, so you will have the Spring Classics, which will include some of the Cobbled Classics, such as E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix, and then there are the Ardennes Classics, named after the area of Belgium they take place in, including Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallone and Liege Bastogne Liege. Milan San Remo is a major Italian Classic, which preceeds the rest of the Spring Classics and is one for the sprinters.
During the summer, there are other races such as the San Sebastian Classic, Vattenfall Cyclassics and Gp Ouest France, whereas later in the Autumn some of the older races take place, including Paris Brussels, Paris Tours, Milan Turin and the Giro di Lombardie.
5 of the Classics are regarded as the Monuments due to their historical importance and prestige. Each has it’s own individual character which builds to the excitement and anticipation of who may possibly win. They start in March with Milan San Remo, a near 300km ride from Italy’s main industrial city straight to the coastal resort of San Remo, taking in some short famous climbs such as the Poggio and Cipressa.
In April, three Monuments take place in the matter of just three weeks. First up is the Tour of Flanders, taking place in the famous Belgian area of Flanders and is famous for its mix of cobbles and short steep climbs including the Koppenberg, Peterberg and the Kwaremont. One day cycling specialists such as Johan Museeuw, Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan have all been victors here.
Second of the April Classics is Paris Roubaix, which has other recognised names such as the “Hell of the north” or the “Queen of the Classics”. Although this originally started in Paris, it now starts in Compiegne, before finishing in the famous Roubaix Velodrome. The weather always determines the nature of the race, as much of the riding is across dirty cobbles roads, so if it rains the race can be muddy, if it is dry, it will be dusty! Typically over 20 sections of cobbles will be included in the route and some of the most famous are the Trouee d’Arenberg and the Carrefour de l’Arbre. Belgian cyclists Tom Boonen and Roger de Vlaeminck hold the record for the most wins of Paris Roubaix.
Liege Bastogne Liege brings the Spring Classics to a close and is the oldest classic, earning itself the nickname of La Doyenne, the old lady. LBL is potentially the hardest of the classics, as there are many short steep climbs in quick succession over a race distance of approximately 250km, and includes a famous climb of La Redoute. Famous Belgian cyclists Eddy Merckx won LBL 5 times in his career.
The final classic of the season is Giro di Lombardie, or Il Lombardie as it’s more known as now. Taking place at the start of October, it started life as a Milan-Milan race, and now takes in the roads surrounding Lake Como and a famous climb of Madonna del Ghisallo. Typical winners are good climbers who can sprint well or make a quick breakaway and the 5 time record is held by the famous Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi.
The UCI World Championships takes place in a different location each year over a different type of route. Cyclists put aside team rivalries to ride for their compatriots. The Road Elite Worlds is the prestige event of a week long series of competitions and over the year it has been the Italians who have triumphed more than any other country.
Olympics Road Race, Taking place once every four years, the gold winning jersey of the Olympic Road Race is a hard one to achieve. Due to its rarity, some riders make this their focus during an Olympic year, but the timing of the Olympics, just after the end of the Tour de France, which carries more prestige and commercial benefit, can make it difficult for some riders to take seriously, Britains’ Bradley Wiggins is one of very few who has had success in both in the same year. In 2016, Chris Froome is looking to repeat this achievement.
You can ride many of the routes or climbs featured within the pro races above in accompanying cyclo sportives or on some of our cycling trips to the likes of the Tour de France, other Grand Tours or Classics.
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