The Monuments are coming
The Monuments Races
Professional cyclists know the Monuments Races as one of the oldest and most prestigious events in the calendar. This combination of five events across Italy, Belgium and France began before World War I. The historic nature of these events, coupled with the scenic views and active crowds, make the tracks a must-ride event for most professional cyclists. The races are the stuff of legend. They are known for having some of the worst weather and best performances by elite athletes.
This event is the longest of the Monument races. It is usually held in the third week of March and signals the beginning of the Spring Classics. With huge climbs and a long ride, this is the race that weeds out winners from losers. In fact, this race is prone to home court advantage, since Italians have won this race 50 times in the last century. This is also why crowds come out in droves to cheer on their home-grown favorites sprinting to glory. The final two climbs known as Cipressa and Poggio are known to elicit breathtaking performances of athleticism.
Tour of Flanders
This race is usually held in the first Sunday of April. It is known as the first of the Northern Classics. The race courses from Brugges to Brussels with 17 hills in between. That’s right, 17 hills. Some of the climbs are so steep the gradients exceed 11 percent. To top off the excitement, many of the roads are made of cobblestone. The rain during the Spring months can cause the roads to be damp and practically impossible to ride. At this point, fans are treated to entertaining reenactments of “Singing in the Rain,” as cyclists are forced to dance up the steep hills, unmounted. But, this race is no fantasy. Winning Flanders is a point of pride for many Belgians that exceeds the yellow jersey victory of a Tour de France.
This race is known as the “Queen of the Classics,” and is the only Monuments race that takes place in France. This is usually held one week after the Flanders. And many riders may feel a distinct sense of déja-vu when they encounter the cobblestone paths in 28 different sections of the race course. These are the same historic paths once traversed during World War I. The treachery that they held for soldiers remains for the riders. Crowds have witnessed several cyclists plummet to the unforgiving stone. The rain can cause may to slip and puncture their tires. The resulting crashes are often a spectacle, resembling a domino crashing effect that must be seen to be believed.
This race held on the last Sunday in April is the oldest of the races. The course once again returns to Belgium for this race, and the hilly nature comes with it. The beauty of the mountain side cannot be denied as spectators witness riders take a long course through the mountains.
Tour of Lombardy
This final part of the Monuments Races occurs in the Fall, long after the other races. It was probably noted that the cyclists need more time to recuperate after the cobblestone crashes and mountainous climbs. This is usually the end of the cycling season for most professional riders. Even though the course has changed many times, a staple remains: the climb to the Madonna del Ghisallo, which has a gradient of 14 percent. The physical feats necessary to ride this course are one of the many reasons why spectators turn out to see the best riders in the world perform their greatest rides.