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Our guide to the Classics

We’re fans of just about all forms of racing. But if we could choose just one, we’d take the one-day races of spring. If you’re watching in the U.S., set the alarm clock early and make sure that your Internet connection is strong. It’s Classics Season, and this is our totally biased guide to the races that we love the most.

Strade Bianche 04/03/17

Officially named Strade-Bianche – Eroica Pro, Strade Bianche (Italian for 'White Roads') is the youngest, albeit the most visually stunning, of the early season races. In many ways, the race is a hybrid-Classic; combining the steep pitch of the hills of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and the punishing terrain of Paris-Roubaix. Contested over the steep white gravel roads of Tuscany, the race has only been on the calendar since 2007, but has gained prestige quickly for its difficult route and terrain. The gravel has played a more intimate role than just added aesthetics as numerous pros have laid it down in the loose. To win this race, power must be combined with the grace of bike-handling.

What makes it unique

Milan-San Remo 18/03/17

"The longest single-day race of the year and the first of five annual monument races (Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liége-Bastogne-Liége and Giro di Lombardia), La Primavera is an early-season test of endurance that runs from Milan to Sanremo, Italy, covering a distance of roughly 185 miles. Widely referred to as a Sprinter’s Classic the parcours is relatively flat, though the weather is often less than desirable and has even forced the race to change course or pause in consideration of rider safety."

What makes it unique

E3 Harelbeke 24/03/17

E3 is the first and youngest of the cobbled classics on the UCI World Tour Calendar. First raced in 1958, E3 Harelbeke is the final rehearsal for the more well-known races (Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem) that make up the holy trinity of Flemish Cycling Week. But don't call it a warm-up! The final 90 km of the roughly 200 km race has between 12 and 17 short, steep, quad-burning cobbled climbs that can break up the field and give a crucial advantage to racers with local knowledge. Notable climbs in recent editions of E3 include the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont, both of which also appear in other cobbled classics.

What makes it unique

Gent-Wevelgem 26/03/17

The second in the trifecta that make up Flemish Cycling Week, Gent-Wevelgem, which was first held in 1934, is often called 'The Sprinters' Classic' for its flat lead-up to the finish. But that doesn't mean you should expect a bunch sprint. The winner is usually a brave soul who escapes in a small group and battles the wind, weather and the ascent of the fully cobbled Kemmelberg in small numbers. 

Gent-Wevelgem is the official WWI commemorative race. It passes historically significant battlefields, the city of Ypres, Flanders Fields and 'The Angel' – a memorial at the base of the Kemmelberg for the 5,000 French soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Ypres.

What makes it unique

Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) 02/04/17

The best day of the year. If Belgium is the cradle of cycling, this is its annual baptism. If you’ve never been to Belgium on the day of 'De Ronde', you don’t know what you’ve missed. If you go to only one bike race in your life, this is the one. Win this race as a Belgian and you’ll never pay for a beer ever again. This is especially beneficial if you live in Belgium.

This year, for the first time, the diamond of the Spring Classics begins in Antwerp – the diamond capital of the world. It finishes atop the Paterberg, a cobbled climb with gradients of up to 20 %. 100 km from the finish, the race will summit Muur van Geraardsbergen, Belgium's most famous climb.

What makes it unique

Paris-Roubaix 08/04/2017

The Queen of the Classics is the oldest and arguably most (in)famous one-day race in the world. Relatively flat, Roubaix is not the hardest race of the year, but it’s won only by the hardest of riders. Paris-Roubaix runs along the mediaeval cobbled roads of the northeastern French/Belgian border. The age of these mediaeval farm roads has left the stones widely spaced and greatly exposed, leading to bone-jarring impact with every pedal stroke.

What makes it unique

La Flèche Wallonne 19/04/17

The first of the two Belgian Ardennes classics, the 200 km La Flèche Wallonne is held mid-week before Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The race finishes with a gruelling three-lap circuit of the exceptionally steep (26 % in one section) Mur de Huy climb. Belgians have historically dominated the race, winning more than half of the 79 editions since 1936. In the history of the Ardennes classics, only seven riders have achieved 'The Ardennes Double' by winning both La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the same week.

What makes it unique

Liège-Bastogne-Liège 23/04/17

Liège-Bastogne-Liège is also known as La Doyenne, or 'The Old Lady' – and with good reason. First held in 1892, it's the oldest of the five monuments on the pro calendar. The race begins and ends in the Ardennes region of Belgium, but this is no leisurely out-and-back. The 258 km loop features 10 gruelling climbs and finishes on an uphill. In the final 15 km of the race, the course changes dramatically from pastoral landscapes to strikingly more suburban scenery. This year, for the first time, Liège-Bastogne-Liège will be included in the UCI Women's World Tour, and will be held on the same day.

What makes it unique