Who are the youngest and oldest professional cyclists

The 5 monuments of cycling

What are "cycling classics"?

Become a classic of cycling One day race that are particularly outstanding and rich in tradition. Their origins often go back to the time before the First World War, so that their success story now amounts to more than a hundred years.

A characteristic feature of the classic bike is that the route and the requirement criteria have hardly changed significantly over the decades. The importance of the races in their home countries, the famous names on the list of winners and the public recognition also contribute to a race being classified as a classic.

The spring and autumn classics

In summer, major tours such as the Tour de France are on the international cycling program every year. So that the important one-day races do not have to do without prominent participants, the classics of cycling are mainly held in spring and autumn.

Passages over cobblestones, very steep, short climbs and extreme weather conditions are characteristic of these races and demand a lot of courage and stamina from the participants.


Spring classic of cycling

The spring classics among road bike races take place in Belgium and northern France in particular. This includes

• the Tour of Flanders (Belgium)
• Paris – Roubaix (France)
• Liège – Bastogne – Liège (Belgium)
• Milan – Sanremo (Italy)
• Amstel Gold Race (Netherlands)
• La Flèche Wallonne - The Walloon Arrow (Belgium)

The Great Cycling Nations: Historical Background

In Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Italy in particular, the enthusiasm for cycling began very early on. So it's no wonder that the oldest and most renowned road bike races are based in these countries. The Liège – Bastogne – Liège race, for example, was held for the first time in 1892, making it the oldest cycling classic.

In the period before the Second World War, the best racing cyclists in the world came from these countries: Between 1903 and 1985 the winners of the Tour de France came from only four events, not from Belgium, the Netherlands, France or Italy!

Autumn classic of cycling

After the big summer races, the so-called autumn classics conclude the cycling year. That includes the races

• Brussels Cycling Classic (Belgium)
• Paris – Tours (France)
• the Lombardy Tour (Italy)

Victory in the German classic "Around Cologne": an interview with Gregor Mühlberger

Are there any German cycling classics at all? The answer is very clear: yes! The races “Around Cologne” and “Around the Eschborn-Frankfurt Financial Center” are considered to be German cycling classics.

In 2017 the Austrian cyclist Gregor Mühlberger won "Around Cologne": "It was a wonderful feeling to win my first professional victory at Rund um Köln for a German team before the Grand Depart in Germany", the 23-year-old tells us. "I was overwhelmed to have finally won another race."

For the young professional cyclist, what is special about the Cologne one-day race is that it "Is one of the very few races that every type of driver can win." But that does not mean that a victory is easy to get, as Mühlberger explains: “It is very difficult to read the race. If a group can break away with the right constellation, you will only see them again after the finish line. Anything can happen in the race. It's hard to beat when it comes to tension! "

You can read how the race developed for Gregor Mühlberger's team and how he managed to cross the finish line first in his experience report on his website.

Gregor Mühlberger has great respect for the traditional European bike classics. In the future he would particularly like to take part in the Liège – Bastogne – Liège classics and the Lombardy Tour, "Because these races are my favorite and I can have a say about top positions in the future".

We at owayo keep our fingers crossed for you, dear Gregor!

The five monuments of cycling

Five particularly prestigious and traditional races have emerged from the classics of cycling: the so-called "five monuments of cycling". Apart from the UCI road world championship, they represent the most important one-day races in road cycling.

All five monuments were held for the first time before the First World War and have been held annually since then (apart from interruptions during the World Wars).

We are now introducing you to these five famous cycling classics in detail.

1. Milan-Sanremo
2. Tour of Flanders
3. Paris-Roubaix
4. Liege-Bastogne-Liege
5. Tour of Lombardy

1. Milan – Sanremo

The spring classic Milan – Sanremo marks the start of the cycling season: At the end of March, the professional cyclists in northern Italy have a hot race, cheered on by enthusiastic fans on the roadside. The Italians affectionately call the race La Primavera ("The spring") or awesome La Classicissima (in German, for example: "the classic of the classics"). With a race track of almost 300 kilometers, it is the longest classic one-day race.

First found La Classicissima in 1907 and has been held every year since then. The cycling race was so renowned from the start that it was held even during the war years: in 1917 the Italian regiments released numerous professionals so that they could take part in the race. The classic was only canceled in 1944 and 1945.

Special features of the Milan – Sanremo race

With a Route length of almost 300 kilometers Milan – Sanremo is the longest classic one-day race. The route has hardly changed for 110 years.

The Italian spring classic starts in the middle of Milan on the Piazza Castello, the destination is in the Ligurian spa and bathing resort of Sanremo.

The route itself has few difficulties - but they have it all!

Halfway through the race is reached with the Turchinopass (at 588 meters the highest point of the route); now the race track runs along the Italian Riviera to Sanremo. The so-called capi, short but extremely steep climbs ensure excitement here. Traditionally, the last two of these climbs led the Cipressa (about 20 kilometers from the target; 240 meters altitude) and the Poggio di Sanremo (about six kilometers from the goal; 162 meters height), the decision.

In the last few years that has changed: the capi were no longer decisive. Instead, mass sprints shortly before the finish line decide the outcome of the race, as the list of winners also shows: Sprinters like Erik Zabel, Mario Cipollini and Mark Cavendish have been on the podium for the most part for two decades.


The German Signor San Remo

At the turn of the millennium, the German cyclist Erik Zabel won four times in Sanremo. The Italians therefore reverently bestowed the name on it "Signore San Remo". It was also Zabel who made the sprints on the last section of the route, the Via Roma, socially acceptable again: while his competitors did after the last capis The air ran out, sprint master Zabel set to the final sprint and thus reached the finish line first.

Major victories

The first winner of the Milan – Sanremo race of the year 1907 was the French Lucien Petit-Breton - one of the best cyclists in his day.

The most successful participant so far was the Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx - a total of seven times he won the Classicissimabetween 1966 and 1976.

Next "Signore San Remo"Erik Zabel (1997, 1998, 2000, 2001) existed with Rudi Altig (1968), Gerald Ciolek (2013) and John Degenkolb (2015) three more Germans who received the trophy.

2017 Degenkolb hoped for a victory again, but had to face the Pole like many other favorites Michal Kwiatkowski give up.

2. Tour of Flanders

The second monument to cycling follows at the beginning of April: The Tour of Flanders - in the local language Ronde van Vlaanderen called - is the highlight of the Flemish cycling season in Belgium.

The one-day race was held for the first time in 1913, making it the youngest of the five monuments.

The tour through East and West Flanders is notorious as an "elimination race": only the very best among professional cyclists can survive the steep climbs, especially when wind and rain make conditions difficult.

Special features of the route

The Start and destination locations from "Flanders Most Beautiful" (Vlaanderens Mooiste) changed from time to time. In 2017, the cycle race no longer started in Bruges, as in the previous 19 years, but in Antwerp. The destination was in Meerbeke, 20 kilometers west of Brussels, for almost four decades; since 2012, however, the “Ronde van Vlaanderen” has ended south of Ghent in the “jewel of the Flemish Ardennes”, the small town Oudenaarde.

The particular difficulty of the race lies in the so-called hellingen. These represent the Belgian counterpart to the Italian capis between Milan and Sanremo: short, but very steep and narrow climbs. An additional challenge for the professional cyclists is the cobblestones on some of the climbs.

The so-called Wall of Geraardsbergen is the most famous stretch of the classic Flemish bike: a narrow cobblestone street that starts in the center of Geraardsbergen and leads over the Oudeberg. On the crucial part of the ascent, the professional cyclists have to overcome a height difference of 44 meters over a length of 475 meters. In addition to the characteristic curve to the left, the small chapel at the apex of the ascent forms a unique backdrop. Thousands of fans cheer for their heroes along the street - a unique atmosphere.

The wall must not go away

After the organizers of the Round blank In 2012, when we moved our destination to Oudenaarde, the famous Geraardsbergen wall fell out of the program. Drivers and fans were shocked. The tour of Flanders without the legendary wall? That seemed unthinkable until then. The Belgian spring classic took a full five years without them Muur instead of. Then in 2017 the relief: By moving the start of the race to Antwerp, the Geraardsbergen wall was able to be included in the route again - but it will be approached at a much earlier time than before.

In this video you can experience the ascent to the Oudeberg:

Major victories

So far, no driver has won that Ronde van Vlaanderen more than three times. Unsurprisingly, the most successful participants were mostly Belgians.

The record winners of the classic: Achiel Buysse from Belgium (1940, 1941, 1943), Fiorenzo Magni from Italy (1949, 1950, 1951), Eric Leman from Belgium (1970, 1972, 1973), Johan Museeuw from Belgium (1993, 1995, 1998), Tom Boonen from Belgium (2005, 2006, 2012) and Fabian Cancellara from Switzerland (2010, 2013, 2014).

So far, two Germans have the Round blank Decided for themselves: Rudi Altig (1964) and Steffen Wesemann (2004).

In 2017 the Belgian Philippe Gilbert won. It was his first win at the Round blank. In 2011 he won three classics: the Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.


3. Paris – Roubaix

There is a real festival atmosphere when the greats of cycling in northern France rattle along the cobblestone streets in mid-May.

The spring classic Paris – Roubaix - held for the first time in 1896 - proudly bears the nickname "Queen of the Classics" (La Reine des Classiques). Far less flattering is the title as "the hell of the north" (l'enfer you north): This designation does not only refer to the challenges and exertions of the race, but goes back to the devastation that was visible along the racetrack after the First World War.

Special features of the route

Even if the notorious one-day race has Paris in its name - it has started around 80 kilometers to the north since 1977 Compiegne.

Characteristic of the 250-kilometer route are the so-called Pavé sectors: Sections with partly historic cobblestones that make up a total of 55 kilometers of the racetrack. A bumpy treat for the participants! After all: at the end of the day, the winner will be presented with a large cobblestone as a trophy.

The highlight of the classic Paris – Roubaix is ​​clearly that legendary aisle in the Arenberg forest, which opens the final of the race: This is where the nerves of both racing drivers and spectators are particularly strained, because the section has the highest level of difficulty 5. The drivers still give full throttle to secure good positions for the last piece of pavement. Falls, for example when attempting to break away, are common here.

The driver who is the first to reach the Pavé des Carrefour de l'Arbre should have a particularly good chance of victory. Now you have to suffer again and give everything before you reach your destination in 17 kilometers: that Roubaix Velodrome.

Major victories

The first winner of Paris – Roubaix was the German Joseph Fischer. After him, however, it would be 119 years before a German participant won again: In 2015, John Degenkolb sprinted to the finish.

The French bike classic is also known for its record winners: Eddy Merckx (1968, 1970, 1973), Roger De Vlaeminck (1972, 1974, 1975, 1977) and Tom Boonen (2005, 2008, 2009, 2012) - all three Belgians.

A Belgian won again in 2017: Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet was the first to cross the finish line after an exhausting hunt.

4. Liège – Bastogne – Liège

La Doyenne - The Liège – Bastogne – Liège cycling race is popularly known as “the oldest”: it was held for the first time in 1892, making it the oldest of the five monuments.

It takes place annually at the end of April. Because of its hilly profile through the Walloon Ardennes, it is considered one of the toughest cycling classics.

Special features of the route

The starting point of the race is the Walloon city Liege. From here, the participants initially travel around 100 kilometers south Bastogne, the turning point of the race. The goal is in again Liege, more precisely on a slope in the Suburb of Ans.

In total, the riders cover around 258 kilometers and do so with as many meters of altitude as otherwise only on a mountain stage of the Tour de France.Because the route profile has numerous short, very steep climbs, the one here côtes to be named.

The most famous of these climbs is the Côte de la Redoute, which has to be climbed in the second half of the race. At this point the wheat is separated from the chaff and only a few drivers remain at the top.

The decision is usually made on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas shortly before Ans or on the long uphill route to the destination.

Major victories

The first race in 1892 was won by Belgian Léon Houa. His compatriot is much more famous Eddy Merckx, which made a name for itself with the other classics of cycling in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He won Liège – Bastogne – Liège overall five times: 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1975.

So far, only two Germans have emerged from the race as winners: Hermann Buse in 1930, Dietrich Thurau in 1979.

In 2017 Alejandro Valverde from Spain accepted the trophy.

5. Tour of Lombardy

The only autumn classic among the five monuments of cycling is "Il Lombardia" (to 2012 "Giro di Lombardia"), the Lombardy Tour in Northern Italy. The “Falling Leaves Race” takes place every year in October and closes the road racing season.

Compared to the other monuments, the Lombardy Tour often falls behind: The spring classics mark the start of the cycling season and follow one another at short intervals. After the big races in summer, many fans and professional cyclists are out of breath: In October, some top riders already ended their season.

Special features of the route

While the routing of most of the classic bike rides is rarely and insignificantly changed, the Lombardy Tour has made a lot of changes in the past.

The profile of the route is sometimes significantly more demanding than the low mountain range stages of the Tour de France: When the 110th Tour of Lombardy 2016 the participants had to overcome around 4400 meters in altitude on the new route from Como to Bergamo (240 kilometers)! With this classic, the climbers among the professional cyclists have a real advantage - sprinters, on the other hand, have little chance of victory here.

One of the great challenges of the race is the climb from Bellagio to the Madonna del Ghisallo near Magreglio. Traditionally, this section is a place of preliminary decision, because here the strongest drivers form the first breakaway groups.

It gets really tough for the participants when they fight their way up the steep ramps with up to 17 percent incline to the 1,336 meter high Valcava Pass.

Major victories

The Italians are particularly strong in their autumn classic. Giovanni Gerbi won the first time the Tour of Lombardy was held in 1905. In the middle of the 20th century his compatriot took care of it Fausto Coppi With five wins (1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1954) caused a sensation.

The German participants have not yet been able to record a single victory; After all, Fabian Wegmann made it to 3rd place in 2006 - the best place so far for the Germans in the “Race of Falling Leaves”.

In 2016 Esteban Chaves from Colombia won the autumn classic - the first victory of a Colombian at a cycling monument.

And when do you get on the saddle?

Do you feel like getting back on the bike yourself? It doesn't have to be a race over cobblestones and the steepest climbs. We have the right tips for you for a tour of the Alps by bike, from equipment to route. Expert Martin Moschek will also tell you everything you need to know about planning a multi-day bike tour.

We wish you a lot of fun on your bike - and while you cheer for the big bike races!

If you are looking for the right equipment, stop by our shop and design your personal jersey with our 3D configurator!

Pictures: Cover picture: © iStock / claudio.arnese; Image Paris-Roubaix: © [Collection Jules Beau. Photographie sportive]: T. 3. Année 1896 / Jules Beau; Wikimedia Commons, public domain