With the relative newcomers to early season pro’ racing in Australia, South America and the Gulf states done and dusted, it’s time to focus on the legendary, historical one-day races of Europe – The Classics. Steeped in cycling history, the classics often offer far more in terms of fireworks and entertainment than Grand Tours. The big five Classics are known as the Monuments – the biggest and oldest, they carry extra kudos for the winners.
When do they Start?
The early ‘pre’ Classic races of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne Brussels Kuurne (KBK) kick the proceedings off 2 / 3rd March.
Strade Bianchi – Italy 09/03/19
The true Classics begin 9th March in Italy with the Strada Bianche, renowned for its capacity to produce an exciting race. The route meanders through Tuscany featuring the amazingly photogenic scenery of the area. The white gravel tracks make up sections of the route and add an extra dimension to the race. Depending on the weather, this race is either a filthy suffer-fest or an absolutely stunning Tuscan delight.
Last Years Winners, Men: Tiesj Benoot / Women: Anna van der Breggen
Merlin Tips for 2019: Peter Sagan / Elizabeth Deignan
Milan San Remo -Italy (Monument) 23/03/19
Known by Italians as ‘La Classicissima’, the 298k route through north-west Italy is the longest one day professional race. Since the first edition in 1907, key riders of their era have all stamped their mark on the event, including Eddy Merckx, who won the race 7 times.
Last Years Winners, Men: Vincenzo Nibali / Women: No womens event.
Merlin Tip for 2019: Mark Cavendish
E3 Harelbeke – Belgium 29/03/19
The E3 took its name from the name of the European Route (E03) from Lisbon to Stockholm. The road is now the E17 connecting Antwerp and Kortrikt. Usually around 200 kilometres long the E3 takes in all the famous flanders climbs before making its way to the finish in Harelbeke. Often including the same tough cobbled climbs as La Ronde, E3 is a true cobbled classic.
Last Years Winners, Men: Niki Terpstra / No Womens event
Merlin Tip for 2019: Ian Stannard
Gent Wevelgem – Belgium 31/03/19
Running since 1934 Gent Wevelgem was traditionally known as the sprinters race, traditionally held the week before the Tour of Flanders. The 2019 edition will feature ‘Plugstreets’ or dirt roads again, as did the race did in 2018. The race through Flanders Fields is always a tough day out.
Last Years Winners, Men: Peter Sagan / Women: Marta Bastianelli
Merlin Tips for 2019: Phillip Gilbert / Alice Barnes
Tour of Flanders – Belgium (Monument) 7/04/19
Also known as De Ronde, the Tour of Flanders is THE biggest race in Belgium. There is a museum dedicated to the history of the event in Oudenaarde, near to its iconic climbs, the Paterberg, Koppenberg and Oude Kwaremont. The route always produces a dramatic and exiting race.
Last Years Winners, Men: Niki Terpstra / Women: Anna van der Breggen
Merlin Tips for 2019: Greg Van Avermaet / Gracie Elvin
Paris Roubaix – France (Monument) 14/04/19
The Paris Roubaix, also known as the ‘Hell of the North’ features sectors of old cobbled farm tracks which usually only see tractors. The sectors of cobbles are usually decisive to the race’s outcome, before the rider’s head through the streets of Roubaix towards the famous Velodrome finish.
Last Years Winners, Men: Peter Sagan / No Womens event
Merlin Tip for 2019: Peter Sagan
Amstel Gold – Holland 21/04/19
Maarstrckt in the Netherlands hosts Hollands biggest one day bike race the Amstel Gold. Sponsored by the nations most popular brew, the Amstel usually finishes in Valkenburg, following a testing tour around the regions tough rolling climbs. The Cauberg climb usually helps animate this Dutch delight of a race.
Last Years Winners, Men: Michael Valgren / Women: Chantal Blaak
Merlin Tips for 2019: Phillip Gilbert / Elizabeth Deignan
La Fleche Wallone – Belgium 24/04/19
The rolling roads in between Liege and Luxembourg usually suit climbers more than one day specialists. The steep climb of the Mur De Huy usually helps animate the race this much loved race. The Fleche is the first of the Ardenne classics, usually before Liege Baston Liege.
Last Years Winners, Men: Julian Alaphilippe / Women: Anna van der Breggen
Merlin Tips for 2019: Greg Van Avermaet / Anna van der Breggen
Liege Bastogne Liege – Belgium (Monument) 28/04/19
Often called ‘La Doyenne’ (The Old Lady) the Liege has been run since 1892 and has featured wins by all the most prominent one day racers through history. The tough rolling roads of the Ardennes always ensure a deserving winner, Eddy Merckx won the mens event 5 times.
Last Years Winners, Men: Bob Jungels / Women: Anna van der Breggen
Merlin Tips for 2019: Peter Sagan / Anna van der Breggen
Giro De Lomardia – Italy (Monument)12/10/19
The traditional final classic of the season is also known as the ‘Race of the Falling Leaves’. It is usually held in the second week of October and is one last chance for the pro’s to take a big win to boost their contract for the following year. Held since 1905, with the exception of 1943 / 44 because of the War. The race has been won by all the greats, including Kelly, Hinault, Merckx and England’s own, Tom Simpson.
Last Years Winners, Men: Thibaut Pinot / No Womens event
Merlin Tip for 2019: Vincenzo Nibali
Classic Road Bike
Merlin Cycles strong Belgium connections continue through 2019. Belgium-based Team Merlin rider, Dan Patten (see below with his Merlin Nitro Aero race bike) is training hard for his first races in Belgium in the coming weeks.