The Tour de France might have the most visibility—even non-cyclists are familiar with the legendary summertime bike event. But it isn't the only exciting race of the year.
Bike racing in the spring can be just as thrilling as it is in July. And while the Tour de France takes nearly three weeks to complete, these single-day events don't require nearly as much time on the couch—which means you can spend more time on the bike.
Known as the "Five Monuments of Cycling", these pro races are exciting, motivating, full of history and offer plenty of lessons that you can apply to your own cycling, no matter what you're trying to accomplish.
Milan—San RemoNickname: La Classicissima
Inaugural Year: 1907
Most Victories: Eddy Merckx, 7 (also a record of victories in one classic race)
This is a race between Milan and San Remo in Italy since 1907. Of all one-day races, it's the longest at 298 km. Because the race takes place in March (the first classic of the season), the length and early date on the cycling calendar make this an interesting test of early-season fitness.
The Poggio and the Cipressa are classic climbs of the race, though the finish usually comes down to a sprint. This can be misleading because the fastest sprinters in the world aren't always around by the end of the race. Instead, the winner is often decided by who has the most will and determination for one last surge to the line at the end of a long, grueling day on the bike.
Tour of FlandersNickname: De Ronde
Inaugural Year: 1913
Most Victories: Achiel Buysse, Eric Leman, John Museeuw, Tom Boonen, Fiorenzo Magni and Fabian Cancellara, 3.
The Ronde van Vlaanderen, as it's known in Dutch, is a Flanders classic held in Belgium. The race usually takes place during the first Sunday of April, the weekend before another classic, Paris Roubaix.
The course, known for the cobbled roads built in the aftermath of post-war Belgium, exposes riders to extreme conditions. Climbs like the Koppenberg are steep and winding. And because of their short distance, the course lends itself well to strong, all-around cyclists like Fabian Cancellara and Tom Bonnen, each three-time winners of the race.