The 5 Monuments of Cycling

Paris Roubaix

Nickname: The Hell of the North
Inaugural Year: 1896
Most Victories: Roger De Vlaeminck and Tom Boonen, 4.

Perhaps the most rugged of the classics races, Paris Roubaix is all about the pav? (pah-vay). Riders traverse the 27 sections of legendary cobblestones from North Paris to Roubaix the weekend after Flanders. But the two races should not be confused just because they are both cobbled classics-they are each entirely different races.

American pro cyclist Chris Horner described it like this: "There's a huge difference between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. They're not even close. In one, the cobbles are used every day by the cars, and kept up. The other one—it's completely different. The best I could do would be to describe it like this--they plowed a dirt road, flew over it with a helicopter, and then just dropped a bunch of rocks. That's Paris-Roubaix. It's that bad."

But it does make for an exciting race, one where the toughest man always wins.

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Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Nickname: La Doyenne (cycling's old lady)
Inaugural Year: 1892
Most Victories: Eddy Merckx, 5.

The first edition of this race was held in 1892, making this Belgium race the oldest of any of the classics. Today, the race usually takes place in late April, before the grand tours begin.

Over the years the race has become well-known for it's treacherous weather conditions--so bad in fact that commentators sometimes refer to the race as Neige-Bastogne-Neige (Snow-Bastogne-Snow).

The route is straightforward, starting and ending in Liege. It's littered with climbs to give plenty of riders the opportunity to attack. This unpredictability lends itself well to aggressive riding, and the big names don't always factor into the results. This makes for an enjoyable race, and one that's difficult to predict.

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Giro di Lombardia

Nickname: La Classica Delle Foglie Morte (The Classic of the Dead Leaves, because it's held in fall)
Inaugural Year: 1905
Most Victories: Fausto Coppi, 5.

Held in Lombardy, Italy, this is the last "Monument" of the year.  The first race was held in 1905, and the rider with the most victories is the legendary Fausto Coppi, a five-time winner.

The route has changed many times over the years, but Como Lake and the Ghissalo climb remain fixtures. The Villa Vergano climb is the decisive point in the race, and though it's only 3.4 km in length, it's steep. With only 3 km of downhill following this brutal ascent, the winner of the race is usually determined by who reaches the top of the Vergano first. This means it's an all out war between the climbers.

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Photo Credit: Roxanne King, https://www.flickr.com/photos/rmkcycling/

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About the Author

Marc Lindsay

Marc Lindsay is the Cycling Editor at Active.com. When he's not at work, you can find him riding his bike. That is seriously all he does.
Marc Lindsay is the Cycling Editor at Active.com. When he's not at work, you can find him riding his bike. That is seriously all he does.

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