There are five special days on the cycling calendar that stand above all others in prestige, history and brutality.
These are the Monuments of cycling – a collection of one-day races held across Europe that command more respect than all the others.
Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège in spring and in autumn Il Lombardia, these are the races that are so highly anticipated and deeply remembered each season.
All of them are long, impossibly tough and have at least 100 years of history. But what is it that makes these five races so special?
We asked the pros to find out.
“There are a few factors that go into making this one a Monument,” said Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) about Milan-San Remo, the first Monument of the year.
“I think the history, this race has a lot of history, and this is the longest race in the world.”
Of the group of five, Ewan and the sprinters have the best chance in San Remo. It covers the Cipressa and Poggio in its final, but ends on the flat of the Via Roma.
Roubaix ends on the flats in a velodrome, but riders must cover many cobbled sectors to arrive there. The winner is typically a powerful rider with some sprint like Tom Boonen in recent years.
“Because of the history, the public, the race,” said Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) also on Milan-San Remo. “There’s no other race at 300 kilometres in the world so that’s probably one of the reasons.
“And just check the people who’ve won this race, you can’t find anyone who can say it wasn’t hard for the rider, they are all really good people, really good riders, and it’s a dream race for probably 99.9 per cent of the guys starting.”
Enrico Battaglin of Katusha-Alpecin said: “I don’t know what makes a Monument, it’s just something of the past, these five races are very hard and there’s always a good rider that wins.”
“More than the distance, I think it’s the history of a race,” added Giovanni Visconti (Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM). “The charm of the races.”
Lawson Craddock (EF Education First) added: “I think a lot of things go into these races that really defines them as Monuments. Obviously many favourites, the prestige of the race, how long it’s been going on, the difficulty and the field it brings in.”
Fans yelled for Giacomo Nizzolo (Dimension Data) at the start of the 2019 Milan-San Remo on Saturday (March 23). He comes from north of the start city, so for him the race is special.
“Starting from a city like Milan and arriving at the seaside is a nice thing. Of course it’s the longest race, a more open race because many riders can try to win. I think that’s the beauty of Milan-San Remo.”
Many riders have suggested that if the powers that be could add a sixth race to the Monument list, then that would be Strade Bianche. The race is shorter than the others, but is comparable to the Tour of Flanders with its hills and its rough gravel roads in the Siena countryside.
“It can be a Monument in the future, but of course it needs some more years of history,” Nizzolo said.
“To the list I’d add Strade Bianche,” Visconti said. “It’s the most beautiful race, and deserves to be among the Monuments, but it’s also right that you earn your place. These races have been around forever and have their history.”
“It’s quite difficult because there are many races you could add but there’s a reason there are only five,” Trentin said.
“It’s also keeps it kind of an elite group but if you start adding stuff then it’s not elite anymore.”