The Monuments of Cycling are comprised of the five most hallowed one-day races in the sport of professional cycling. These races have achieved iconic status through their long history and by being some of the most brutal, challenging races on the cycling calendar. With the exception of the Tour of Lombardy, which falls in October, these races take place in the spring, in Europe, when the weather is still chilly and the winter rains have made for slick, muddy roads.
Held in the third week of March, making it the first Monument of the season, the race begins in the fashion capital of Italy and ends nearly 300 km later in the seaside town of San Remo. Sponsored by the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, the first Milan San Remo was organized in 1907 and won by Frenchman Lucien Petit Breton. As of 2010, Eddy Merckx holds the most Milan San Remo wins with seven. Englishman Mark Cavendish is the 2009 defending champion.
Tour of Flanders
As the name implies, the Tour of Flanders winds its way through the Flemish countryside of Belgium. The first race was held in 1913 and was won by local Paul Deman. The 2010 race is set to begin in Bruges on April 4 and finish in Meerbeke some 260 km later. The race is notable for its number of cobbled roads and short but excruciatingly steep hills. Four men are tied for the most victories at three: Belgians Achiel Buysse, Eric Leman, Johan Museeuw, and Italian Fiorenzo Magni. Belgium Stijn Devolder won the race in 2008 and 2009.
The so-called "Hell of the North," Paris-Roubaix has earned a reputation as perhaps the most brutal one day race in cycling. The race is contested over the vicious cobbled roads of northern France in the week following the Tour of Flanders. Due to frequent inclement weather in the region, the roads are often slick and dangerous. The first race was held in 1896 just outside of Paris and won by German Josef Fischer. The race finishes in the velodrome of Roubaix after some 260 km. Belgian Roger de Vlaeminck holds the most wins with four. Fellow Belgian Tom Boonen won the race in 2009.
The oldest of the Monuments of Cycling, Liege was first organized in 1892 and won by Belgian Leon Houa. The race takes place in late April in the hilly Ardennes region of Belgium, beginning in the city of Liege and finishing some 260 km later in Bastogne. Eddy Merckx has won the race five times, the most of any cyclist. Andy Schleck of Luxembourg won the 2009 edition of the race.
Tour of Lombardy
The so-called "Race of the Falling Leaves" due to its October start date, the Tour of Lombardy is the final Monument of the season. First held in 1905 and won by local Giovanni Gerbi, the race takes place over the hills around Italy's famed Lake Como and ends nearly 250 km later. Italian Fausto Coppi has won the Tour of Lombary a record 5 times. Belgian Philip Gilbert is the 2009 champion.