Skip to main content

In professional road cycling, there are five classic one-day races known as “Monuments” that are considered to be the most prestigious, oldest, hardest, and longest competitions. Along with winning a Grand Tour like the Tour de France or Giro d’Italia, these are regarded as the most prestigious races a cyclist can win.

These five iconic one-day races are: the Tour of Flanders, or Ronde van Vlaanderen in Dutch, which is held in Flanders, Belgium; Milan-San Remo which is held in Italy. The French race, Paris-Roubaix is regarded as the most prestigious. The oldest Monument is Liège–Bastogne–Liège, which takes place on Belgian roads. The last Monument of the racing calendar is the Giro di Lombardia, also known as Il Lombardia, which takes place in Italy in late September or early October and is known as the “Race of the Falling Leaves.”

The term “Monument” was first used in road cycling on April 17, 1949, during the 47th Paris-Roubaix race. French sports journalist Albert Baker d’Isy’s article “Paris-Roubaix: ‘monument’ du cyclisme” ran in the daily “Ce soir,” and the term “Monument” has persisted ever since. 

Four of the five Monuments take place in March and April.

Milan-San Remo, 16th March 2024

The first Monument of the year is Milan-San Remo, which has been won by some of the finest sprinters in history, most notably Mark Cavendish, in 2009. Former World Champions such as Paolo Bettini, Michal Kwiatkowski, and Julian Alaphilippe have won the race. Belgian Eddy Merx currently owns the record with seven victories.

This is the longest Monument by tradition; the 2024 edition is 288km long and has been dubbed the “Sprinter’s Classic” because it is mainly flat. However, there is a crucial climb, the Poggio di San Remo, which is 4km long and has an average gradient of 3.6%, and it comes after nearly 300km of riding.  It has historically been the moment where riders attack and attempt to escape to the finish, such as was the case with Vincenzo Nibali. On the crucial ascent, he launched an assault and subsequently won the 2018 race.

Two of the biggest names competing in the 2024 race are Tadej Pogačar, who is in fine form after his win at Strade Bianchi, where he soloed to victory following a decisive attack 81km from the finish, and Mathieu van der Poel, current World Champion and 2023 winner.

Tour of Flanders, 31st March 2024

This event was first held in 1913, and Tadej Pogačar won the 273.4-kilometer 2023 edition.  Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen are among the previous winners and have three victories each.

The course of this year’s event is scheduled to cover 270.8 kilometers, beginning in Antwerp and ending in Oudenaarde. The route includes tough climbs like Oude Kwaremont, which is 2.2 km long with 1500 meters entirely on cobblestones or cobbles which naturally rounded rock known locally as pavé.

One of the special characteristics of this event is that, similar to Paris-Roubaix, there are parts of the route with cobblestone surfaces. This gives the rider an additional challenge as they navigate the rough terrain. This is a six-hour endurance event that frequently takes place in challenging weather.

Paris–Roubaix, 7th April 2024 

This race is as historic as they come; the 280-kilometer event was first held in 1896. It is referred to be the “Queen of the Classics.” Due of its many sections of cobbles, it is also known as “The Hell of the North.” 

The course’s length has changed throughout time, and it is currently around 260 kilometers. Mathieu van der Poel won the 2023 edition, which was 256.6 km long. With four victories each, Belgian cyclists Roger De Vlaeminck and Tom Boonen own the record. 

Similar to the Tour of Flanders, this ride is difficult and a true test of endurance because of the varying lengths of the cobbles.

The Roubaix Velodrome has hosted the race’s finish since 1943, making it one of the most famous finishes in cycling.  Winners of the event have a plaque with their name put in the historic communal showers, which sit near the entrance of the outdoor velodrome.

Liège–Bastogne–Liège, 21st April 2024

Commencing in 1892, this is the oldest Monument and is set in Belgium.  The most victories, five, belong to Belgium’s Eddy Merx.   

The 259km course is dotted with climbs of different lengths and gradients, making it a suitable option for Grand Tour riders. Past winners of the race include Alejandro Valverde, winner of the Vuelta Espana, Andy Schleck, winner of the Tour de France, and Primož Roglič, winner of the Giro d’Italia.

Il Lombardia, 12th October 2024

The last Monument, which takes place in northern Italy in October or late September, has undergone multiple renamings over the years; the most recent one was “Il Lombardia” in 2012.  It is regarded as the “Autumn Classic” by many.

Tadej Pogačar has won it on the two previous occasions (2022, 23).  Climbers find it ideal because of the amount of climbing required; previous champions include Vincenzo Nibali.  To put the race in perspective, the 2023 edition covered 238 km with an incredible 4400 meters of climbing from Como to Bergamo.  Anticipate more of the same in 2024 as Tadej Pogačar returns to attempt to tie the record of the legendary Fausto Coppi, who won it five times in total, four of those times in a row from 1946 to 1949.

Ride the roads and watch a Monument

Winning one of the Monuments is an amazing accomplishment because they represent the highest level of road cycling competition.  There are only three cyclists who have ever won all five of these races—Rika Van Looy, Eddy Merckx, and Roger De Vlaeminck— this is because they are exceptionally tough.  Is it possible for a cyclist from the current generation to win all five?  We will follow with interest as time will tell, but Tadej Pogačar would be the most likely having already won three (Tour of Flanders, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, and Il Lombardia). 

If you are interested in testing yourself on the different courses, there are Sportive events which attract a large following and can be booked via Sportive Breaks such as the Paris Roubaix Sportive or Tour of Flanders Sportive.  Alternatively you can simply go and watch the racing and see how hard the racing is via a Hospitality package, such as Milan San Remo, Paris Roubaix , Tour of Flanders, Liege-Bastogne-Liege or Il Lombardia. For those that want an immerse experience, there is a 12 day adventure that combines the Sportives and watching the events and is called the Spring Classics Tour.