5 European Classic Cycling Races

5 European Classic Cycling Races

5 European Classic Cycling Races

The five European Classic Cycling Races, or the "Big Five Classics", are the most prestigious one-day events in professional cycling. They are Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Tour of Lombardia. Each race is important to international cycling history due to its unique course and long history.

The country where Milan-San Remo is held is Italy, usually in March. Milan-San Remo is the longest classic race, with a distance of more than 290 kilometers, starting from Milan, the fashion capital of Italy, passing through several small hills and finally arriving in the beautiful coastal city of San Remo. The race is known for its long-distance and fierce sprint finish, attracting many sprint-type riders. As an early-season classic, it marks the arrival of spring, so it is called La Primavera.


The most successful rider is Belgian Eddy Merckx, who won seven victories. Italian Cosante Girardengo finished on the podium 11 times between the two world wars, winning six times. In modern times, German Erik Zabel and Spaniard Óscar Freire have won four and three times respectively. Eddy Merckx, a former Belgian professional road and track cyclist, is the most successful rider in the history of competitive cycling. His victories include an unrivaled eleven Grands Prix (five Tours de France, five Giro d’Italia, and one Vuelta), all five Memorials, an hour record, three World Championships, all major one-day races except Paris-Tours, and numerous victories on the track.

Eddy Merck


The Tour of Flanders is Belgium’s most important cycling event, known for its difficult cobblestone roads and steep short climbs. Held in Flanders, the race is designed on extremely challenging courses, often in adverse weather conditions, and tests riders’ endurance and skill. The Tour of Flanders is one of the northern classics, and its grueling course makes it one of the most feared races by riders.

Korenmarkt, Ghent (pictured ca. 1890-1900), was the scene of the start of the first Tour of Flanders in 1913

Seven men hold the record of most victories, making the Tour of Flanders unique among the major classics. Belgians Achiel BuysseEric LemanJohan Museeuw, and Tom Boonen, Italian Fiorenzo Magni, Dutch Mathieu van der Poel and Swiss Fabian Cancellara each have three victories.

Marcel Buysse, winner of the second Tour of Flanders, pictured in 1913


Paris-Roubaix is ​​one of the most challenging classics, known for its many cobbled sections. The race starts near Paris and finishes in Roubaix in northern France on a muddy and dusty course known as L'Enfer du Nord. The cobbled sections are a great test for both rider and vehicle, and the winners usually have great skills and mental fortitude. The winner of this race will lift the famous stone trophy on the cycling track in Roubaix, symbolizing his extraordinary achievement.

The champion of the first Paris-Roubaix was Josef Fischer, and a total of 28 riders completed the race. The route of the first race was 280 kilometers long. Joseph Fischer finished the race at a speed of 30.162 kilometers per hour. He was a German.

Josef Fischer won the first edition of Paris–Roubaix.


Liège-Bastogne-Liège is one of the oldest classics, first held in 1892. The race starts in Liège and returns via Bastogne, with many difficult climbs and descents. As the finale of the spring classics season, the Liège-Bastogne-Liège race is known for its challenging course and long distance, making it an ideal battleground for climbers. Winners need strong endurance and climbing ability to win on this difficult course.

This classic race was previously included in the World Cup schedule and is now part of the UCI World Tour and is organized by the Amaury Sport Organization. Eddy Merckx holds the record for winning five times between 1969 and 1975.

Record holder Eddy Merckx wins Liège-Bastogne-Liège five times


The Giro di Lombardia is a season-ending classic race known for its beautiful scenery and difficult climbs. The race is held in the Lombardy region of Italy and passes several famous peaks, including Monte Madonna. Due to its autumnal location, the Lombardia race is also known as Il Lombardia. The riders' form at the end of the season and their mastery of the climbs are key to victory.

The Giro di Lombardia was founded in 1905 on the idea of ​​journalist Tullo Morgagni, supposedly to give Pierino Albini the chance to challenge Giovanni Cuniolo and take immediate revenge after a Copa del Rey defeat. In that historic first race, Giovanni Gerbi won, leading Giovanni Rossignoli and Luigi Ganna by forty minutes. It has been hosted by Gazzetta dello Sport since 1907.

Giovanni Gerbi during the match

Giovanni Gerbi

These classic events are not only well-known in their respective countries, but also occupy an important position in the history of global cycling. Their tracks are uniquely designed and have a long history, and each race has its unique challenges and charm. The performances of the riders in these events often become the highlights of their careers, and the winners are regarded as legendary figures.

The venues for these races are unique, from the picturesque seaside in Italy to the difficult cobblestone roads in Belgium to the muddy tracks in France. Each race showcases the different geographical features and cultural backgrounds of various parts of Europe. It is these unique elements that make the five major European classic bicycle races a part of international cycling history and attract the attention and love of countless fans around the world.


Tour de France History