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History, records and favourites in a complete guide to the 5 most important one-day cycle races of the season

 

Milan-Sanremo | 17 March 2018

At 298 kilometres, the Milan-Sanremo is the longest one-day race. It is often decided by a group sprint along Via Roma. The most difficult tests are the Cipressa and the Poggio, climbs of about 200 meters’ elevation that, coming in the last 30 kilometres, can provide a springboard for the most explosive attacking riders.

The record for the most victories belongs to Eddy Merckx with a total of 7, but Costante Girardengo also deserves special mention: the rider from Piedmont made the podium in 10 consecutive races between 1917 and 1926, including 6 victories, 3 second places and 2 third places.

Why you should watch it

The Classicissima is the first of the five Monument Classics, and it’s also the simplest. A lot of riders fancy their chances, but it’s nearly always a great racer who emerges on top in Via Roma after an unpredictable and high-adrenalin race. The final tussle between sprinters and attackers is always an exciting moment. Last year the attackers came through to win, but now the sprinters will be even more determined…

The favorites of 2018

Peter Sagan

John Degenkolb – Alexander Kristoff – Fernando Gaviria

 

Tour of Flanders | 1 April 2018

260 kilometres, from Antwerp to Oudenaarde. The elevation difference is moderate, but the second half of the course is a killer. The altimeter readout has a jagged shape and the course is punctuated by a rapid succession of walls: short and very steep climbs, some with cobbled sections, mean that the race is arduous and spectacular.

Six runners in history have managed to win the ‘Ronde’ 3 times, including Fiorenzo Magni and Tom Boonen, but the latter gave up the saddle a year ago. 2018 therefore marks the beginning of a new era. We’ll soon find out who will be the new king of the Ronde.

Why you should watch it

In Belgium this is the sports event of the year, and the Belgian riders are practically unbeatable: out of 100 editions, 68 have seen a Belgian cross the finishing line in first place. It will feature the first real challenge of 2018 between Sagan and Van Avermaet.

The favorites of 2018

Greg Van Avermaet

Peter Sagan – Oliver Naesen – Philippe Gilbert

Paris Roubaix | 8 April 2018

The Paris Roubaix isn’t a race, it’s a profession. To win it you need to know it by heart and judge the perfect moment to take a risk. Very few riders have won the Roubaix at their first attempt. The Roubaix is the inferno of the North – it poses no difficulties in terms of altitude, but 55 kilometres of pavé out of 257 kilometres overall break the muscles and the endurance of many participants.

The race reaches the finish in the spectacular Roubaix Velodrome, where the racers arrive in dribs and drabs. Only 2 riders have managed to win the race 4 times: Roger De Vlaeminck and Tom Boonen.

Why you should watch it

It’s an almost completely flat race that separates the riders more than an Alpine stage of the Tour de France. If you win the Roubaix you enter a new dimension.

The favorites of 2018

Peter Sagan

Greg Van Avermaet – John Degenkolb – Sep Vanmarcke

Liège Bastogne Liège | 22 April 2018

The Liège is the oldest of the Classics, with the first race dating back to 1892, and for this reason it is also known as the Doyenne. This race is totally different to all the Classics that come before it in the racing calendar, since it has an elevation difference of over 4,000 meters. A characteristic feature of the race is its côtes – climbs of a maximum of 4 kilometres and with average gradients of 8%. So it is climbers with a fast sprint in their racing toolkit who emerge on top. As in the Milan-Sanremo Eddy Merckx holds the winner’s record, with 5 victories.

Why you should watch it

Because it takes class to win a race like this. The Liège can be won climbing, on the downhill or in the sprint, but each racer has only one shot to fire.

The favorites of 2018

Alejandro Valverde

Julian Alaphilippe – Michal Kwiatkowski – Vincenzo Nibali

 

Il Lombardia | 13 October 2018

It’s the tough climbs that make Il Lombardia a hard race. About 250 kilometres in length and 4,400 meters in altitude, this is a course for the thoroughbred climbers. Il Lombardia is the only Monument Classic to take place in autumn, hence its Classics name of Foglie Morte (the ‘Dead Leaves’). To win it you have to reach the end of the season still fresh and focused, because it’s impossible to come first by chance. This is demonstrated by the name of the rider won it the most times, Fausto Coppi – the ‘Campionissimo’ – who crossed the finishing line on as many as 5 occasions.

Why you should watch it

This year Il Lombardia will be held less than 2 weeks after the gruelling Road World Championships in Innsbruck. The newly-crowned World Champion will undoubtedly be among the favourites, but a lot of riders will be dreaming of revenge.

The favorites of 2018

Alejandro Valverde

Julian Alaphilippe – Vincenzo Nibali – Gianni Moscon

 

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