January 2005

Part 1
Part 2



A Calendar Dictated by History, Tradition and Legend (Part II)

In part two of the article we continue our look at the 2005 elite pro racing calendar with a brief look back at how we got here. For your convenience a Pro-Tour calendar summary is provided here: Schedule Click Here

The European racing year typically starts with early leg breaking races in the warmer climates of the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts. At the end of February the serious stuff starts with the Het Volk in Belgium. Cold, damp and very windy weather conditions often greet the riders here. With the cobbles and the famous Belgian ‘Murs’ (walls) on hand, the contenders are soon sorted from the pretenders. This hard fought event usually points out the in-form riders who are going to dominate the upcoming Spring Classics season, which starts just over three weeks later with Milan-San Remo (the first of the five monuments) on March 19th. Stage racing begins with Paris-Nice (the famous “race to the sun”) and the Tirreno-Adriatico in early March. Already you will begin to see who is going to shine in the Grand Tours.

Come April we are treated to three of the five monuments (Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege) as well as two Pro-Tour stage races, the Tour of the Basque Country in Spain and the Tour of Romandy in Switzerland. Also squeezed into the month of April we see the traditional classics of Ghent-Wevelgem, Amstel Gold and the Fleche Wallone. Last year Johann Museeuw raced the final kilometers of his fabulous career at Flanders and Roubaix.

To most Belgians the ‘Ronde van Vlaanderen’ (Tour of Flanders) is the world championship and to win it and/or Paris-Roubaix puts a rider into the realm of a cycling campionissimo (champion of champions). At the end of April the endless climbs of the Belgian Ardennes host the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the oldest of the classics. In 2004 a new record was established when Davide Rebellin won Amstel, the Fleche and the Liege. It is a safe bet that we will not see that feat repeated this year.

The Tour of Romandy (which starts April 26th) sees the close of the spring classics and early stage race season. May flowers now greet the riders and early summer is heralded with the first three-week Grand National Tour, the Giro d’Italia (May 7-29). This is a race run through gorgeous countryside dotted with ancient and magnificent architecture. From the hot and rugged terrain of south Italy to the mighty Dolomites and Italian Alps in the north, this is truly a Grand Tour.

June is the month when TdF riders make their final preparations. Their race choices are critical and include the Tour of Switzerland and the Dauphine Libere. Due to the Pro-Tour a new feature on this year’s calendar of major events is a team time trial to be held in Eindhoven, Holland on June 19th.

Then along comes July which belongs to the greatest of them all - the Tour de France. Not much else is happening at the elite level as all eyes are firmly fixed on “Le Tour.” Lance Armstrong could well continue to target yet another win but there are indications that he is eyeing other goals in 2005. If he opts to sit this one out we will be treated to a very different Tour to those of the past six years and speculation about the next TdF champion will be fierce. Stay tuned.

Early August brings the single day riders back into the spotlight with Spain’s San Sebastian and Germany’s HEW Cyclassics (actually on July 31 this year). As a result of the new Pro-Tour, the venerable G.P. Plouay in France has been elevated in status and will feature prominently on the Pro-Tour teams agendas (August 28th). Stage race riders will however get no respite in August with two Pro-Tour events on hand - the Benelux Tour and the Tour of Germany.

September welcomes that beautiful race the Vuelta a Espana (which starts August 27th this year). Spain is a magical country and their talented, bronzed riders bring great passion to this delicious race as it traverses a truly wonderful region. Those not sent to Spain will be directed to the other key Pro-Tour event in September – The Tour of Poland (Sept. 12th – 18th). For the riders of these two Tours there will be only a few days to recover before they head off to Madrid for the World Championships ( Sept. 21st – 25th).

After a very long season the weary riders are once again faced with more important appointments during October. At the very beginning of the month (Oct. 2nd) we start with the Championship of Zuerich which has also been given Pro-Tour status. Mid-month the “rouleurs” face the very long and pan flat Paris-Tours. Finally the season ends with the “race of the falling leaves”, the Tour of Lombardy (last of the five monuments). As it circles the lakes region of Switzerland and Italy, the race entourage melts into some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

Not so long ago racing would go into hibernation at the end of October. Increasingly races in the Southern Hemisphere, Africa and Malaysia are now filling the winter months with many riders from the European peloton making the long trips to warmer climes to maintain and build form for the next season in Europe.

It is a long road from February’s Het Volk to October’s Lombardy. Here we have only brushed upon the great race names of our sport. All year there are literally hundreds of other races that are contested with the same great energy. They provide race training for the elite riders and a path into the elite ranks for everyone else. You can find comprehensive listings of the international road calendar on many of your favorite cycling web sites. Our listing below focuses on the biggies.

An overview of the primary events on the calendar:

The Single Day Races
At the top of the list are the classic “Five Monuments”. To win one of these establishes your place in history. These races are:

  • Milan-San Remo first run in 1907.
  • Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) first run in 1913 and now the longest continually running race (it was run throughout WWII).
  • Paris-Roubaix first run in 1896 as a paced event and then became unpaced in 1910.
  • Liege-Bastogne-Liege first run in 1892 and the oldest of the classics.
  • Giro di Lombardia (Tour of Lombardy) first run in 1905.

Next come the “Classics”. These races are (year first run):

  • Het Volk (1945)
  • Ghent-Wevelgem (1934)
  • Amstel Gold Race (1966)
  • Fleche Wallone (1936)
  • HEW Cyclassics Cup (1998)
  • Clasica San Sebastian (1981)
  • Paris-Tours (1896)

Stage Races
The Grand Tours
These need little introduction but in order of prestige these are the Tour de France which was first run 1903, the Giro d’Italia (1909) and the Vuelta a Espana (1935). These are the only three weeklong races on the calendar.

Significant Tours
It’s not so easy to classify next in the pecking order of stage races but they would include the Paris-Nice (1933), Tirreno-Adriatico (1966), Tour of Catalonia (1911), Criterium International (1932), Tour of the Basque Country (1924), Tour of Romandy (1947), Four days of Dunkirk (1955), Criterium Du Dauphine Libere (1947), Tour of Switzerland (1933), Tour of Luxembourg (1935) and the Tour of Holland (1948)

The Pro-Tour will replace the former UCI World Cup series in 2005. There are 27 races listed in this competition and comprise the primary events for the elite Pro-Tour teams. An overview is provided HERE.

This is truly a ‘Calendar Dictated by History, Tradition and Legend’.


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