The 2018 Spring Classics are finally here! The pro-peloton heads back to Europe to take on some of the cycling seasons most iconic races outside of the Grand Tours. But what are they? Here’s our quick introduction. Read it and you’ll be talking cobble tactics like a pro over a post-ride coffee with your fellow MAMILs.

MAMIL SPORTS guide to the spring classics, cycling, mamil, mamils, mamil sports, middle aged men in lycra, bailey matthews, triathlon

Competing in a Spring Classic often leaves riders looking like they’ve been doing Cyclocross!


The key difference between the Grand Tours (Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España) and the Spring Classics is that, whereas the Grand Tours are muti-week events with daily stages the Classics are single day stages held mostly in northern France and Belgium. These iconic races take place every year from the end of February to the end of April.


Even if you are new to cycling chances are you will have heard of a few of the more high profile Spring Classics. The most popular and prestigious are called “The Moments” and, the order they occur in is the Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Il Lombardia.


Broadly speaking we can split the classics into 2 groups: the cobbled classics and the Ardennes classics. Some classics do not fit into either category but these are the key categories to be aware of.


The cobbled classics attract much attention every year due to the discomfort they cause the riders who are in the saddle for long periods over a mixture of asphalt and cobbled roads. You may have also seen specific bikes designed and built by manufacturers with innovative features to try and minimise discomort.

The Pinarello Dogma K8-S was specifically manufactured in 2015 to assist the riders on the cobbles.

Mainly flat and taking place within winding rural lanes giving the spectator a unique viewing experience the main flat races are the Paris-Roubaix and the Scheldeprijs, Cobbled classics with some leg testing hills are the famous Tour of Flanders and the E3 Harelbeke. These races suit powerful riders with expert-bike handling skills. Riders like Fabian Cancellara (now retired) and Tom Boonen perform well at these events.


As the name suggests these one-day events take place in the Ardennes region of Belgium and the Netherlands. Taking place in the space of a week over April the three Ardennes classics are the Amstel Gold Race, La Fleche Wallonne and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege. With as much as 4,500m of vertical ascent the races, as you might expect, suit pure climbers, such as Alejandro Valverde or Joaquim Rodriguez, or riders who can power their way up short and sharp climbs, such as Philippe Gilbert or Simon Gerrans.
Outside of the Cobbles and the Ardennes classification the most notable races are the Milan-San Remo which is suited to sprinters such as Mark Cavendish, and the Strade Bianche in Italy, which takes place over a combination of asphalt and gravel and includes a decisive late climb.


Not only does the terrain and the single day race format set them apart, what makes them even more unique is that they are the longest races in cycling.

To make a comparison – the longest stage of the 2018 Tour de France was Stage 19 from Embrun to Salon-de-Provence (222.5km), Milan-San Remo is 293km, Paris-Roubaix is 253km, the Tour of Flanders is 264.9km and Liege-Bastogne-Liege is 267km.

Taking place in northern Europe in the early part of the year means that the weather is also a defining part of the Spring Classics. Riders often cross the finish line covered in mud and looking more like they have competed at a cyclo-cross event! The riding can often be brutal with rain, wind, sleet and snow – in 2013 the Milan-San Remo was stopped and re-started 50km down the road due to snow.

Milan – Sam Remo 2013


In order to sound knowledgeable over a post-ride espresso and follow the commentary you’ll need to know some key terminology

Pavé: The French word for cobblestones. Cobbles are a defining feature of races such as Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders.

Berg: The Belgian word for a climb. The names of climbs in the Belgian classics almost always end in “…berg”, famous examples being the Koppenberg, the Paterberg and Taaienberg.

Mur: Climbs that aren’t known as “bergs” tend to be referred to as “Mur”, which is the Dutch word for wall. These are usually short and very steep. An example is the Mur de Huy, which is the decisive climb of La Fleche Wallonne.

Puncheur: A rider who flourishes on rolling terrain, and particularly short, sharp climbs.


Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – Belgium
Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne – Belgium
Strade Bianche – Italy
Milan-San Remo – Italy
Dwars Door Vlaanderen – Belgium
E3 Harelbeke – Belgium
Gent – Wevelgem – Belgium
Tour of Flanders – Belgium
Scheldeprijs – Belgium
Paris-Roubaix – France
Amstel Gold Race – Holland
La Flèche Wallonne – Belgium
Liège-Bastogne-Liège – Belgium

Do you have an article for us? Or would you like to nominate someone to be MAMIL OF THE MONTH ? - we'd love to hear from you !

Leave a Reply