For many, the cycling season begins the moment the Flanders Classics week starts. Once these events are in motion, we are continuously presented with one good race after another. You can of course watch weekly broadcasts on television and witness all of the cycling races and who is performing during this week — so we thought it’s high time for an overview of the Flanders Classics.
E3 Harelbeke: 29th of March
During this week, four stunning races occur over a week-and-a-half period, with routes all around Flanders. The E3 Harelbeke race is the first. It covers about 200km and has some small climbs and cobbles along the way. Usually it is a race for riders who are still strong after a long game and can launch into a sprint—last year, Niki Terpstra took the win.
Gent–Wevelgem: 31st of March
Since 2010, Gent–Wevelgem has been known as a difficult race full of steep climbs that cyclists must tackle before reaching the finish. This is a race often won by sprinters with some endurance—think of Peter Sagan, John Degenkolb and Greg Van Avermaet.
Across Flanders: 3rd of April
The third race happening during the Flemish Cycling week is called Across Flanders. The race consists of difficult climbs, such as the Knokteberg, the Kruisberg and the Taaienberg. In addition, the race has various cobblestoned routes, making it a race where those on the attack often get away with the win. In recent years, we have seen wonderful attackers such as Yves Lampaert, Jelle Wallays and Terpstra celebrate their victories here.
Tour of Flanders: 7th of April
The Tour of Flanders is the second major classic of the year. It is one of the most beautiful races too, and it makes you feel jealous when you’re not in Belgium attending the festivities in person. It is a race with alternating cobbled sections and short, sharp climbs—and one where the strongest man often wins. Last year Niki Terpstra took home the win, but names like Gilbert, Sagan, Kristoff, Cancellara and Boonen have also managed to win here in the past.
Tour of the Basque Country: 8-13th of April
Like the Tour of Catalonia, the Tour of the Basque Country is a race for climbers. It is a race that occurs exactly between the Tour of Flanders and Paris–Roubaix, so the event often goes unnoticed and does not always receive the attention it deserves. It is very a Spanish affair, with winners such as Valverde, Contador, Rodriguez and Sanches. Last year, Primoz Roglic of LottoNL–Jumbo took the victory.
Paris–Roubaix: 14th of April
Paris–Roubaix is without a doubt one of the most beautiful races of the year. Like the Tour de France, this race is recognised worldwide. Without question, the best races are the ones where the riders have to cycle on wet roads, even though viewers sometimes have a near-heart attack while watching. The differences become clear on the cobbles, before riders end on the world famous Roubaix Velodrome where we see who is first to cross the finish line.
Amstel Gold Race: 21st of April
The Amstel Gold Race is the only classic that occurs in our humble country (the Netherlands). The riders will race through the Limburg landscape, where the route always goes up and down. The final used to be on the Cauberg hill, but in recent years the race hasn’t finished there, so now it is open to those without uphill sprinting skills. Of late, guys such as Valgren, Gilbert and Kwiatkowski have won here.
La Flèche Wallonne: 24th of April
In recent years, you could also call the La Flèche Wallonne the ‘Grand Prix Valverde’, as he won the race four times between 2014 and 2017—not to mention his win in 2006, making a total of no less than five wins. The finish is on the sharp Mur of Huy, which has dizzying hill gradients. Last year, the prize went somewhat surprisingly to Julian Alaphilippe.
Liège–Bastogne–Liège: 28th of April
The last great classic of spring is Liège–Bastogne–Liège, which is a cycling monument along with Paris–Roubaix, Milan–San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and the Tour of Lombardy. Liège–Bastogne–Liège is a race where, just as with the Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne, a lot of hills have to be climbed, and at the finish often only a handful of riders still have the strength to fight for the win. Jungels, Valverde, Poels, Gerrans and Martin were the last few winners.