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Pedaling Away to Glory: The Most Challenging World Cycling Events

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Many cyclists believe that cycling is an addiction and add that to their desire to explore new parts of the world, this makes them crave new destinations to compete in. It is not surprising that many cycling enthusiasts keep looking for world cycling events that give them a chance to ride on new terrain and explore new places. Participating in international cycling events is a great way to test your cycling skill and fitness.

Let's tell you about the most prominent UCI cycling events from all around the globe.

These cycling events attract a lot of professional cyclists from different countries and provide each participant with an opportunity to achieve his/her personal goals. We hope that you will find this information helpful, and be motivated enough to participate in one or more of these major cycling events.

1. Monument Cycling Races

These races are considered to be the most prestigious one-day cycling races in the pro cycling calendar. All of these are organized in west Europe and some of the oldest races in this category date back to 1800s. The five most popular of these races are known as ‘Monuments’ cycling races, and winning these races gives you the maximum World Tour points to the cyclist.

These monuments are briefly described below.

Tour of Flanders (Belgium)

Known locally as ‘Vlaanderens Mooiste’ that means ‘Flander’s finest’, this race is was first held in 1913, and was only for men. Since 2004, an exclusive race for female cyclists has been merged with this event.

It is the longest-running annual cycling event, being organized uninterrupted since 1919.

Total distance: 265 kilometers (men); 153 kilometers (women)

Check out the Complete Guide to Cobbles or Steep Slopes: What Makes the Tour of Flanders Unique

Tour of Flanders
Tour of Flanders

Milano- Sanremo Race (Italy)

This pro cycling race between Milan and San Remo is also known as ‘The Spring Classic’ race. It is held every year in the north-western part of Italy between the cities Milan and San Remo.

The first race was held in 1907 and the event has continued to attract the interest of participants and spectators alike since then. This is why it makes it to the list of the most popular world cycling events.

Total distance: 298 kilometers

Milano- Sanremo Race (Italy)
Milano- Sanremo race

Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Belgium)

This race is also known as La Doyenne and is the last monument race of Spring season.

It is the oldest of the classic cycling races and its first event was held in 1892. The women’s race in this event was started in 2017. The course of this race is considered to be the toughest among all international cycling one-day races.

Total distance: 260 kilometers

Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Belgium)
Liège-Bastogne-Liège race

Giro di Lombardia (Italy)

This cycling race is known as Tour of Lombardy and Lombardia. It is a prominent cycling race in the Autumn season, which is why it is also known as ‘Classic of the falling leaves’.

It was first started in 1905 and interrupted in 1943 and 1944 due to the World War. The challenging course of this race favors cyclists who can endure cycling on the uphill terrain.

Total distance: 255 kilometers

Giro di Lombardia (Italy)
Giro di Lombardia

Paris-Roubaix (France)

This cycling race is a men’s event that was first organized in 1896 and has gained immense popularity since then. It was also only interrupted by the two World Wars.

The course of this race is famous for its cobbled and rough terrain. The start point of this race has changed over the years and currently, the starting point is Compiègne near central Paris.

Total distance: 260 kilometers

Check out the Complete guide to The Paris Roubaix Cycling Race: Take the Cobbled Route Challenge!

Paris-Roubaix race

Elite Cycling Races

In addition to the above-mentioned monuments pro cycling races, there are several, relatively newer one-day races that are considered to be among the most revered world cycling events that are challenging and motivating for cyclists.

Amstel Gold Race (Holland)

This annual bike race started in 1966 and has acquired the status of one of the most prestigious one-day cycling races. The race is named after its sponsor, Amstel Beer. Women cyclists participated in the race between 2001 and 2003.

Since 2017, a corresponding annual race for female cyclists has been included in the main event. The course of this race is considered to be extremely challenging.

Total distance: 264 kilometers (men); 121 kilometers (women)

Amstel Gold Race
Amstel Gold race

E3 Harelbeke (Belgium)

This is one of the most professional bike races, previously known as Harelbeke-Antwer-Harebeke race and E3-Prijs Vlaanderen. It started in 1958 and has gained a lot of popularity over the years.

The course of this race largely consists of cobbled terrain. It is considered to be a rehearsal for the more prestigious Tour of Flanders race that is organized shortly after this event.

Total distance: 203 kilometers

E3 Harelbeke (Belgium)
E3 Harelbeke race

La Flèche Wallonne (Belgium)

This cycling event is generally organized between the two cycling events- Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The first race of this event was organized in 1936. A corresponding race for female cyclists started in 1998.

Total distance: 199.5 kilometers (men); 120 kilometers (women)

La Flèche Wallonne (Belgium)
La Flèche Wallonne race

Bretagne Classic (France)

This cycling race is held annually towards the end of summer in Breton village in France. The first race was held in 1931. Since 2002, a corresponding women's race has been organized a day before the men’s cycling race.

Total distance: 247 kilometers (men); 114 kilometers (women)

Bretagne Classic (France)
Bretagne Classic race

Gent-Wevelgem (Belgium)

This cycling race is organized in the Flanders region of Belgium.

It started in 1934 and the timing of this race coincides with strong winds and rain on the way. The course has a stretch of cobbled terrain. Since 2011, a women’s cycling race has been merged with this event.

Total distance: 250 kilometers (men); 120 kilometers (women)

Gent-Wevelgem (Belgium)
Gent-Wevelgem race

Clásica de San Sebastián (Spain)

This race is a relatively new entry in this category. The first event was held in 1981 and has seen a continuous increase in popularity since then.

The terrain of this race had many winding paths and it favors aggressive cyclists. Nevertheless, this race is seeing increasing participation over the last few years, and it now counts among the most challenging world cycling events.

Total distance: 220 kilometers

Clásica de San Sebastián (Spain)
Clásica de San Sebastián race

Vattenfall Cyclassics (Germany)

This pro cycling races event is now known as Euro Eyes Cyclassics and is the newest entrant on the list of elite one-day cycling events.

The first edition of this race was held in 1996. This event is characterized by a number of small races that are held for amateur cyclists a day before the main race.

Total distance: 250 kilometers

Vattenfall Cyclassics (Germany)
Vattenfall Cyclassics race

2. Stage Races

The second broad categories of world cycling events are the stage races. These cycling races are held over several days, and the cyclists are required to cover a leg or stage of the course each day. These races are much more challenging than one-day cycling races and involve a lot more practice and dedication.

Grand Tours

The following cycling Grand Tours are considered to be the holy grail for cyclists and counted among the toughest world cycling events.

Tour de France (France)

This multi-stage cycling race is among the most popular and most coveted races for cyclists.

Although the major part of the course of this race passes through different regions in France, some stretches lie in neighboring countries. The event was started in 1903 for promoting sales of the newspaper L’Auto. Since then, it has been organized annually except during the two World Wars.

Generally, this race is organized in July but the course is changed often. The format of the race is more or less constant and includes at least two time trials. Participants of this event cycle for 21 days out of the 23-day race-period.

The competition is between 20 – 22 teams, each consisting of nine members. The course alternates between clockwise and counter-clockwise circuits.

Total distance: 3500 kilometers

Tour de France
Tour de France

Giro d’Italia (Italy)

The Giro d’Italia is counted among the most coveted world cycling events.

Most of the course of this race lies in Italy, although some stretches traverse through its neighboring countries. This annual race started in 1909, with the aim of increasing the sales of the local newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. However, over the years, it has made a distinct position among professional bike races and cycling teams.

This race takes place over three weeks where cyclists have to pass through a rigorous course that is a mix of rough, cobbled, concrete, uphill, downhill and flat terrain. Initially, the race spanned 21 continuous days, but modern format keeps it at 23 days with a couple of rest days in between.

The format of the race requires the inclusion of two-time trials. The race in 2017 marked the 100th edition of this event.

Total distance: 3609 kilometers

Giro d'Italia
Giro d'Italia

Vuelta a Espana (Spain)

Inspired by the success of the above-mentioned multi-stage cycling races, Vuelta a Espana started in 1935 and has been regularly organized as an annual race since 1955.

Like the two Grand Tours discussed above, this race also spans 21 cycling days with two rest days, making the event last for a total of 23 days.

The course consists of a mix of different terrain, regular climbs and rough stretches to test the skill and fitness of cyclists. Although the course changes every year, the format of the race remains the same, with a minimum of two-time trials.

Total distance: 3324 kilometers

Vuelta a Espana
Vuelta a Espana

Elite World Cycling Events

Other than the above three grand tours, the following stage races are considered to be part of the elite world cycling events and are the most sought-after challenges for cyclists.

The Tour Down Under (Australia)

The most prominent stage cycling race in Australia is the Tour Down Under.

This event was inaugurated in 1999 and has grown to become Australia’s biggest cycling race. It consists of six stages and the route has uphill, flat and rough terrain. Another distinctive feature of this race is the presence of hilly circuits at the end of the race.

Total distance: 802 kilometers

The Tour Down Under
The Tour Down Under

Tour de Romandie (Switzerland)

This stage cycling race takes place in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. It began in 1947 and coincided with the 50th anniversary of Swiss Cycling, which is the national body governing cycling races in the country.

This race usually begins in Lausanne, goes all the way to Lake Geneva and ends in Lausanne again. Jura mountains and Alps in the western part of Switzerland are also included in this route. The picturesque route in this race makes it among the most scenic world cycling events.

Total distance: 683 kilometers

Tour de Romandie
Tour de Romandie

The Japanese Odyssey

This race counts among Asia’s toughest races and features among the hardest and most challenging world cycling events.

The event started in 2015 and spans between Tokyo and Osaka. Participants have to traverse through ten mountain passes and the course is very challenging. There is no prize money in this race, and it is driven completely by the passion for cycling.

Total distance: 2400 kilometers

The Japanese Odyssey
The Japanese Odyssey

Tour de Pologne (Poland)

This stage cycling race started as early as 1928, but it was only after 1952 that it became a regular annual event. It consists of seven or eight stages, and until 1993, the race was open only for amateur cyclists.

Total distance: 1122 kilometers

Tour de Pologne (Poland)
Tour de Pologne

Tour of Ara (South Africa)

This multi-stage cycling race takes place over six days where participants traverse across semi-arid regions and variable weather conditions.

This challenging world cycling event was first held in 2014 and is getting increasingly popular. A peculiar fact about this race is that participants are required to ride only steel frame bicycles that were made in or before 1999.

Total distance: 800 kilometers

Tour of Ara
Tour of Ara

Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Spain)

This multi-stage race is held annually in April. The Basque region in Spain, where this race is held, is known for mountainous terrain.

Therefore, this race is ideal for cyclists who are strong climbers. Most uphill sections of this route are not too high but can be very steep. This event was held for the first time in 1924, and since then, it has regularly been counted among the top world cycling events.

Total distance: 829 kilometers

Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Spain)
Vuelta al Pais Vasco

Tirreno-Adriatico (Italy)

This cycling event is held annually between the Tyrrhenian coast and Adriatic coast. Because of the route, this event is also known as the Race of the Two Seas.

It was inaugurated in 1966 and is currently held in seven stages. The timing of this race is shortly before the Milan-San Remo classic race and this event is seen as a preparation for the same. Both these world cycling events witness immense participation.

Total distance: 851 kilometers

Tirreno-Adriatico
Tirreno-Adriatico

Paris-Nice (France)

This pro cycling staged race is held over eight days, starting in Paris and finishing either in Nice or in Col d’Èze.

This race is popularly called The Race to the Sun, because of its timing towards the beginning of spring season. This event started in 1933 and has been held annually since then.

This race came into sudden limelight when a participant died as a result of injuries sustained to his head. Since then, use of helmets in all sections of the course is mandatory.

Total distance: 1233 kilometers

Paris-Nice
Paris-Nice race

Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge (New Zealand)

This event was first held in 1977 and is organized every year on the last Saturday each November. Participants circumnavigate the Lake Taupo, which is situated in a volcanic crater in the North Island.

One round along the lake spans 160 kilometers. There are several formats of this race, the most difficult being the Enduro, requiring a cyclist to take up to eight laps of the circumference of the lake. Other races include Round the Lake, Half the Lake, Quarter Lake, Lakeside and Kids Heart Ride.

Total distance: For Enduro, 1280 kilometers

Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge
Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

Amgen Tour of California (USA)

The Tour of California began as an annual event in 2006 and takes participants from different regions of California.

It features among USA’s most prominent cycling races and attracts a large crowd. This race is held in the month of May each year and is believed to be a preparatory platform for American cyclists who wish to perform well in the Tour de France.

Total distance: 938 kilometers

Amgen Tour of California
Amgen Tour of California

Paris-Brest-Paris (France)

This cycling event started in 1891, but gradually developed into two routes.

One route, called Brevet, is raced individually every four years, and the other, named Audax, is raced in a group, every five years. The route starts from Paris, goes till Brest and returns back to Paris.

Total distance: 1200 kilometers

Paris-Brest-Paris (France)
Paris-Brest-Paris race

In addition to the above-mentioned elite races, cyclists also dream of participating in the coveted and famous bicycle races like World Track Championships, Olympic Games cycling events, Commonwealth cycling events, and World Road Championships.

The feeling of completing any of the above-mentioned races is beyond words.

Participating and completing these challenging world cycling events is a true mark of your passion and dedication towards cycling. Most of these races are completed not for the prize money associated with them, but for the exhilarating feeling they give.

As a professional cyclist, you would definitely like to participate in the most challenging world cycling events.

Let us know which one is your favorite?

This will not only give you a golden chance of riding along the world’s best and most famous cyclists, it will also be an opportunity for you to challenge your own limits and achieve your personal goals.

Our list will give you some serious goals for cycling and be filling your cycling calendar 2018.

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