Some of the most notable cycling events and races start in January and last up until September. From Grand Tours, which are the most prestigious cycling events, to classic tournaments and races. You can learn more about the 2023 cycling calendar here.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
With races throughout the world, events in Australia, South America, the Middle East, and Southern Europe are the opening races. However, many consider the start of the cycling season to be the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
It also represents the introduction and preparation for the Cobbled Classics. The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is the first race with a cobblestone section and leads into the upcoming four cobblestone classics.
The one-day cycling event in Belgium takes place in February. It is characterised by cold weather, rain, and wind. It is a contrast to earlier races in Southern Europe and the Middle East.
The race starts in Ghent, Flanders, and ends in Ninove, Flanders. The cobblestone section and climb over the Flemish Ardennes is the most interesting section. A women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad takes place on the same day, and has an identical distance of approximately 130km.
The winner of the 2023 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is Dylan van Baarle from Belgium. The women’s edition winner is Lotte Kopecky, also from Belgium. The very next day, you can watch the Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne, the second race of Belgium’s opening weekend.
After the Omloop, and before we get to the aforementioned cobblestone classics, you can enjoy the Strade Bianche. The origin of the Strade Bianche name is Italian and translates to White Roads. It symbolises the white gravel roads in Crete Senesi, Tuscany.
One-third of the route is dirt roads, 63km to be specific. Thus the white gravel is one of the defining features of the race. While it is easily one of the hardest races in the season, it is also one of the most beautiful.
The race starts and finishes in Sienna. Despite being relatively new, it has quickly reached a prestigious status. The women’s edition starts on the same day as the men’s competition. However, it has a shorter distance, with the men’s being 184km, and women’s 136 km long.
This year’s champions are Tom Pidcock for the men’s edition, and Demi Vollering for the women’s edition, the Strade Bianche Donne. After the Strade Bianche, the next race is Tirreno–Adriatico, or the Race of the Two Seas.
Another very important monument in the world of cycling is the Milan – San Remo event. It is also known as The Spring Classic or the Classicissima. The Milan–Sanremo is one of the five cycling monuments in the world. Starting in Milan, and ending in San Remo, it is also the longest one-day race, with a route of 298km.
The race usually takes place on the third Saturday of March. The route of the race is mainly flat, except for the final stage, Poggio. It has a slow build with an interesting climb near the end, Poggio. The final stage is the most entertaining to watch. You can see quite a few puncheurs trying to take the opportunity.
There is no women’s Milan–Sanremo. However, the ladies can take part in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda a day after the Spring Classic. After the Milan San Remo, there is the Volta a Catalunya. Afterwards, we finally get to the E3 Harelbeke, one of the Cobbled Classics.
The Cobbled Classics encompass the four classics of cycling, which take place in late March and April. The most characteristic section of the race, like the mountainous terrain in many, is the cobblestone. While each has its unique elements, many consider the Tour of Flanders and Paris–Roubaix to be archetypes. Each of the two has over 20 cobblestone sections.
The Gent–Wevelgem lost some of its prestige due to the easiness of the route compared to others. The E3 Harelbeke is gaining popularity, as its difficulty makes it the perfect preparation for the Ronde and Roubaix.
E3 Harelbeke (E3 Saxo Bank Classic)
The E3 Harelbeke, known as the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, usually takes place on the last Friday of March. It marks the start of the Flemish Cycling Week. While it is the second of the Cobblestone races, it is the first of the Classics.
As the E3 is the most similar race to the Tour of Flanders, it is more popular than the Gent–Wevelgem. The race begins and ends in Harelbeke, a city in Belgian West Flanders province.
The race is 203km long, and it is shorter than the Tour of Flander. However, it shares a lot of roads and hills as the latter, thus its popularity. Wout van Aert managed to defend his title from last year.
The Gent–Wevelgem is the second of the Cobblestone Classics. It earns its nickname the Wind Classic, due to its early season date. The race is set for the end of March, only a few days after the E3. During the race, racers are often met with rain and wind, making the race more challenging.
The race is also considered a sprinter’s classic because of its flat terrain in the final stage. Thus, quite a few races end in a sprint, and the winner is one of the escapees that breaks away.
Tour of Flanders
Tour of Flanders is not only one of the Cobblestone classics, it is also one of the five cycling monuments. The Flanders’ Finest, ‘The Tour,’ takes place days after the Gent-Wevelgem. It starts in Brugge and ends in Oudenaarde.
The route is considered one of the most challenging one-day races today. Over the course of over 250km, there are numerous challenging sections with steep bergs, cobblestones, and tight technical roads. It takes years for even the biggest professionals to master the course and finish it with success.
This year’s winner is Tadej Pogacar. After a thrilling race, Tadej’s effort earned him the biggest honour after losing the 2022 edition in the final sprint. The women’s edition started in 2004, and takes place on the same day, but with a shorter distance. This year’s winner is Lotte Kopecky.
The Paris-Roubaix has an extraordinary history, as it is one of the oldest cycling races in the world. It is one of the Monuments of cycling and a Cobblestone classic, and it starts a week after the Tour of Flanders.
It has many nicknames giving an accurate description of how challenging the race is. Some of its nicknames are the Hell of the North, A Sunday in Hell, and the Queen of the Classics.
However, its nickname, the Hell of the North, doesn’t come from the difficulty of the race. Instead, the term came from the conditions of the road after the World War. Hell was the word most commonly used to describe the conditions of the surroundings.
Throughout its history, the starting and ending locations changed a few times. Originally, it started in Paris and ended in Roubaix. This year, the race started from Compiegne, but traditionally ended in Roubaix.
After the Paris-Roubaix, there are a lot of events before we reach one of the next monuments. Races such as Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race, Tour of the Alps, La Fleche Wallonne, and others will keep you entertained before the Liege–Bastogne–Liege.
Like the aforementioned Milan Sanremo, Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix, the Liege–Bastogne–Liege is another monument of cycling. The last of the spring classics, it usually takes place in late April.
The Old Lady is another of the most challenging races in the world. Its length and demanding terrain are challenging even for most prepared riders. The distance of the race is around 260km. The route starts in Liege, heading to Bastogne before it winds back to Liege.
The Liege–Bastogne–Liege symbolises the end of the spring season, and leads into the grand tours and stage races. After the race, the Tour de Romandie is an excellent preparation and warm-up for the Giro d’Italia.
A women’s edition of the Liege–Bastogne–Liege was introduced in 2017, and is one of the women’s monuments in cycling. With the Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix also creating a women’s edition, the ladies can now achieve a triple crown.
Compared to the aforementioned events, the Giro d’Italia is not a single-day race. Instead, there are multiple stages taking place mainly in Italy, but passing through other countries. Its first edition was in 1909, and it has since expanded and become one of the most popular events.
The Giro d’Italia is one of the Grand Tours of cycling. Its French equivalent, Tour De France, takes all the glory, but many consider the Giro d’Italia to be more challenging. But, if we are to compare the Grand Tours, we find that each is challenging it its own way.
The race most commonly starts in May, and sometimes rolls into early June. The route changes from year to year, but the essence of the race stays the same. Commonly, there are two time trials and a mountainous passage through the Alps.
The modern version of the Grand Tours mainly have the same format. The race encompasses a 23 to 24-day period, with 21 different stages, giving room for the riders to rest.
The 2023 edition of Giro d’Italia will be held from the 6th to the 28th of May. It will have three time trial stages, and six stages with lengths longer than 200km. The total distance of the Grand Tour will be 3,448km.
Tour de France
The Tour De France is the oldest of the three Grand Tours. Similarly, it is also one of the most popular and well-known cycling events in the world. Like the remaining Grand Tours, it consists of 21 stages, spread across 23 days.
The race primarily remains in France but can cross into other neighbouring countries. Tour de France usually goes down in July, with a few exceptions in its history. The route, similarly to Giro d’Italia, changes each year, but the format remains identical.
This year, the Tour de France guarantees to be the highlight of the year. The 2023 edition is to start in Spanish Basque Country and will head into the Pyrenees.
An interesting section will be Stage 9. At this stage, riders are to climb one of the most famous Tour de France climbs, Puy de Dome. What makes it special this year is the Puy de Dôme hasn’t been climbed in 35 years.
Each section is challenging in its own way. But, the two final weeks of the Grand Tour are traditionally the hardest. The steep, and high-altitude Col de Loze is the only time trial, but probably the most demanding section.
Before La Vuelta, cyclists can take part in the Tour of Poland or the Benelux Tour. Both are stage races and make for good practice before La Vuelta.
La Vuelta, or the Tour of Spain, is the last of the three Grand Tours in the season. Similarly to other Grand Tours, it mainly keeps to its country, with occasional passes to other countries. It consists of 21 stages which racers complete in 23 days, two of which are rest days.
The Grand Tour starts on the 26th of August and ends on the 17th of September. This year, the race will start in Barcelona, with a total length of 3,153km. Last year, Remco Evenepoel took the throne. But, this year’s competition is fierce, and we can expect a great battle.
Finally, one of the last significant events in the cycling calendar, is another one-day race, Giro di Lombardia. Il Lombardia, the final of the five monuments in cycling, is considered one of the most prestigious events. It was originally called Milano-Milano.
The origin behind its nickname, Classica Delle Foglie Morte (Classic of the dead leaves), derives from the time frame. The event is the most important Autumn classic in cycling, as it takes place between August and September.
Its demanding course is primarily mountainous and is considered a climbers classic. The terrain favours climbers with excellent descending skills and a strong sprint finish. Last year, Tadej Pogacar took the win, and is looking to defend the title.