Unlike, for instance, Formula 1, where virtually all races are run to a similar format – just over 300km on predominantly flat circuits, most of them purpose-built – cycling races take on a variety of forms, from flat to Alpine, from as little as 200km to as much as 3,500km, and always on public roads. Here’s a quick run-down of the different types of race.
Grand Tour: Grand in both the English and French senses of the word, these are the three most prestigious races on the calendar (along with the World Championships) and also, at three weeks each, the longest. The Giro d’Italia (May), Tour de France (July) and Vuelta a España (September) provide the most strenuous possible test of a rider’s stamina and all-round ability. Each contains a challenging mix of flat, mountainous and time trial stages that total in excess of 3,000km.
Stage race: These ‘week-long’ events are typically run over five to nine days, and vary from largely flat affairs which favour sprinters (e.g. Tour Down Under) to mountain-heavy races which are dominated by climbers (e.g. Giro del Trentino), and pretty much every shade in between. 11 of these, along with the three Grand Tours and 14 of the top one-day races, comprise the UCI WorldTour, the premier division of cycling.
One-day race: Often referred to as either Classics or semi-Classics depending on their status, these single-race events are among the most varied and beloved by fans. From the white dirt roads of Strade Bianche to the tooth-rattling cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, and from the climbs of the Ardennes Classics to the sprinter-friendly Paris-Tours, cycling’s top one-day races cover every conceivable terrain and frequently provide some of the best and most competitive racing of the year.
Monuments: The collective name given to five of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious one-day races. In calendar order these are: Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen), Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastonge- Liège and the Giro di Lombardia.
For coverage of all the major races in the cycling calendar, go to the ‘Races’ tab at the top of the page.