22 March 2014

The Real Monuments Men

Roger De Vlaeminck, Rik Van Looy and Eddy Merckx

Spring means the Spring Classics and for many cycling fans this is the best of the season when epic one-day races challenge the strongest in the sport. The classics are not the time to witness yet another featherweight climber leave the sprinters and rouleurs in the dust; the classics are for the toughest of the tough. Those who excel in enduring harsh weather on brutal roads over really long distances.

One of the best of the Classics is tomorrow

105th edition of Milan-San Remo is tomorrow, 13, March 2014. This year's route is 294km/182.7m. Startlist and top competitors.

milan san remo 2014 route map
The first winner of Milan-San Remo

Lucien Petit-Breton (Lucien Georges Mazan). Born in Brittany, France, his parents moved to Argentina when Lucien was 6 years-old. He became a Argentinian citizen but returned to France to race bicycles, becoming the first man to win the Tour de France twice. He died in France in 1917, during WWI, not in warfare but in a car accident.

Lucien Petit-Breton
Most Milan-San Remo Wins
1. Eddy Merckx (Belgium) - 7  (1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1976)
2. Constante Girondengo (Italy) - 6  (1918, 1921, 1923, 1925, 1926, 1928)
3. Erik Zabel (German) - 4  (Zabel admitted doping from 1996 to 2004)
4. Gino Bartali (Italy) - 4  (1939, 1940, 1947, 1950)

Who won in 2013?
1. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN-Qhubeka
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling
3. Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack Leopard

Gerald Ciolek (Germany) won the race in 2013. Last year's weather was so brutal that frozen riders had to be chipped off their bikes, placed inside team buses to thaw and redress, driven around a mountain climb, and set upon their bikes again. It was a thrilling race to watch and even more exciting when photos started streaming in, like these below.

Taylor Phinney tweeted this image of himself after boarding the bus in transit to complete the 2013 Milan-San Remo.
This was the scene last year at Milan-San Remo as frozen riders desperately searched for the team buses when the race was halted due to severe weather and restarted again further down the road.
This year's weather report in Milan for Sunday will be: Rain early...then remaining cloudy with showers in the afternoon. High 49F. Winds NNW at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a half an inch.

The Monuments

Everyone is a buzz with excitement for this first race of the Spring Classics tomorrow. But Milano-Sanremo belongs to another class of races as well. Milano-Sanremo is one of five Monuments of cycling.
  • Milan-San Remo (Italy)
  • Tour of Flanders (Belgium) (Ronde van Vlaanderen)
  • Paris–Roubaix (France)
  • Liège–Bastogne–Liège (Belgium)
  • Il Lombardia (Italy)
This grouping of five race represent the creme of the crop in one-day cycling races. Only three men have won all five races in their career, and none did it in the same year. Their names are legend in the sport of cycling: Roger De Vlaeminck, Rik Van Looy and Eddy Merckx. All three men are Belgians.

The Monuments Men -

Roger De Vlaeminck
Roger De Vlaeminck
Roger De Vlaeminck, now age 66
Rik Van Looy
Rik Van Looy
Rik Van Looy, now age 80
Eddy Merckx
Eddy Merckx
Eddy Merckx, now age 68
Sean Kelly (Ireland) - earns honorable mention. Although he is one monument win short, having never won Tour of Flanders, he repeatedly won the other four monuments. Milano-Sanremo (1986, 1992), Paris-Roubaix (1984, 1986), Liège–Bastogne–Liège (1984, 1989), Giro di Lombardia (1983, 1985, 1991). I may not be able to understand his commentary but Sean Kelly is one the the toughest cyclists of all time.

Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) - has tried - he won Giro di Lombardia in 2009 and 2010, Liège–Bastogne–Liège in 2011, he came in 3rd in Tour of Flanders is 2009 and 2010, he also came in third in Milano-Sanremo in 2008 and 2011, but the Paris-Roubaix remains his major challenge only finishing once in 2007 in 52nd place.

Tom Boonen (Belgium) - has won the Paris-Roubaix four times (2005, 2008, 2009, 2012), he won the Tour of Flanders three times (2005, 2006, 2012). Boonen has had dramatically mixed results at the Milan-San Remo with his best result in 2010 when he placed 2nd, he pulled out of the race after the bad weather in 2013 and DNF. He has never competed in Liège–Bastogne–Liège or Il Lombardia.

Fabian Cancellara (Suise) - is another favorite, he has won Paris-Roubaix three time (2006, 2010, 2013) with the second place (2008 and 2011), he won Tour of Flanders (2010 and 2013). Cancellara won Milano-Sanremo way back in 2008, in 2011 and 2012 he was second, in 2013 he was third. This race means something to Cancellara and he will be one to pull for when watching tomorrow. He has also never competed in Liège–Bastogne–Liège or Il Lombardia.

I would like to ask any of these riders if they would take a win at the Olympics, Tour de France or Milano-Sanremo; I would not be surprised to hear Milan-San Remo.

The Monuments (5)

The five "Monuments" are a different combination than the eight "Spring Classics", the Monuments add more of the beautiful terrain of Italy. Only three riders, all Belgians, have won all five races in their career - Roger De Vlaeminck, Rik Van Looy and Eddy Merckx; none in the same year. The Monuments are grouped as:
  • Milan-San Remo (Italy)
  • Tour of Flanders (Belgium) (Ronde van Vlaanderen)
  • Paris–Roubaix (France)
  • Liège–Bastogne–Liège (Belgium)
  • Il Lombardia (Italy) – the only race considered a Monument, but not a Spring Classic, the race is held in October. Known as the "Race of the Falling Leaves" and initially called the Milano–Milano (1905). The race was renamed to Giro di Lombardia in 1907, and then Il Lombardia in 2012.
Nicknames for the Classics
Paris-Roubaix = Queen of the Classics (La Reine), The Hell of the North, La Pascale
Amstel Gold = [no nickname] 

La Fleche-Wallonne = The Walloon Arrow
Liege-Bastogne-Liege = La Doyenne (the oldest/old lady)
Milan-San Remo = La Primavera (the spring), Sprinters' Classic, La Classicissima
Ronde van Vlaanderen = Flanders' most beautiful (
Vlaanderens mooiste)
Paris-Nice = Race to the Sun
Tirreno-Adriatico = Race of the two Seas 
Il Lombardia = Race of the Falling Leaves

Related posts by Pedal Dancer

Do you remember the snow storm of 2013?

My favorite Milano-Sanremo photo from 2013 is of Thor Hushovd. A great album of photos from last year here.
Thor Hushovd in the snow of Milan San Remo. Photo from DanGerous tumblre. Photographer: BrakeThrough Media | VeloNews.com.
Tune-in tomorrow: live links available at Steephill.TV for where to watch Milan-San Remo: Milan-San Remo Coverage.

Results 2014

197 riders started the 2014 Milan-San Remo, 114 riders finished (full results). 83 riders DNF.

Update 04/09/14: Book Review: The Monuments, By The Inner Ring