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From cocaine-fueled gangster themes to tiny details on the hubs
New brand Kemo cracks into the Tour with Bretagne
The BMC Teammachine of the American GC hopeful
Hyper-aggressive position for the sprint lead-out
Simon Gerrans wins Milan-San Remo ahead of Fabian Cancellara
Your guide to the 2012 Spring Classics
Milan-San Remo - March 17
Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) captured an enthralling Milan-San Remo, outsprinting Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) at the end of the race. The three had gotten away on the final climb, the Poggio, and maintained a narrow lead to the end.
"I still haven't realized what we actually did today," said Gerrans. "This is an amazing feeling to win this monument. The team rode perfectly, and we played our cards just the right way."
Gent-Wevelgem - March 25
Known for its climb and dicey descent of the Kemmelberg, which was previously the only difficulty in the race, the course features 16 bergs including the Kemmel and a slightly longer parcours.
The early part of the race takes place near Belgium's North Sea coast line, which means high winds often shatters the peloton into bits.
Tour of Flanders - April 1
The 2012 Tour of Flanders is already one of the most talked about editions in the long and distinguished history of the race. Significant changes to the route for this year have caused controversy, with riders and fans reacting with consternation to the removal of the Muur van Geraardsbergen from the parcours.
Nevertheless the race will retain its status as one of the most loved and eagerly anticipated of the season and remains Belgium’s premier Monument. The Tour of Flanders traditionally attracts the best riders in the world to the start line, but riders of other nationalities are always fighting the home team here. The race is a national emblem in Belgium and the host country’s riders have won almost seven times more titles here than any other nation. Tom Boonen, who has been in fine early season form, is sure to make a bold bid to continue that dominance, provided he gets to grips with the changes to the course.
The Classic is the first of the true Northern classics and the second of cycling's five Monuments.
2012 Tour of Flanders race report | 2012 Tour of Flanders photos | 2011 Tour of Flanders | 2010 Tour of Flanders | Previous winners
Paris-Roubaix - April 8
There is no other race in the world like the Paris-Roubaix. The French race is known as the Hell of the North thanks to its torturous pavé sectors and the many stories of pain and destruction that they hold.
Dreams of riders like George Hincapie and Johan Museeuw have ended in tears along the roadside, but the risks make the victory in velodrome that much sweeter. After 260 kilometres, around 50 on pavé, the race ends with one and a half laps on Roubaix's outdoor track.
Win in Roubaix, the third of the Monuments, and you are considered a god. Riders like Fausto Coppi, Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx, Francesco Moser, Sean Kelly and Tom Boonen have tamed Paris-Roubaix's pavé for the well-earned status.
Amstel Gold Race - April 15
The Dutch Classic the Amstel Gold Race has a character all of its own: twisty and narrow roads, short and steep climbs, and crazed orange-clad fans. The first of three Ardennes Classics is a race to watch and one for the riders to add to their palmarès.
The relatively new classic (this year celebrating its 46th edition) starts in Maastricht and ends with three circuits on the Cauberg. The first two times up the 1.5-kilometre climb splits the race into select groups, while the final ascent decides the race winner.
Home team Rabobank goes all out to make its presence felt in this race, but in recent years it has fallen short of the victory. Italians have made this race theirs since Erik Dekker last won for Rabobank and the Netherlands in 2001.
La Flèche Wallonne - April 18
Belgium's Flèche Wallonne is a mid-week race with a short distance of 200 kilometres, but that does not change the importance of this race that always ends with spectacular explosions on the famed Mur de Huy. The climb is a 1300-metre leg-snapping ascent that averages 9.3 percent gradient and boasts a maximum of 25 per cent.
The second of three Ardennes Classics starts at a leisurely pace in the Walloon city of Charleroi, but it ends with two rings of fire (if you will) around the city of Huy. The riders scale the Mur de Huy the first time to start the smaller circuit that ends with Huy. From there it is all about positioning for the final larger circuit: Côte de Peu d'Eau, Côte de Haut-Bois, Côte de Thon, Côte de Bonneville, Côte de Bohissau, Côte de Ahin and Mur de Huy.
Riders need to be in the front 15 for the Mur de Huy. Then, whoever wants to win needs to wait to the last three-hundred metres to light his dynamite. A well-timed blast will produce a victory, but an early move will mean you are gasping for breath on the fan-lined Mur.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège - April 22
Liège-Bastogne-Liège ends the run of Northern Classics that started with the Tour of Flanders and settles the week-long Ardennes Classics supremacy battle. It packs numerous côtes on the out-and-back run from Belgium's city of Ans, just south of Liège.
On the return journey to Ans, the favourites will start to move forward in the pack. One of the toughest battles will be waged on the 2.1-kilometre La Redoute, coming at kilometre 226 and 35 kilometres from the finish. La Redoute will be an indicator of how the race will continue to unfold over the three following côtes of Sprimont (-29km), Roche aux Faucons (-19.5km) and Saint-Nicolas (-5.5km).
The finish to Ans is not considered one of the official climbs, but it rises steadily over the final two kilometres.
La Doyenne ('The Grand Old Lady') is the fourth of cycling's five Monuments. The fifth Monument, the Tour of Lombardy, comes almost six months later.
2011 Liège-Bastogne-Liège | 2010 Liège-Bastogne-Liège | Previous winners