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Gallery: A look back at snowy races

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Gilberto Simoni cemented his lead in the 2003 Giro d'Italia on a wintry stage.

Gilberto Simoni cemented his lead in the 2003 Giro d'Italia on a wintry stage.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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World champion Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv Giant) wins the Ronde van Drenthe for the third straight year.

World champion Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv Giant) wins the Ronde van Drenthe for the third straight year.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Michele Bartoli leads Maarten Den Bakker during Fleche Wallone 1999. The Italian won the race but paid for his efforts a few days later in Liege

Michele Bartoli leads Maarten Den Bakker during Fleche Wallone 1999. The Italian won the race but paid for his efforts a few days later in Liege
(Image credit: AFP)
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Bjarne Riis (Telekom) leads Berzin during a short but heroic defence of the yellow jersey in 1996

Bjarne Riis (Telekom) leads Berzin during a short but heroic defence of the yellow jersey in 1996
(Image credit: AFP)
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Bjarne Riis won the snow-effected stage to Sestriere in 1996 and claimed the yellow jersey in the process

Bjarne Riis won the snow-effected stage to Sestriere in 1996 and claimed the yellow jersey in the process
(Image credit: AFP)
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Stage 4 of the 2004 Paris-Nice was called off due to snow.

Stage 4 of the 2004 Paris-Nice was called off due to snow.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Gent was blanketed in snow the morning of the 2004 Het Volk

Gent was blanketed in snow the morning of the 2004 Het Volk
(Image credit: Jeff Jones)
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Johan van de Velde endures the snow on the Passo Gavia in the 1988 Giro d'Italia

Johan van de Velde endures the snow on the Passo Gavia in the 1988 Giro d'Italia
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Andy Hampsten hits out on his epic ride on the Gavia in the 1988 Giro d'Italia wearing ski goggles

Andy Hampsten hits out on his epic ride on the Gavia in the 1988 Giro d'Italia wearing ski goggles
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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More riders on the Gavia in the 1988 Giro d'Italia

More riders on the Gavia in the 1988 Giro d'Italia
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jens Voigt (CSC Saxo-Bank) wins the shortened sixth stage. It was originally to cover 201km, but was reduced to 118km due to wintry weather.

Jens Voigt (CSC Saxo-Bank) wins the shortened sixth stage. It was originally to cover 201km, but was reduced to 118km due to wintry weather.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Team Blanco vehicles in the snow at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

Team Blanco vehicles in the snow at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne
(Image credit: Team Blanco)
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Bobbie Traksel (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team) raises his arms in celebration.

Bobbie Traksel (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team) raises his arms in celebration.
(Image credit: AFP)
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On the Gavia in 2008 as the peloton nears the top of the climb

On the Gavia in 2008 as the peloton nears the top of the climb
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Andy Hampsten, in the blue Intergiro classification jersey, on the attack on the Gavia Pass.

Andy Hampsten, in the blue Intergiro classification jersey, on the attack on the Gavia Pass.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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A snowman holds a sign along the race route on Highway 89 after stage one of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California from South Lake Tahoe to North Lake Tahoe was cancelled

A snowman holds a sign along the race route on Highway 89 after stage one of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California from South Lake Tahoe to North Lake Tahoe was cancelled
(Image credit: AFP)
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Cold snap... The peloton rides past a snowman on a road in the Tramontana Mountains during the third stage of Mallorca Challenge

Cold snap... The peloton rides past a snowman on a road in the Tramontana Mountains during the third stage of Mallorca Challenge
(Image credit: AFP)
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Ronde van Drenthe champion Alexander Wetterhall (Team NetApp-Endura)

Ronde van Drenthe champion Alexander Wetterhall (Team NetApp-Endura)
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Andy Hampsten (7-Eleven) conquered the Gavia and the Giro d'Italia on this machine in 1988.

Andy Hampsten (7-Eleven) conquered the Gavia and the Giro d'Italia on this machine in 1988.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Fifteen years after Marco Pantani attacked on the Galibier (pictured) to set up his 1998 Tour de France victory, the Giro d'Italia pays tribute with a summit finish on the Galibier.

Fifteen years after Marco Pantani attacked on the Galibier (pictured) to set up his 1998 Tour de France victory, the Giro d'Italia pays tribute with a summit finish on the Galibier.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Manuel Belletti is helped to the team car

Manuel Belletti is helped to the team car
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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The Passo Pordoi was blanketed in snow during the final stage of the Giro del Trentino.

The Passo Pordoi was blanketed in snow during the final stage of the Giro del Trentino.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) climbs through blustery snow on the Passo Pordoi.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) climbs through blustery snow on the Passo Pordoi.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The race motos head out on the transfer from South Lake Tahoe to Northstar under not too bad of conditions

The race motos head out on the transfer from South Lake Tahoe to Northstar under not too bad of conditions
(Image credit: Jon Devich)
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Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol)

Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol)
(Image credit: Sirotti)

The 2013 edition of Milan-San Remo may have been the most miserable conditions some of the current pro peloton have ever been on the bike, but the snow and cold are not new to cycling. Just ask Andy Hampsten, whose exploits in the 1988 Giro d'Italia on the Gavia pass have become the first cultural reference that springs to mind when combining the nouns "bicycle" and "snow".

Most of the early-season European races have been hit by foul weather at one point or another, but this year has had an unprecedented number of races affected by ice and snow: Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, the Dwars door Drenthe, GP di Lugano and Nokere Koerse were all cancelled before Milan-San Remo had to lop off the Turchino Pass and some 47km from the route due to the storm.

Weather-shortened stages can prove to be some of the most exciting races: for example, the 2005 Paris-Nice took place in a similarly harsh month, and organisers were forced to cut three full stages down to size. The first, from La Chatre to Thiers was reduced from 191km with six climbs to a quick 46.5km jaunt that turned into a 53-minute long leadout for Tom Boonen.

The following day was again cut down, this time from 174km to 118 and won by another sprinter, Vicente Reynes. On the next day, three early climbs met the axe, reducing the stage from 180km to 101, leading stage-winner Fabian Cancellara to declare "this is the fastest race of my life".

In 2004, Gent, Belgium woke up to several inches of new snow, leading Het Volk (now Omloop Het Nieuwsblad) to be called off. The following day's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne went on as scheduled.

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne would have its own weather woes in 2010, when a storm called Xynthia blew through Flanders in the midst of the race, kicking up near hurricane-force wind and rain, leaving only 26 brave souls in the race. Dutch rider Bobbie Traksel scored the biggest triumph of his career, one which he attributed to being slightly over race weight. "Sometimes they say I'm fat, but in these conditions it's pretty helpful. I can deal well with this foul weather," he said.

The list of foul weather races goes on and on, as would be expected in a sport where the great outdoors is the venue. Recall Bernard Hinault's legendary ride in the 1980 Liège - Bastogne - Liège, where he plowed a lonely furrow through the snow to finish 9:24 ahead of Hennie Kuiper - only 21 made the finish. Remember Eric Vanderaerden's historic Ronde van Vlaanderen win in 1985, again only a few dozen riders were brave enough to keep riding. The list goes on.

Are today's riders soft? Ask Jurgen Roelands, whose eyeballs froze in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this year.

It takes special athletes with specific goals and unmitigated toughness to withstand the worst conditions possible, but it is this type of exploit that brings fame, respect and a reputation as the hard men and women of sport to cycling.