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Spring Classics 2022

Latest News from the Race

Composite of podiums from Gent-Wevelgem, Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders and Liege Bastogne Liege

The Spring Classics 2022 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Spring Classics are the heart and soul of the early months of the pro cycling season. While the Grand Tours represent the long-form version of cycling, unfolding over more than three weeks, the major one-day races are where the more immediate, high-impact drama unfolds.

There are major one-day races dotted throughout the calendar but the spring represents the main period where the action is condensed, with all-out no-tomorrow racing unfolding across Belgium, Italy, France, and the Netherlands.

The term 'Spring Classics' is open to interpretation. In fact, both words are. Different people draw different lines in the sand as to where the spring officially begins and as to which races merit the title of 'Classic'. 

The importance of certain events and the structure of the calendar has fluctuated in recent years, but we're taking an all-encompassing view and running from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in last February through to Liège-Bastogne-Liège in late April. 

We've included some of what are sometimes described as semi-classics, but also four of the five so-called Monuments of cycling: Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. These are cycling's biggest and most historic one-day races and the only one that doesn't take place in the spring is the late-season Il Lombardia. 

The Classics season begins with the so-called 'Opening Weekend' in Belgium, comprising Omloop Het Nieuwsblad - men's and women's races - on the Saturday and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on the Sunday. Strade Bianche, a modern Classic, on Italian gravel, then follows in Italy, before a stage racing break in the form of the concurrent Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. 

On the other side is the main spring period, where there's no let-up. The men's Milan-San Remo and the women's Trofeo Alfredo Binda continue the Italian flavour before things move over to Belgium and onto the cobbles. E3 Classic signals the start of Flemish Holy Week, moving through Gent-Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen and then, finally, the mighty Tour of Flanders - or Ronde Van Vlaanderen. 

The cobbles usually continue via Scheldeprijs and then over to border to Paris-Roubaix, the famous French cobblestone race also known as 'The Hell of the North'. Due to regional elections, it has been moved back a week this year, creating a messy link between the cobbles and the 'Ardennes' Classics. 

Not to be confused with the Flemish Ardennes, where Tour of Flanders and the rest play out, these races take place in the Wallonia region of French-speaking southern Belgium and are much more hilly affairs. Amstel Gold Race is technically its own entity over the border in the Netherlands but is often packaged in with La Flèche Wallonne and Liège - the oldest of the Classics - to form the Ardennes treble. 

Spring Classics 2022 schedule

Spring Classics dates for 2022
DateEventClass
February 26Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite Women 1.Pro
February 26Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite1.UWT
February 27 Omloop van het Hageland 1.1
February 27Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne1.Pro
March 1Le Samyn des Dames1.1
March 1Le Samyn1.1
March 5Strade Bianche Women 1.WWT
March 5Strade Bianche 1.UWT
March 12Miron Ronde van Drenthe 1.WWT
March 16Danilith Nokere Koerse Women 1.Pro
March 16Danilith Nokere Koerse 1.Pro
March 16Milano - Torino 1.Pro
March 17Grand Prix de Denain - Porte du Hainaut 1.Pro
March 19Milano-Sanremo 1.UWT
March 20Trofeo Alfredo Binda - Comune di Cittiglio 1.WWT
March 23Oxyclean Classic Brugge-De Panne 1.WWT
March 24Oxyclean Classic Brugge-De Panne 1.UWT
March 25E3 Saxo Bank Classic 1.UWT
March 27Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields1.UWT
March 27Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields 1.WWT
March 30Dwars door Vlaanderen Women 1.Pro
March 30Dwars door Vlaanderen 1.UWT
April 3Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres 1.WWT
April 3Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres1.UWT
April 6Scheldeprijs vrouwen elite 1.1
April 6Scheldeprijs 1.Pro
April 10Amstel Gold Race 1.UWT
April 10Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition 1.WWT
April 13De Brabantse Pijl - La Flèche Brabançonne 1.Pro
April 13De Brabantse Pijl - La Flèche Brabançonne 1.Pro
April 16Paris-Roubaix Femmes 1.WWT
April 17Paris-Roubaix 1.UWT
April 20La Flèche Wallonne Féminine 1..WWT
April 20La Flèche Wallonne1.UWT
April 24Liège-Bastogne-Liège 1.UWT
April 24Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes 1.WWT

The storylines

Will we see Mathieu van der Poel?

The Dutchman is one of cycling's superstars but his spring his shrouded in doubt as he continues his recovery from a back injury. Even though he has been racking up the kilometres in recent weeks, he is still not in full training and no timeframe for a comeback has been indicated by his team. 

The Opening Weekend and Strade Bianche come too early but there's hope for the main spring period, especially Paris-Roubaix, which is a week later than usual this year. Van der Poel has the strength to rip races apart single-handedly, and usually the inclination to do so as well. Rivals will surely breathe a sigh of relief if he's not around, but for racing fans it'll be a sigh of disappointment. 

Can Wout van Aert dominate?

The funny thing about Wout van Aert is that there has been a sense in the past couple of spring campaigns that he hasn't quite fulfilled his potential. And yet he has won Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche, Gent-Wevelgem, and Amstel Gold Race. 

As a Belgian, though, he's judged most strictly against the cobbled Classics and especially the Tour of Flanders. His win at Gent-Wevelgem last year actually silenced some doubters but he fell flat at Flanders a week later. The expectation on Van Aert's shoulders can be read as a form of flattery; he is so good he could, in theory, sweep up everything in front of him.

Is this the year that dominance comes to pass? He made the big call to cut short his cyclo-cross campaign and skip Strade Bianche in a bid to find a peak later in the spring. It's clear: he's all-in for Flanders and Roubaix. 

Will Dutch women reign supreme in the Spring Classics?

The Dutch, the most dominant nation in women's cycling, reigned supreme over the Spring Classics last year as Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx) won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and an astonishing seventh consecutive Flèche Wallonne, Chantal van den Broek Blaak (SD Worx) won Strade Bianche, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) won Tour of Flanders, Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) won Gent-Wevelgem and Amstel Gold Race, Demi Vollering (SD Worx) won Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) won Ronde van Drenthe (held in October). 

There were only three races on the top-tier calendar won by non-Dutch riders as Italy's Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) won Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Grace Brown (now FDJ) won Brugge-De Panne and Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) ended the season with a historic win at the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes. 

It's not unusual for Dutch to collectively do well on the WorldTour, however, last year was a bit unique given that all of the nation's top riders were vying for one of the four spots available on the Tokyo Olympic Games team, and the Spring Classics offered a final opportunity to prove their strengths and value ahead selection to the Games.

This year sees a range of strength spread a bit more evenly across 14 Women's WorldTeams, which will, hopefully, showcase a wider range of talent on the podiums this spring. We can still expect to see the Dutch riders, and SD Worx, do well but perhaps this year they might face a bigger challenge as more teams become stronger. And of course, with the retirement of Anna van der Breggen, we all wait in anticipation to see who will become the next queen of the Mur de Huy.

Can QuickStep-AlphaVinyl keep it up?

While Van der Poel and Van Aert are considered the top individual riders, the strongest collective force has traditionally been Patrick Lefevere's QuickStep outfit. Former home of Tom Boonen, they have ensured continued spring success in the aftermath of Tommeke thanks to a rotating system in which riders like Julian Alaphilippe, Kasper Asgreen, Zdenek Stybar, Bob Jungels, Yves Lampaert and more have all been able to win major races. 

They play the numbers game like no other, firing riders up the road and ensuring they're never on the back foot when things become tactical. It should be the same again this year, although Asgreen has stepped up to such an extent he now looks a clear leader. Stybar is now 36 but there has always been a 'next man up' and that could well be Florian Sénéchal this spring.

Will Tom Pidcock make another step up?

FAYETTEVILLE ARKANSAS JANUARY 30 Thomas Pidcock of The United Kingdom celebrates his victory by doing the superman pose during the 73rd UCI CycloCross World Championships Fayetteville 2022 Mens Elite Fayetteville2022 on January 30 2022 in Fayetteville Arkansas Photo by Chris GraythenGetty Images

Tom Pidcock celebrates his win at cyclo-cross Worlds (Image credit: Chris GraythenGetty Images)

The British talent had an extraordinary debut spring campaign last year, winning Brabantse Pijl, finishing on the podium at Amstel and Kuurne, and generally putting on a show wherever he went. One year older and stronger, he could well be one of the big players this spring.

COVID

It's all the riders are talking about and shows no signs of stopping. Riders have been testing positive left right and centre as the Omicron variant continues to sweep through Europe. Quite apart from the more immediate self-isolation requirements, infection could mean illness that could derail a whole spring campaign. It's very much 'close your eyes and hope for the best' in the peloton at the moment but staying COVID-free is another box that needs to be ticked en route to victory this year.

The races

Already raced

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: February 26 (men and women)
  • Location: Belgium

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad signals the start of the Classics season. Taking place on the last Saturday in February, it forms, along with Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, the so-called 'Opening Weekend' in Belgium.

The men's race was first held in 1945, with the women's race added on the same day from 2006. Both events takes place in the heart of the Flemish Ardennes, on many of the same cobbles and bergs as the Tour of Flanders five weeks down the line. Since 2018, the courses have picked up the old Flanders parcours to take the riders over the Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg before the run-in to the finish in Ninove. 

Formerly known as Omloop Het Volk, the merging of newspaper companies now means the race is named after the Flemish daily, Het Nieuwsblad.

Outcome

QuickStep's Davide Ballerini won the 2021 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad from a rather unusual bunch sprint after early aggression from Julian Alaphilippe and Tom Pidcock. A headwind ultimately stifled the race and brought about a rare sprint where Ballerini topped Jake Stewart and Sep Vanmarcke. The women's race was more open and saw Anna van der Breggen attack on the Bosberg and, despite that headwind, carry it to the line. 

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

  • Men's or women's race: Men's only
  • Date: February 27
  • Location: Belgium

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne forms the second part of the Opening Weekend after Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, setting the tone for the bigger prizes to be won later in the spring. 

While the Omloop shares a similar race identity to the Tour of Flanders, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne is more geared towards the sprinters, with Mark Cavendish a two-time winner. That has been changing in recent years as the organisers have sought to intensify the route and racing has become more open.

As indicated by the name, the race starts and finishes in Kuurne, but, although it heads south east through the Flemish Ardennes, it doesn't come anywhere near Brussels.

The winner of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne receives a toy donkey, stemming from the not-so-affectionate nickname for locals of this sleepy town just outside of Kortrijk. 

Outcome

Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) won the 2021 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad from a sprint after Mathieu van der Poel lit up the race with an audacious 85km attack that nearly went all the way.

Le Samyn

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: February 29
  • Location: Belgium

Taking place on the Tuesday after the Opening Weekend, Le Samyn is a rough ride over flatter and rougher cobblestones held in Dour, near Belgium's border with France. The men's and women's events are smaller than most other races in the spring, and often come down to small group sprints.

Outcome:

Tim Merlier won the 2021 Le Samyn men's race in a sizeable bunch sprint after Mathieu van der Poel's handlebars snapped and put him out of contention. Lotte Kopecky won the 2021 Le Samyn women's race from a similarly sized group.

Strade Bianche

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: March 5
  • Location: Italy

Having only been created in 2007, Strade Bianche pales in comparison to the history of other one-day events in the spring but has quickly established itself as one of the biggest and most iconic races on the entire calendar. 

The race translates from Italian to 'white roads', taking its name from the gravel tracks that twist, rise, and fall through the rolling Tuscan countryside. In dry conditions, the loose gravel kicks up clouds of dust, and in the wet the surface becomes claggy and muddy, making for a surefire spectacle either way. 

The men's race was created as a spin-off from the Eroica events in 2007, while a women's edition was added in 2015. Both races tackle the gravel before finishing in Siena's striking Piazza del Campo.

Outcome:

Chantal van den Broeck-Blaak won the 2021 Strade Bianche women's race after SD Worx dominated, playing the numbers game and putting three riders in the top six. Of them, it was Van den Broeck-Blaak who slipped away into Siena to take the spoils. 

Mathieu van der Poel won the 2021 Strade Bianche WorldTour race after launching a monstrous acceleration up the steep Via Santa Caterina to drop Julian Alaphilippe and Egan Bernal and drop into the Piazza del Campo as the winner.

Still to come

Ronde van Drenthe

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: March 13
  • Location: Netherlands

Ronde van Drenthe holds men's and women's races but the men's isn't considered a big race, while the women's is one of the biggest and enjoys a spot on the WorldTour series. 

Taking place in the Netherlands, it includes cobbled sections but the most decisive aspect of the route is the VAM Berg, a climb built over a former waste dump.

Dutch rider Adrie Visser was the first winner of the event back in 2007 her compatriots have won the race for nine of the previous 14 editions to include Chantal Beltman, Loes Gunnewijk, Marianne Vos three times, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Amy Pieters and Wiebes. 

Other champions include Emma Johansson, Elizabeth Deignan, Jolien D'hoore, Amalie Dideriksen and Marta Bastianelli.

Lorena Wiebes (DSM) and Rune Herregodts (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) were the winners of the 2021 Ronde van Drenthe. In the women's race, seven riders emerged over the final climb of the VAMberg and four of them were from Team DSM, with Wiebes finishing it off, while Herregodts won the men's race in a late solo breakaway.

Nokere Koerse

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: March 16
  • Location: Belgium

Another race that would fall under the moniker 'semi-classic' for many, this Belgian affair based on the Nokereberg climb hasn't traditionally been one for the big names. The men's and women's editions take place on the same day and can either burst apart or come down to an uphill cobbled sprint. 

Ludovic Robeet and Amy Pieters won the 2021 Nokere Koerse. Robeet made it into the breakaway after a frantic first hour and it paid off as it made it all the way. He then dropped his companions late on to win alone. In the women's race, Pieters got the better of Grace Brown on the Nokereberg.

Milano-Torino

  • Men's or women's race: Men's only
  • Date: March 16
  • Location: Italy

This is a new addition to the spring calendar in 2022. It used to take place during the main swing of late-season Italian Classics in the autumn, building up to Il Lombardia, but it now moves all the way to March. It also changes from a climber's race to a flat race. That'll be because it's now in the week leading up to Milan-San Remo, so the organisers are keen to attract some of the riders who'll be contending for honours at the weekend.

Primoz Roglic won the 2021 Milano-Torini in a hilly October edition. Roglic attacked up the Superga climb, where he got the better of Adam Yates on the final haul up to the Basilica.

Grand Prix de Denain

  • Men's or women's race: Men's only
  • Date: March 17
  • Location: France

Another small race that's a semi-classic at most, the GP de Denain nevertheless offers an early glimmer of Paris-Roubaix. Once a sprinter's race, the organisers have introduced more and more of the flat cobblestone sectors found in northern France in a bid to develop the race. 

Jasper Philipsen won the 2021 GP de Denain from a 30-rider group sprint.

Milan-San Remo

  • Men's or women's race: Men's only
  • Date: March 19
  • Location: Italy

The first Monument of the season, Milan-San Remo is a venerable race that dates back to 1907. Also known as La Classicissima (the big classic) and La Primavera (the spring), it is the most important day in Italian cycling. 

The race is often described as the easiest to finish but the hardest to win. With a largely flat parcours, most riders can survive even the gruelling near-300km distance that makes it the longest race on the calendar. However, the finale is complicated by the famous Poggio climb, where attacks fly ahead of the drop down the other side and the final stretch along the Via Roma. 

Broadly speaking, there are two outcomes - a successful attack survives and one or more riders fight it out, or it comes back together for a bunch sprint. The day as a whole build towards a crescendo, with the early passage from Milan, over the Turchino Pass, and down to the Ligurian coast symbolising the passage from winter to spring. The race then intensifies with the tre cime climbs, then the Cipressa and finally the Poggio. It's a slow six hours, but a pulsating final 20 minutes.

There is no women's version of Milan-San Remo.

Jasper Stuyven won the 2021 Milan-San Remo with a canny late attack that he made stick. A reduced group of favourites came over the top of the Poggio together and the Belgian took flight at just the right moment to claim his first Monument. 

Trofeo Alfredo Binda

  • Men's or women's race: Women's only
  • Date: March 20
  • Location: Italy

The long-running women’s race is named after the first road World Champion Alfredo Binda. First held as a regional competition in 1974, it is the third round of the Women’s WorldTour. 

The race takes place in northern Italy, with loops around Cittiglio. It is a hilly affair that suits the strongest riders and is settled on an uphill drag to the line in Cittiglio.

Elisa Longo Borghini won the 2021 Trofeo Alfredo Binda. The Italian said she took inspiration from teammate Stuyven's Milan-San Remo exploits as she launched a 25km solo attack, combining tactics and strength to win alone, nearly two minutes ahead of the rest.

Classic Brugge-De Panne

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: Men on March 23, Women on March 24
  • Location: Belgium

A race that has suffered an identity crisis in recent years. It was formerly known as the Three Days of De Panne and took place midweek between Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders. However, the Flanders Classics organisation wanted that pre-Flanders spot for their Dwars door Vlaanderen, and so De Panne was shunted back a week. It carried on calling itself 'Three Days' despite dropping to a one-day format, but has now been rebranded Classic Brugge De Panne. 

A women's one-day race has been held alongside the men's since 2018 and is the fourth round of the Women's WorldTour. Both start in Bruges before heading into the windswept swamp plains of De Moeren, before heading for the finish in De Panne. If the race hasn't been broken apart in the wind, it's a likely bunch sprint.

Sam Bennett and Grace Brown won the 2021 Classic Bruge-De Panne. Bennett took his victory in a bunch sprint after a strong lead-out from his QuickStep teammates. The women's race split in the wind and Grace Brown attacked out of a 12-rider group 10km from the finish and raised her arms in victory.

E3 SaxoBank Classic

  • Men's or women's race: Men's only
  • Date: March 25
  • Location: Belgium

E3 is one of the major cobblestone classics that sits beneath the Monuments and ushers in the 'Holy Week' of Flemish cycling.

It is often described as a mini Tour of Flanders as it borrows much of the same parcours as De Ronde, heading into the Flemish Ardennes for a helping of cobbles and climbs that you can't match anywhere else. 

The race takes its name from an old motorway that is now called the E17, and it used to be known as E3-Harelbeke, which is the town where it starts and finishes. Just over a week out from Flanders, and with such a similar parcours, all the big names are here and it's a crucial indicator ahead of the Holy Sunday.

The evidence: Four of the past nine winners have gone on to win the Tour of Flanders, and only one Flanders champion in that time has not been in the top four at E3.

Kasper Asgreen won the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, delivering a remarkable performance and a portent of his Flanders success. He embarked on a massive long-range solo but was then caught by an elite group of chasers. Somehow, he had the strength to attack again in the final kilometres and solo to the win, playing on the number of teammates in the group as QuickStep took a 1-2 and put three in the top five.

Gent-Wevelgem

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: March 27
  • Location: Belgium

Gent-Wevelgem is another historic Flandrien Classic but has its own flavour. Instead of repeating the runs through the main Flemish Ardennes region, it heads north, up through windswept De Moeren and over to the North Sea coast. It then heads down along the French border to take in some climbs in the very west of Flanders, the iconic and decisive one being the Kemmelberg. 

The second ascent of the nasty cobbled climb is where sprinters can be dropped and small groups can be formed, but there are still 30km to the finish, meaning things can come back together for a sprint of various sizes. 

The race finishes in Wevelgem but does not start in Gent. It used to start on the outskirts, in Deinze, but now starts way west in Ypres, as the race aligns itself with the Great War remembrance. In 2018, the race introduced 'plugstreets' or gravel tracks that wind through old battlefields, but these have been too few and too far out to affect the complexion of the race, which is still defined by the Kemmelberg. 

The men's race was first held in 1934 while the women's race was created in 2012 and now acts as the fifth event on the WorldTour calendar.

Wout van Aert and Marianne Vos won Gent-Wevelgem in 2021. Van Aert prevailed from a group of seven that formed over the Kemmelberg, while Vos added the race to her glittering palmarès, sprinting to victory from a much larger group, making it a double day for Jumbo-Visma.

Dwars door Vlaanderen

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: March 30
  • Location: Belgium

Dwars door Vlaanderen used to be held in the De Panne slot but now occupies the pre-Flanders Wednesday. Still, it doesn't always attract a full host of big names, with some cautious about over-exerting themselves four days before the biggest day of all. 

Starting in Roeselare, it heads into the Flemish Ardennes before the finish in Waregem. The route is less heavy than E3 and was once considered sprinter-friendly but has become a much more open race in recent years. 

The men's race was first held in 1945 while the women's race was established in 2012.

Annemiek van Vleuten and Dylan van Baarle won Dwars door Vlaanderen in 2021. Van Vleuten and Kasia Niewiadoma stole away 36km from the finish and worked together all the way to the final straight, where Van Vleuten came out on top in a long-range sprint. In the men's race, an action-packed start made way to an impressive 50km solo victory from Dylan van Baarle.

Tour of Flanders

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: April 3
  • Location: Belgium

The Holy Sunday... this is quasi-religious stuff for Belgians. The Tour of Flanders - or Ronde Van Vlaanderen - is one of the most special days on the cycling calendar. 

The race was created by the Sportwereld newspaper and soon established itself as a symbol for the Flemish people in the north of Belgium. One of cycling's five Monuments, it is a snaking run through the hellingen (climbs) and kasseien (cobbles) of the Flemish Ardennes. 

The men's race was created in 1913 and the women's race was introduced in 2004. The courses have changed over the years but the current iteration places the Oude Kwaremont cobbled climb front and centre, passing three times. That's largely due to the site being a prime location to put up VIP tents and sell hospitality tickets at eye-watering prices. However, the Kwaremont has become an iconic climb and, paired with the super-steep Paterberg, it forms the finale ahead of the 13km run-in.

The race is usually open and tactical but is so severe it's often a survival of the fittest. The start in Antwerp - formerly Bruges - produces the most spine-tingling pre-race atmospheres in cycling, while the parties at the finish in Oudenaarde continue long into the night.

Kasper Asgreen and Annemiek van Vleuten won the Tour of Flanders in 2021, both in impressive style.

The women’s race was yet another exhibition from Van Vleuten, who attacked on the Paterberg and took it all the way to the finish to win the race for a second time, a decade on from her first.

Asgreen attacked with Mathieu van der Poel and went clear on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, staying together over the Paterberg and collaborating to the finish in Oudenaarde. In a shock outcome giving their relative sprinting prowess, Asgreen overcame the defending champion Van der Poel, who had to bow his head and watch his rival celebrate.

Scheldeprijs

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: April 6
  • Location: Belgium

Coming after Flanders, Scheldeprijs is a one-day Classic with cobbles but isn't considered a true cobbled Classic. It was often referred to as a 'world championship for sprinters' and indeed bunch gallops have been a consistent outcome. 

The race takes its name from the Schelde river up near Antwerp in the east of Flanders, and there can be a threat of wind before the races heads to Schoten for laps of a finishing circuit.

The men's race was created in 1907 while a women's event was introduced for the very first time last year. 

Jasper Philipsen and Lorena Wiebes won the Scheldeprijs in 2021. For Philipsen, it was his first major one-day win. He upset the favourite Sam Bennett, who ended up on the podium alongside his teammate Mark Cavendish as QuickStep fluffed their lines. Wiebes won the women’s race courtesy of a long and powerful sprint.

Amstel Gold Race

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: April 10
  • Location: Netherlands

Amstel Gold Race is considered one of the three main Ardennes Classics, even if it takes place in Limburg in the lower corner of the Netherlands. Named after a beer, it's a snaking and undulating ride through the hills of Limburg, with climbs like the Cauberg forming a puncheur's delight.

The men's and women's races take place on the same day and start and finish near Valkenburg. Whereas the routes used to come down to a charge up and over the Cauberg, the organisers have opened things up and made the Bemelerberg the final act with just over 7km to go.

Wout Van Aert beat Tom Pidcock to win Amstel Gold Race 2021 in one of the closest and most contested photo finishes in recent history. The pair got away with Max Schachmann 15km go and sprinted it out just ahead of the chasing group, with Pidcock gaining on Van Aert and appearing to pip him at the line. Various angles of the photo finish suggested a different outcome but Van Aert was declared the winner. 

In the women’s race, former winner Kasia Niewiadoma launched an attack on the final climb of the Cauberg but couldn’t make it stick, leaving Marianne Vos to sweep up from a small group.

Brabantse Pijl

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: April 13
  • Location: Belgium

Usually acting as a bridge between the cobbled and Ardennes Classics, Brabantse Pijl has names in both Flemish and French (La Flèche Brabançonne) and takes place near the border with the two regions. The 2021 World Championships road races took place in the same area. 

The races feature cobbled climbs that wouldn't look out of place in the Flemish Ardennes, but also longer climbs and paved roads like the S-bend in Overijse. The result is a balanced affair between the punchy sprinters, puncheurs, and aggressive Classics riders. 

With a women's race since 2016 and a roll call of men's winners including Tom Pidcock, Julian Alaphilippe, and Mathieu van der Poel, it has grown in stature.

Tom Pidcock and Ruth Winder won De Brabantse Pijl in 2021. It was Van Aert and Pidcock again in the men's race, although, given the calendar shift, this one took place before last year’s Amstel. It was another trio as the cyclo-cross rivals forged clear and with Matteo Trentin and slugged it in a sprint. It was a tense affair as they waited and the group behind drew near, but Pidcock overhauled Van Aert to claim his first major victory. 

In the women’s race, there was embarrassment for Demi Vollering, who celebrated as if she’d won, only to realise that Ruth Winder, who’d emerged with her after the S-bend climb, had pipped her to the line by the tightest of margins. 

Paris-Roubaix

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: Women's on April 16, Men's on April 17
  • Location: France

Also known as The Hell of the North, Paris-Roubaix is one of the most brutal and gripping races in cycling. It's the only Spring Classic in France, but it's utterly iconic, heading over the old cobblestone tracks that made their way through war-torn northern France.

Whereas the cobbles of Flanders are often on short little climbs, Paris-Roubaix is a flatland race, and the cobblestones themselves are bigger and rougher, making for a bone-shaking experience as the peloton clatters onto them at 50km/h. 

The race starts out in Compiègne - a long way from Paris - and zig zags over nearly 30 sectors of the so-called pavé before reaching the finish in Roubaix, which itself is iconic. The finish is on the outdoor velodrome, with riders entering it from the road and then performing one and a half laps of the track. It's either a victory procession for a solo winner or a nail-biting track sprint between a small group. 

The men's Paris-Roubaix was first held back in 1896, while a women's race - Paris-Roubaix Femmes - was only introduced last year but was hailed as a huge success as Lizzie Deignan claimed a historic solo victory in the mud.

Lizzie Deignan and Sonny Colbrelli won Paris-Roubaix in 2021, hoisting the cobblestone trophy in the rescheduled October edition.

The rain brought the first wet and muddy conditions for nearly two decades. The men's race was a chaotic, almost formless affair, in which a trio of Sonny Colbrelli, Florian Vermeersch, and Mathieu van de Poel bypassed a fallen Gianni Moscon and barrelled along to the velodrome, where Colbrelli won the sprint for the biggest win of his career.

2021 also saw the first ever women's race, the Paris-Roubaix Femmes. Held in equally sloppy conditions, Lizzie Deignan attacked from some 80km out and soloed to the velodrome for what will go down as a historic moment for cycling. 

La Flèche Wallonne

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: April 20
  • Location: Belgium

This midweek special is all about the Mur de Huy. There are other climbs, but they're almost not worth mentioning, as the race always comes down to a mass charge up the super-steep final climb in Huy. 

VO2 max and timing are key, and it's an honest race that comes down to strength rather than tactics. There are some accusations of boredom, but the lung-busting dash up the double-digit gradients is spectacular in its own way. 

The men's race was first held in 1936 and the women's in 1998. Anna van der Breggen won it seven years in a row but has now retired so there'll be a new winner. On the men's side, repeat winners are a trend, with Julian Alaphilippe winning three of the past four editions and Alejandro Valverde winning the previous four.

Anna van der Breggen claimed a staggering seventh successive victory, showing once again that she is simply unbeatable on the Mur de Huy. In the men's race, Julian Alaphilippe saw off a strong charge from Primoz Roglic to collect his third victory. 

Liège-Bastogne-Liège

  • Men's or women's race: Both
  • Date: April 24
  • Location: Belgium

The oldest of the Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège is an institution in Belgian cycling and beyond. It's known as La Doyenne (the old lady) and was first held in 1892, with 106 men's editions under its belt. The women's race was set up by Tour de France organisers ASO in 2017. 

The race packs severe climbing into a route that goes well beyond the 250km mark. The result is a war of attrition that sees the cream rise to the top. 

The races start and finishes in Liège, heading south to Bastogne before returning back. The finish is in the centre of Liège, although the routes were modified a few years ago after the old finish in Ans was considered too predictable. We've had some solo winners since but the past couple on both sides have come down to sprints from small star-studded groups. 

Tadej Pogačar and Demi Vollering won the 2021 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

In the women's race, Demi Vollering claimed her first major Classics title, sprinting to victory from an elite group containing Annemiek van Vleuten, Elisa Longo Borghini, Kasia Niewiadoma and, crucially, her SD Worx teammate Anna van der Breggen - the world champion setting up her understudy in what was seen as a passing of the torch.

It was a similar story in the men's race as Tadej Pogačar reached the finish in the company of Julian Alaphilippe, David Gaudu, Alejandro Valverde and Michael Woods. The Slovenian saw them off to land his first Monument title and he'd add another later at Il Lombardia after claiming his second Tour de France title.

Stages

  • Spring Classics 2022
    26 February 2022 | Various

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