The major professional road bikes riders ride the major cycle races, and they are grouped together into the UCI Pro Tour and all the best races are included
The Best Riders Ride The Best Races.
The major cycle races in the world of bike racing are now all part of the UCI Pro Tour Races, this is quite a big list, which you can find below. All of the twenty Pro Tour teams have to ride them along with other teams invited by the organizers, who are usually local teams or the best of the lower ranked Continental Tour teams. All the races have a complicated points system that would take too long to explain here.
The Pro Tour Races are split into sections, which are: –
• The Spring Classics,
• The Major Tours,
• The Autumn Classics,
• The Shorter Tours,
• The World Championships,
And then there are the other important but not so famous races.
The Major Tours.
The BIG three, the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, they are all three weeks long and are the hardest races on the calendar and are the major cycle races of the year. All three go over the biggest mountains in their respective countries and venture in to neighbouring ones, sometimes for a few days. Until recently all bike racers rode the “Big Three”, now they specialise and pick and chose their objectives. The organisers are not too happy about the UCI Pro Tour as they feel they are losing some of their power over their own races and were only included at the last minute this year and are still arguing over next year.
The Spring Classics.
The Spring Classics are the monuments of the one day races, all are held in the more northern European countries, apart from the first one, Milan-San Remo, but which is in the north of Italy in March and can get bad weather, like the others. The Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix are all ridden over the worst road conditions possible, with short sharp hills and cobbles, when it rains these roads turn into mud baths and are as easy to ride on as an ice rink. The others are more hilly and more suited to Tour riders and the better climbers, all these races are a must to see as anything can happen, but it is always a hard man who wins a major cycle race in the spring.
The Autumn Classics.
The Autumn Classics start just after the Tour de France, before and after the Vuelta a España and around the World championships. All these races have different characters and are held in different countries around Europe. The best known are the Classic San Sebastian in Spain, which is hard and hilly, the Paris-Tours, which is mostly flat and to round off the season, the Giro di Lombardia, which is the last big race of the Pro Tour and is held, like Milan-San Remo, in the north of Italy.
The Shorter Stage Races.
These shorter stage races are dotted around the season and around Europe, some are used as training races for the stars to tune there form for the big stage races, but all are very important and carry much prestige for all. Paris-Nice is the first and is always a good pointer to a riders form for the Spring Classics or the Giro d’Italia. Then the more hilly races like Pays Vasco, Tour de Romadie, Tour de Swiss and the Dauphine Libere are a good build up for the Tour de France. They are all hard fought for wins in themselves and never easy.
The World Championships.
The World Championships are now held very late in the season (September) and the big stars of the Tour de France don’t usually ride, but for the single day specialists its still the race to win, and never won easily. The rainbow jersey is the jersey all riders dream of wearing for a year and will fight hard for it. The “Worlds” are the only races that riders compete for their country and not their sponsor, so there can be some strange allegiances.
There are other races on the Pro Tour calendar that are very important but not so well known, everyone wants to win these also, and in the end a win is a win. The Pro Tour teams can also ride in the lower Continental Tour races, some of these are well known and very prestigious, they carry less UCI points but are hard fought over, there is never an easy win in Professional cycle sport, especially in the major cycle races.