The five Monuments of cycling are steeped in history and are the most prestigious of the one-day classics – these are the races every one-day contender wants to win.
So who took the spoils in 2013 and how did they do it?
Milan – San Remo, March 17th 2013
1st Gerald Ciolek
2nd Peter Sagan
3rd Fabian Cancellara
This year’s edition will be remembered primarily for the snow and the suffering; conditions were so extreme that the organisers were even forced to stop the race and arrange a bus transfer, to avoid un-rideable climbs of the Passo del Turchino and La Manie.
Gallows humour was to the fore – David Millar (@millarmind) took to amusingly tweeting close-up photo’s of his team mates in various states of cold related distress as they sought sanctuary in their team bus – many encased in snow and ice and looking less than happy.
The race eventually boiled down to a small group of strong men – including Chavanel, Stannard, Sagan, Cancellara and Ciolek – who battled clear on the descent of the often decisive Poggio to contest the finish. Gerald Ciolek of team MTN Qubeka – a continental level team outside of the top level world tour teams – took the sprint to take the biggest win of his career.
Ronde Van Flaanderen (Tour of Flanders), 31st March 2013
1st Fabian Cancellara
2nd Peter Sagan
3rd Jurgen Roelandts
Seventeen short, sharp climbs (many cobbled) are what defines the Tour of Flanders. It’s not a question of whether the climbs will be decisive in deciding the eventual winner, but which ones will have their say.
Approaching the 200km mark Cancellara attacked first on the Kwaremont – a long drag in the context of this race, over 2km in length and an average gradient of just 4% – with Peter Sagan and Jurgen Roelandts hanging on to his coat tails.
He then burst clear in dynamic fashion on the Paterburg – around 350m in length; short, steep and cobbled – to leave his two challengers trailing. Once clear Cancellara simply rode away from the rest to build a winning advantage of more than a minute, and take an impressive win.
It was a game performance from Peter Sagan, as he described it “I fell 100 kilometers from the finish, someone braked in front of me. I came back and I did my best to win but Cancellara was the strongest.”
Roelandts admitted afterwards that once Cancellara accelerated on the Paterburg, “I could not follow, otherwise I would have exploded…the third place was the best I could get.”
Paris – Roubaix, 7th April 2013
1st Fabian Cancellara
2nd Sep Vanmarcke
3rd Niki Terpstra
As the race reached its conclusion in the velodrome of Roubaix, Cancellara and Vanmarke contested a last-man-standing sprint where the Swiss took his third win.
Less than 30km out Cancellara and Zdenek Stybar chased down the leading group of two – Vanmarcke and Stijn Vandenburgh – leaving a four man battle at the head of the race…until the baying crowd intervened. First Vandenburgh hit a spectator and crashed badly with 16km to go, then Stybar had his own collision.
As the Czech rider himself explains, “…there was some photographer or something in the way and I hit him with my shifter and I nearly crashed. Before I could put my foot back in the pedal I just lost contact with the wheel of Cancellara.”
For Stybar his momentum – and the moment – was lost. That left two to contest the velodrome sprint where Cancellara emptied the tank to take the win. Visibly exhausted as he mounted the podium to take the plaudits he said “I had to fight. I don’t know how I did it in the end…now I want one thing — holiday, holiday, and put the bike on the side.”
Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 21st April 2013
1st Dan Martin
2nd Joaquim Rodriguez
3rd Alejandro Valverde
Around 7km from the finish Dan Martin’s team mate Ryder Hesjedal was busy making his own bid for glory by riding away from the field to gain a lead of over 20 seconds, but the chasing group of Carlos Betancur, Alejandro Valverde, Michele Scarponi and Martin himself chipped away at his lead and reeled him in. This left Hesjedal to assume the role of delivering his Irish team-mate into position.
The Irishman suggested this two pronged attack was part of the plan, saying “(the team) agreed this morning that we would both be protected riders and that Ryder would go for a longer move”
He was clearly in determined mood going into the race, saying “I woke up this morning and called my father and said this is one of eight more chances I’ve got to win this race”, and approaching the final kilometre when Joaquim Rodriguez launched his trademark attack, it was Martin who had the legs to follow and outkick the Spaniard to the finish line.
With his team protecting him all day and delivering him into a strong position Martin said it was “one of the easiest races I’ve ever won”. After around 250 kilometres of tough racing Belgian style, I think it’s fair to say that Dan Martin’s definition of ‘easy’ might be different to mine and yours.
Il Lombardia (Tour of Lombardy), 6th October 2013
1st Joaquim Rodriguez
2nd Alejandro Valverde
3rd Rafal Majka
After a season where extreme weather condition had their say in races all through the year, it was fitting that the last big race of the season took place in rain, through low cloud and on greasy roads. The race gave ‘Purito’ Rodriguez a chance of revenge after his last gap defeat on the line in the world championships in Tusacany, a week earlier. On that occasion it was Rui Costa who took the win, with many observers suggesting that Alejandro Valverde hadn’t done all he could to shut down his trade team (but not national) team mate Rui Costa in the closing stages.
As Purito attacked on the final climb of the day – the Villa Vergano – it is tempting to imagine he was motivated by an image in his mind of the previous week’s defeat, particularly as this time Valverde was doing the chasing. Once the punchy Spaniard made his decisive attack a few kilometres from the finish he seemed in no mood to see lightening strike twice, saying afterwards “If I wanted to win, I knew I had to attack then”.
Once the force of the attack became clear the win was never in doubt – to everyone but him, perhaps, as he explained “my radio fell out and it was only in the last kilometre that I could hear from my directeur sportif that it was done.”
Frenchman Thomas Voeckler had earlier made one of his familiar freestyle attacks – a serious bid for glory – but his goose was cooked in the run up to the final climb and the peloton reeled him in. From that point on Purito made sure it was his day.