Are there monuments in women’s cycling, and what are they?
Milan-San Remo kickstarts the men's monument season, but what constitutes a monument for the women?
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Monument season is about to start for the men’s peloton but when does it begin for the women? Or is there even one?
The monuments are defined by the UCI’s regulations as Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Il Lombardia. There have been discussions about whether or not Strade Bianche should be classified as a monument, but those five are the official ones.
There are no such definitions for the women’s calendar just yet, with the moniker of grand tour also up for grabs. While the points awarded for the men’s WorldTour and ProSeries races are scaled on their prestige and whether they’re a single-day event or a stage race.
On the women’s calendar, there’s no definition between winning the Giro d’Italia Donne and the Tour of Flanders, or the UAE Tour and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
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What constitutes a grand tour on the women’s calendar is a discussion for a different day, maybe later this season, today we take a look into whether or not the women’s calendar has monuments and what they are.
Also, should we be limited to five or are there more gems hidden in the bumper 2023 calendar?
Thanks to chronic underfunding and lack of support for women’s cycling over the years, there are no existing events that date back to the turn of the 20th century. Despite this, there are still some races that are historic monuments of the women’s calendar and have a prestige that is hard to match.
When considering women’s cycling’s oldest and most special races, this weekend’s Trofeo Alfredo Binda would have to be on that list. It is far and away the oldest event on the women’s calendar with its first edition held way back in 1974.
If the Trofeo Alfredo Binda was a person, it would be the only Gen X character on the WorldTour calendar. While it is shorter than some of the other one-day races on the calendar, it definitely deserves a place on the monuments list.
After that, it gets a little bit trickier to pick which ones make the cut and which fall by the wayside. It would be easy to chuck in the same races that make up the men’s monuments by virtue of the borrowed prestige and history from those events, but that wouldn’t do justice to some of the other races that have carved their own space on the women’s calendar.
With that in mind, Paris-Roubaix isn’t getting a look-in on this list, not for now at least. With only two editions ridden thus far, it has a few more years to go before it can claim itself to be a monument.
Let’s also get rid of Liège-Bastogne-Liège from the running. It’s only six years old and the early editions didn’t do justice to the women’s peloton, so it’s not ready to go on the list. Harsh you may think, but there you go.
There’s no women’s Lombardia, so that is an easy one to lose from this contest.
In fact, of the men’s monuments that have since delivered women’s race, the Tour of Flanders seems like the only one that could also be a women’s monument. It has existed since 2004, making it the fourth oldest one-day race on the calendar — excluding the Amstel Gold Race as it disappeared for 14 years after an initial three-year run that began in 2001.
With its courses regularly topping 150km and plentiful hellingen, it is one of the toughest races on the calendar. Looking back at the list of winners, it also includes most of the top races during its existence, including Mirjam Melchers, Nicole Cooke, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Annemiek van Vleuten, Marianne Vos, and Lotte Kopecky.
While most of the one-day races on the calendar came into life since 2000, there are two that started in the 1990s. They are owed the monument title.
First up is Flèche Wallonne, which started up in 1998. While it was not on the first-ever Women’s World Cup calendar, which began that year, it was added in 1999 and it is the only race that still exists from those first two seasons — incredibly, the Trofeo Alfredo Binda was only added in 2008.
Thanks to that status, it has always attracted the top riders in the women’s peloton with Anna van der Breggen famously dominating it with seven-straight wins.
The GP de Plouay, now known as the Classic Lorient Agglomération, was set up a year later in 1999. For its first three seasons, it was a national-level event but it earned a promotion to the World Cup in 2002. It has consistently delivered a good parcours for the women’s peloton and can always be relied upon to deliver a tough and exciting race.
So, now we have four races. Are there any more that deserve a spot on this monument list? Let’s get rid of a few more.
The Tour of Guangxi hasn’t really captivated the imagination of the peloton and we’ve only had three editions. Let’s also scrap Gent-Wevelgem; it’s a great race but it doesn’t feel like monument material.
This may sound like an odd statement, but the Classic Brugge-De Panne has the potential to climb into monument status given the massive 173km parcours that is expected for this year, by far the longest one-day race on the calendar.
It’s got a couple of negative points that prevent it from being a monument, though. Firstly, it’s still pretty young with its first edition held in 2018. It’s also currently held on a Thursday and there just can’t be a mid-week monument.
Ok, I know that Flèche Wallonne is on a Wednesday, but it gets a pass due to its age.
That leaves us with three more to choose from, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche, and Ronde van Drenthe. Here’s where we make a brutal cut as we can’t have monuments that only show the bare bones coverage with less than 30km broadcast live — Flèche Wallonne scrapes in, just, but has to step up in this regard.
Ronde van Drenthe more than deserves the final place on the monument list. It started back in 2007 and has become a firm fixture on the women’s calendar.
Since its first edition, it has given the women no less than 130 kilometers to race — this year gets a bye because of the weather forcing organizers to cut down the route. It’s usually considered a sprinter’s race but it packs a punch with several visits across the cobbles and climbs over the VAMberg.
To win the Ronde van Drenthe is a big addition to any rider’s palmarès and should count as a monument win. This means that the women’s monument season is already well underway.
The women’s monuments — as selected by VeloNews
Ronde van Drenthe — March 11
Trofeo Alfredo Binda — March 19
Tour of Flanders — April 2
Flèche Wallonne — April 19
Classic Lorient Agglomération — September 9