Ranking the monuments: Here’s how Flanders, Roubaix, San Remo, and the rest stack up
Our editors debate where the men's 'monuments' rank as the all-time favorite.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Monument madness is upon us.
After a busy opening few months to the elite men’s racing calendar, the most important, most prestigious, and most challenging one-day races are stacked up.
From Saturday’s Milan-San Remo through Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April 23, four of the five so-called monuments are lined up in popcorn-munching delight for cycling fans. Il Lombardia rounds out the monument run in October, with Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix hogging up the middle.
One-day racing is a unique twist of the usual dynamics of bike racing. Rather than save something for tomorrow’s stage, riders in the monuments leave everything on the road. With winners entering the elite of the peloton, there’s no holding back in the all-in demands of the classics.
- Five great editions of Milan-San Remo
- A dropper-post: Mohorič’s secret weapon at San Remo
- Last chance at San Remo for Peter Sagan
What makes a monument?
Of course, there’s an ongoing debate of what races should be included in the special denomination. Strade Bianche and Gent-Wevelgem are two races often included in the monument discussion.
💜 Milano-Sanremo presented by @CA_Ita 💜
2019 🏆 @alafpolak1
2023 ❓ #MilanoSanremo pic.twitter.com/7ygtiZdxPO
— Milano Sanremo (@Milano_Sanremo) March 14, 2023
Generally speaking, monuments are old. All of the five ranked monuments date back a century. Even by European racing standards, that is a long time.
Second, they’re long. Monuments are all 250km or longer. That pushes the racing into the magical six-hour window. That final hour of racing is what separates a monument from most one-days, and that’s when all the good stuff happens.
And third, they’re prestigious. Riders like Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel are going to measure the success of their careers by how many monuments they can win before hanging up their cleats.
So which ones are the best? Each race has its special character and feel. Our editors debate the question: How do you rank the five monuments?
Sadhbh O’Shea, VeloNews
There’s no question that the cobbled monuments lead the way when it comes to top of the monuments. Without fail, they deliver the action and drama that we love to see in bike racing. When it comes to atmosphere, the Tour of Flanders is unbeatable, while Paris-Roubaix always hits hard with the unpredictability.
It gets a lot of hate for being largely boring until the final 30km, but Milan-San Remo comes next. It’s great slow TV, and that all-out finale makes up for the gradual build.
Il Lombardia and Liège-Bastogne-Liège trail the list with the Italian monument edging out the Belgian.
In order: Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo, Il Lombardia, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Jim Cotton, VeloNews
What do you mean, “other” races? Paris-Roubaix is the only one that matters.
Bah, OK then:
2: Tour of Flanders
3: Milan-San Remo
5: Il Lombardia.
First, no disrespect to Lombardia, it’s a great race and I always enjoy watching it. But after the Tour, Vuelta, and worlds, the hype levels just aren’t as high.
Flanders is second because bergs, cobblestones, beered-up Belgian crowds – what’s not to love?
Lastly, San Remo only just edges out Liège for third because of the excitement it generates as the first monument of the year and that ridiculous and unique tension it builds in the race. Liège narrowly goes into fourth in a ranking that downplays just how good it has got since the final was redesigned.
Fred Dreier, Outside Magazine
Every year the monuments ranking is a toss-up between Flanders and Roubaix for me, and most of the time Flanders edges out the victory. This year is no different: I give it a tiny advantage over the Hell of the North.
Roubaix is a test of luck and brute strength, with tactical acumen also in the mix. Flanders rewards brains and legs, with luck the third x-factor. It’s also the one race I can watch again and again on YouTube and not get sick of it.
My ranking this year is: Flanders, Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Milan-San Remo, Il Lombardia.
Andrew Hood, VeloNews
Call me crazy, but my favorite monument of the year is Milan-San Remo.
Maybe it’s because I love Italy and the undeniable chaos, noise, and passion that is conjured up on the Via Roma when the race ends.
I know, it’s long, it’s boring, and it always kind of follows the same script, but the truth is, no one ever knows what is going to happen. Sure, all the action is largely packed into the final 10km, but there is no race where the winner is so completely unknown until the final kick as San Remo.
Don’t get me wrong. Nothing is better than Flanders and Roubaix, and I’ve gone back and forth over the years of which one of those I think is the best. The truth is, of course, is that they’re both great.
Liège moves up a notch with its new course. We’ll see if can add some much-needed spice to the race over the next few editions.
Lombardia? I want to love it. I mean, it has everything a bike race should have: big names, challenging course, and it’s in Italy, yet for some reason, it just falls flat on the interest radar. Maybe moving it to the spring would help? Slot it in after Liège? It needs a makeover.