We love the bone-jarring cobblestones outside Roubaix, the daredevil descent off the Poggio, and the leg-cracking attacks at La Redoute. Our adrenaline rushes during the chaotic battle on the Oude Kwaremont, and we are mesmerized by the punishing tempo up the Madonna de Ghisallo.
We love pro road cycling’s five Monuments: Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders, Milano-Sanremo, Il Lombardia, and Liége-Bastogne-Liége. Why do these races deserve the lofty title of ‘Monument,’ as well as our collective affection? The title comes from each race’s lengthy history and punishingly difficult distance and parcours.
That’s not why we love the races, of course. The Monuments win our affection because of the prestige bestowed to the victor. With immortality on the line, the best riders battle each other with dramatic gusto just for a chance to win.
It’s no secret that American cycling is experiencing a renaissance, with gravel and mixed-surface events surging in popularity across the country. Hundreds of these races now dot the competition calendar. Of course, not all of these events are equal in terms of difficulty, history, or prestige. There are some races that have already captured the imagination of participants, media, and elite riders.
Thus, at the onset of 2020 we set out to determine the Monuments of Gravel: the five gravel races that stand atop the growing list of events as the most prestigious to win. Defining the road Monuments is relatively easy: The five are the oldest and longest-running events on the calendar. Yet doing so for gravel is less straightforward. Is a 350-mile race with a handful of participants more deserving than a 150-mile race that attracts thousands? What’s harder: 100 miles on flat gravel or 70 miles with 10,000 feet of climbing?
In the end, we reached out to the gravel community to help us determine our list. Over the past two months we have posed the question to a list of elite riders, all of whom have won or challenged for the victory at the major events on the gravel calendar.
Our definition for what event deserved to be a Monument was simple: Which races hold the most prestige to win?
No, not the longest, not the oldest, not the hardest, not the race with the most participants, or the tastiest feed zone snacks, or the best post-race party. Which are the races that mean the most to win?
We asked the riders for their list of five races, and we tallied the votes. One race was a unanimous qualifier; one more received overwhelming votes, even if riders debated whether it was actually a true gravel event. Two more races were heavy favorites.
As for the final Monument of Gravel, we came up against a dead tie between two events. And thus, on Friday, we will let you, the reader, decide.
Stay tuned to velonews.com this week to see which races made our Monuments of Gravel list, and read about the promoters, athletes, and gear that have come to define the events and push them forward. We will be revealing one Monument per day. And, once you’ve read our list, please cast your vote for which gravel event should be our fifth and final Monument.
This year we will be covering each Monument thoroughly, bringing you the stories in the lead-up to each event as well as the drama from inside each race.