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2005 Spring Classics
February 27: Geelong Women's World Cup
The world's best women's cyclists headed to Geelong, Australia in for the opening round of the International Cycling Union's road cycling World Cup, the final event in a week-long cycling extravaganza including the three-day Geelong Women's Tour. Rochelle Gilmore finally proved that her track speed translates into a winning final surge on the road too - even against the toughest competition.
March 6: Wellington World Cup
The world's top women spent a second weekend Down under as the action moved to New Zealand for a tough circuit of Wellington. It turned out to be well worth the trip for some riders who'd come alll the way from Europe
March 19: Milano - Sanremo
The first of the spring classics, the opening round of the men's World Cup, the longest one-day race of the season and the race every Italian wants to win, Milan - San Remo marks the moment when the racing season goes into overdrive after the 'serious warm-ups' of Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.
March 19: Primavera Rosa
The Primavera Rosa - women's edition of Milan - San Remo - is the second women's World Cup event of the year and covers the last 120km or so of the route into San Remo taken by the men's race. The race follows the Ligurian coastline and includes three major climbs - the Capo Berta, the Cipressa and then finally the Poggio.
April 3: Ronde van Vlaanderen / Tour of Flanders
The 2004 Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) provided a big surprise, with T-Mobile's Steffen Wesemann taking the win. The 89th edition of the RVV looks to be a beauty, with in form riders such as Tom Boonen looking to gain big Pro Tour points on home turf. Let the battle begin!
April 3: Women's Ronde van Vlaanderen
The second Women's Tour of Flanders will depart from Oudenaarde at midday before arriving in Ninove 112 km later. The route follows a similar course to the men for the final 50km, meaning the women will slug it out over some pretty tough terrain.
April 6: Gent-Wevelgem
Starting in Deinze's Grote Markt, the 2005 Gent-Wevelgem is another mid-week 204 km hit out for sprinters, and another opportunity for the fast men to get more race miles in the legs between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. With last year's winner Tom Boonen back for more, the stage is set for another good contest, sure to keep the fans happy.
April 10: Paris - Roubaix
Paris - Roubaix, the Queen of the Classics, will be the highlight of the season for many riders and fans alike. Considered the toughest race on the calendar, Paris-Roubaix stands above the rest as being a race where good luck and sturdy equipment go hand in hand with strong legs and tactical astuteness - last year's winner Magnus Backstedt showed these are vital. This year it's anyone's race, with plenty of in form strong riders ready for glory.
April 17: Amstel Gold Race
After a win here in 2003, Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov will be looking to get his 2005 season on track after a disappointing 2004. This race is a change from the sprinter's terrain the other classics offer, and smaller riders such as last year's winner Davide Rebellin, who started his amazing 2004 run at this race, will take to the parcours as favourites.
April 20: La Flèche Wallonne/Women's La Flèche Wallonne
Serving as a World Cup race for women and an Hors Categorie race for men, La Flèche Wallonne is the only Ardennes 'double header'. As its name indicates, the race is run in Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium.
Both men's and women's races finish atop the Mur de Huy, a tough 1.4 kilometre climb averaging around 10%, with the steepest part at 20%. It's often the decisive point of the race, the men having to tackle it three times in the last 63 km, while the women do it just once at the finish. Prior to this there are a number of relatively short but steep climbs, and these usually serve to soften up the peloton before the final rush to Huy
April 24: Liège - Bastogne - Liège
The oldest classic of them all, the Liège-Bastogne-Liège starts in Liège's Place Saint-Lambert, a large historical square near the centre of town. For the first 95 kilometres, the riders take a fairly direct route to Bastogne, which is nestled in the south eastern corner of Belgium, quite close to Luxembourg. The route coming back is a lot longer however (163 km), and takes in most of the climbs in the race, before finishing in the northern Liège suburb of Ans.