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2007 Spring Classics
March 3: Geelong Women's World Cup
The opening round of the women's World Cup in Australia capped off a week of racing in which one woman stepped on the podium day after day - Nicole Cooke. The British rider was able to fend off attack after attack from a strong T-Mobile squad with the help of her Raleigh Lifeforce Creation team, and bested T-mobile's sprinter Oenone Wood and Australian Nikki Egyed in a stunning finale of the Geelong World Cup.
March 24: Milano - Sanremo
The first of the spring classics, 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. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) upset Alessandro Petacchi's Milram lead-out train to take the win ahead of Allan Davis (Discovery) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step).
April 8: Ronde van Vlaanderen/Tour of Flanders
Alessandro Ballan duly confirmed his status as a rising star of the Classics with a stunning victory in the 91st Ronde van Vlaanderen. The lanky Italian riding for Lampre-Fondital stormed away with Leif Hoste (Predictor-Lotto) on the Muur van Geraardsbergen and kept just enough in reserve to cruelly relegate the Belgian to his third career second place in De Ronde. Liquigas' Luca Paolini won a three-up sprint for third while overwhelming favourite Tom Boonen suffered an early crash and never had the firepower to match Ballan in the final selection.
April 8: Women's Ronde van Vlaanderen
Held over some of the same climbs as the men's event, the women's Ronde van Vlaanderen further showcased the dominance of 23 year-old Nicole Cooke and her Raleigh-Lifeforce team in this year's World Cup. The Welshwoman produced a devastating attack in the final kilometres to which only Zoulfia Zabirova (Bigla Cycling Team) could respond. In the sprint, Cooke easily out-gunned the Kazakh rider with Dutch world champion Marianne Vos taking third.
April 11: Gent-Wevelgem
Riders were treated to an unusually mild spring day for the 69th running of Gent-Wevelgem, but the dry conditions didn't make the race any less dangerous. Horrific crashes took down many riders on the cobbled descent of the Kemmel, disrupting the chase of a three-man breakaway containing T-Mobile's Roger Hammond. As the peloton slowly closed in on the break, three riders bridged the gap. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Francisco Ventoso (Saunier Duval) had no choice but to tow T-Mobile's Marcus Burghardt along, and the 23-year old attacked in the final kilometre and soloed away to his first professional win.
April 15: Paris - Roubaix
It's every professional's dream to win the 'Hell of the North' - an epic battle against endless cobbled sectors, winds, crashes, flat tyres - basically 259 km of pure suffering of the highest magnitude. This year, an Australian was the man with the strength and audacity to ride away from the peloton and into the Roubaix velodrome alone - Stuart O'Grady.
April 22: Amstel Gold Race
The youngest of the Spring Classics might not have the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, or the severity of the climbs of Ronde van Vlaanderen, but this 250+ kilometre race has the distance, more than 30 'bergs' and a leg-breaking uphill finish atop the Cauberg to distinguish it from the older Classics. This year's edition was a display of superb team tactics by Gerolsteiner, with three in the winning move including ProTour leader Davide Rebellin. When Stefan Schumacher attacked, the other favourites played poker, allowing the German his first Classics victory, while Rebellin took second.
April 25: La Flèche Wallonne/Women's La Flèche Wallonne
As the Classics season winds down, the riders move into the French speaking part of Belgium to tackle La Flèche Wallonne - a demanding circuit centred around the Mur de Huy - a beastly climb 1300m in length with a maximum 19% gradient which the riders visit three times. The climb requires patience and a strong finishing kick - something that both Davide Rebellin and Marianne Vos displayed in this year's edition of the race.
Rebellin timed his jump to perfection to pass Astana's Matthias Kessler in the final metres, while Vos unleashed her trademark vicious sprint to shed Nicole Cooke and Judith Arndt atop the Mur de Huy.
April 29: Liège - Bastogne - Liège
The last of the Ardennes Classics sends the riders through the site of World War II's Battle of the Bulge, and in the cycling world, the racers will wage battle with a ridiculous number of climbs, many of them littered in the final 40 kilometres. But it is the 1.5 kilometre ascent to the finish line in Ans which decides the victor, and only a well-timed sprint will win the last of the Spring Classics.
Italian Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) completed his Ardennes palmarès by adding Liège to 2005's wins in Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne. "I thought of this race for the past nine years - since I turned professional," said the rider after finishing in front of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Fränk Schleck (Team CSC).