10 Most Famous Races in Cycling « Do you know them all?
As a competitive cyclist, you may be wondering what is the most famous race for professional cyclists?
So what is the most famous race for a cyclist? For professional cyclists, the biggest and most prestigious race is the Tour de France. Next up is Giro d’Italia in Italy, followed by Vuelta de España in Spain.
The sport of cycling is one that makes it hard to measure difficultness. Some races test endurance, others test strength, and others test both. Therefore, there is no one race that is the most difficult to finish, but there is one that is the most famous.
There are lots of different races for cyclists and lots of varying levels of competitiveness, but I have listed the 10 most famous races for cyclists below.
Top 10 Most Famous Cycling Races In The World!
The most famous races for cyclists are the Grand Tour of Europe races. These three races are the:
- Tour de France
- Giro d’Italia
- Vuelta de España
For the majority of competitive/professional cyclists completing these three races is the goal of a lifetime. The Tour de France is the most famous of the 3 grand tour races, largely due to the fact that it is the oldest of the three.
While these three races are the objective for most cyclists, there are multiple other races that are meant to help prepare and qualify you for them. These qualifying races are all part of what is called the UCI World Tour.
The UCI (Union Cyclists International), is the head coordinating company for these races. They oversee and determine the most famous races for cyclists. The top 10 most famous cycling races are all run by UCI, and they are collectively called the UCI world tour.
According to their website the UCI World Tour consists of 38 races. These 38 races take place all over the world. Including Europe, Australia, the United States, and Canada.
The majority of these races are only known by people who are active participants in the cycling competitions. I have only, therefore gone into detail on the top 10 most important/famous ones.
#1. The Tour de France
The Tour de Frace is considered the most popular of the cycling races due to its long history and prestige. The first-ever Tour de France occurred in 1903 and continues today. The Tour de France is one of the three grand tours of Europe.
The Tour de France typically spans over 21-23 days and each day the cyclists are required to finish one course. These courses are called ‘stages’. These stages are designed to test each bicyclist’s endurance and strength.
According to Bicycle History, “the race covers around 3,500 km (about 2174 miles), and is usually separated in 9 flat stages, 6 mountain stages, 5 hilly stages, 5 high-altitude finishes, and 1 individual time-trial stage”.
As is evidenced by the name the Tour de France takes place in France and the route typically spans the perimeter of France. However, some of the routes may take the cyclists into surrounding countries for a few kilometers.
#2. Giro d’Italia
The next most famous race is the Giro d’Italia. After the success of the Tour de France, Italy created their own race. The first race occurred in 1909 and the race continues to occur today. The Giro d’Italia is one of the other 3 grand tours of Europe.
Similar to the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia takes place over the course of 23-24 days and is made up of 21 ‘stages’. Unlike the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia consists predominantly of altitude climbs. These altitude climbs take the cyclists through the Alps.
Again, the Giro d’Italia spans about 3500km (2174 miles) over the 21 stages. The Giro d’Italia takes place predominantly in Italy, but it usually starts in a nearby country. Similar to the Tour de France the winner of the Giro d’Italia is determined by the lowest total time over all the stages.
#3. Vuelta a España
The third, and final, famous cycling race on the Grand Tour of Europe is the Vuelta a España. After the success of both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, Spain decided to get on board as well; and so they created the Vuelta a España.
Created in 1935, the Vuelta de España used the same format as the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. It spans over 23-24 days and occurs in 21 stages. This route also spans over the perimeter of Spain and typically consists of 3300-3500 km (2050-2174 miles).
The winner is also determined by the lowest total time it takes the cyclists to complete the stages. The three Grand Tours of Europe are the most famous and well-known of cycling races, but there are many races that are used to prepare for these three monsters.
#4. Tour de Suisse
The Tour de Suisse takes place over the course of 9 days and is often considered by cyclists as a test race prior to the Tour de France. The first-ever Tour de Suisse took place in 1933, prior to the first Vuelta a España.
The Tour de Suisse takes place in Switzerland and provides a number of stages that take the cyclists through the Alps.
The Tour de Suisse spans over 1,172.7 km (728.7 mi) and is used by cyclists as a test of their ability to complete the Tour de France.
#5. Tour Down Under
The Tour Down Under is the opening event of the UCI World Tour. It takes place in Australia and usually occurs over the course of six days. The course spans about 1000km (about 621 miles).
This race typically takes place in mid-January which means it is at the height of the Australian summer.
This provides a unique challenge for many cyclists as the heat can reach upwards of 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit).
Unlike the other races, however, this course is typically on a flat area so there is little to no climbs.
The Paris-Nice race is nicknamed the ‘Race to the Sun’. The race has been held since 1933 and takes place over the course of eight days. The Paris-Nice course, as indicated by the name, typically begins in Paris and is completed in Nice France.
The course totals about 1200 km (about 745 miles) and is dominated by hilly terrain.
The Paris-Nice race is considered the opening European race of the UCI World Tour.
The Tirreno-Adriatico race is nicknamed the ‘Race of the Two Seas’ because it runs between the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic coasts of Italy.
The first Tirreno–Adriatico occurred in 1966. Today, the race takes place over the course of 7 days and typically consists of sprints, climbs, and timed trials. The entirety of the course spans from one side of Italy to the other side.
Totally in around 1000km (about 621 miles).
#8. Tour de Romandie
The Tour de Romandie takes place in Switzerland. The race is predominantly time trials and the winners are the cyclists who take the least amount of time to complete each trial.
Beginning in 1947, the race has continued into today.
The race is again a stage race that takes place over the course of 6 days and spans over 700km (about 434 miles). While this race is relatively short compared to the other UCI races, it consists predominantly of climbing stages.
#9. Critérium du Dauphiné
Previously titled the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré this race occurs in the southern region of France. The first race took place in 1947 and continues to take place today. Due to the location in the Alpine region, the race consists of lots of climbing stages.
The Critérium du Dauphiné typically takes place over the course of eight stages. These eight stages span around 1200km (about 745 miles).
#10. Volta a Catalunya
This race is one of the oldest of all cycling races and is one of the three races that is held in Spain. The race began in 1911 and continues to be a large part of the UCI World Tour. The race is held over the course of seven days and crosses the northern region of Spain.
The race consists of seven stages over about 1200km (about 745 miles). Because the northern region of Spain is dominated by the Pyrenees mountains, the race is best suited to cyclists who can climb.
UCI World Tour
All of these famous races are a part of the UCI World Tour. The longest, hardest, and most prestigious of the World Tour is the three Grand Tours:
- Tour de France
- Giro d’Italia
- Vuelta a España
Prior to that, competitors must complete the five monument races. These races take place over one day. They five monument races are
- Milan–San Remo
- Tour of Flanders
- Giro di Lombardia
Cyclists must also compete in 10 stage races throughout Europe, that span multiple days and multiple different stages. Cyclists must complete: flat terrain stages (ideal for sprinters), mountain stages (ideal for climbers), and breakaway stages (ideal for cyclists who excel at neither climbs or sprints, but are well-rounded).
There are also 13 races in Europe that take place for one day. Then there are a total of four other stage races that occur in Australia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and in China. Finally, there are a total of three one-day races; one in Australia and two in Canada.
All of these races create the 38 races of the UCI World Tour.
The UCI World Tour can be entered into by different professionals. Some professionals opt to compete individually, others chose to compete with a team, and still, others choose to compete with their country (similar to the Olympics).
When entering the World Tour, the cyclists are expected to compete in all 38 races that span over several months. Depending on what their total time is and their final ranking is in each race, the cyclists are given points.
The higher the number of points the higher your total ranking is overall.
The UCI World Tour is the most infamous of all cycling competitions and is the objective for most cyclists to complete. Unfortunately, all of these races solely permit men to compete in them. There is another World Tour also run by UCI that permits women, but the most famous cycling races are all dominated by men.
The UCI Women’s World Tour was not created until 2016, so it is still in its early days of foundation. These races, therefore, have yet to gain the notoriety that the male races have attained.
Other Types of Cycling
There are a variety of types of cycling races including road bicycle racing, time trialing, cyclo-cross, mountain bike racing, track cycling, BMX, and cycle speedway.
- Road Bicycle Racing: Takes place on paved roads through cities and country-sides. It is the most popular of all cycling types.
- Time Trialing: These races are meant to test solely the speed of a cyclist. They occur on paved roadways and are a race against the clock.
- Cyclo-Cross: These races are short distances, that include obstacles and other challenges that may require you to dismount your bike and carry it.
- Mountain Bike Racing: These races are held off of paved terrain and are solely held on off-road terrain.
- Track Cycling: These races are held on a track, similar to a foot race competition, or a NASCAR race. They can be short distances or long distances, and the objective is to beat the other competitors.
- BMX: Is another popular race for cyclists. These cyclists use BMX also known as Motorcross bicycles. They are powered by a motored engine and cyclists must demonstrate speed and maneuverability in off-road dirt tracks.
- Cycle Speedway: Similar to track cycling, these races are usually held on an outdoor dirt track and are comprised of short distance timed races.
Whatever type of cycling race you can imagine there is probably something to suit that style. If you are interested in any of these races try to find a group near you that you can join!