Which Is The World’s Best Known Cycling Race? Explore Most Popular Events

Cycling is a sport that has been around for centuries and continues to be one of the most popular sports in the world.

For those who love cycling, there are many races held each year which attract spectators from all over the world eager to witness the skills on display by some of the greatest cyclists.

From the grueling climbs of the Tour de France to the heart-pounding sprints of the Olympic Games, cycling is a truly thrilling sport.

In this article, we will explore the world’s most renowned races, with insights into their history, challenges faced by riders, routes taken, and what makes them stand out from other cycling events across the globe.

So let’s get started.

What Is The Biggest Bike Race In The World?

The biggest bike race in the world is one of cycling’s greatest spectacles: the Tour de France.

This legendary event was first held in 1903 and features some of the most challenging climbs and time trials in professional cycling.

Spanning over three weeks, it covers 3,000 kilometers across France and its neighboring countries, with riders tackling steep mountain passes, cobbled sections, white gravel roads, and major climbs.

tour de france

This event is the ultimate challenge for professional cyclists from all around the globe.

The Tour has become an integral part of cycling history, with famous champions such as Jacques Anquetil, Vincenzo Nibali, and Chris Froome becoming household names due to their victories on this iconic course. (1)

Every year, fans eagerly await the start of this historic event to cheer on their favorite riders as they battle it out for glory on the roads of Europe.

Is The Tour De France The Hardest Bike Race?

The Tour De France is widely considered to be the toughest bike race in the world and requires a lot of focus and dedication to make it to the end.

It’s not just the physical stamina one needs to survive the race, but also the mental strength to push through the negative thoughts and fears that come with such a long and exhausting challenge.

Riders have to maintain an average speed of 25 miles per hour during the three-week long 21 days) race covering 3,400 km (2,112 miles) and 21 stages with several mountains passes as well as major climbs that test their endurance and strength.

One of the most difficult parts of this classic event is its longest climb, which leads cyclists up Col du Galibier at an altitude of 2,642 m (8,668 ft) while battling extreme weather such as rain and wind by wearing protective gear.

On average, riders burn up to 5,000 calories per stage and must make sure they are well-hydrated to avoid cramps.

Those who make it to the end must have tremendous physical stamina but also mental fortitude to battle exhaustion after long days spent navigating steep inclines in hot temperatures.

It can be said without hesitation that The Tour de France is one of the most demanding bike races around today.

Other Grand Tours

The Tour de France is undoubtedly the most famous bike race in the world. Its history, prestige, and distinction make it one of a kind.

But there are other grand tours that are just as competitive and grueling for professional cyclists.

Also running annually are two other Grand Tours: Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.

These races span over three weeks and thousands of miles and feature some of the same stages as their French counterpart, such as mountain passes, major climbs, and bunch sprints.

Giro D’italia

The Giro d’Italia is a world-renowned cycling race that has become synonymous with Italian culture and the spirit of cycling.

Taking place annually in May, this event is the first grand tour of the year that draws in spectators from all around the globe to witness some spectacular moments on both flat roads and mountainous terrain.

As you could expect, there are several elements that have made this Italian race so popular over time as well as one of the toughest events in the world.

The Giro d’Italia typically begins outside of Italy in a neighboring country.

This allows for unique routes and some beautiful scenery not seen elsewhere in the country that really allows racers to appreciate what Italy has to offer both physically and culturally.

With its varying terrain, unpredictable weather conditions, and an amazing array of sights there’s something for every rider at the Giro d’Italia – no matter if an experienced professional or a curious bystander.

Although riders can expect pleasant spring weather in Italy, they usually have to contend with quite a lot of rain during the race.

Snow on mountain passes is also common.

To make sure that they’re prepared for any kind of terrain they may face, racers opt for different types of road bikes based on the stage profile.

Most often they stick to their traditional road bikes and time trial frames, but subtle modifications can be made depending on the ground covered during a certain day’s stage.

Vuelta A España

The Vuelta a España is the third Grand Tour and one of the world’s most iconic bike races.

It has been an integral part of professional cycling since its inception in 1935.

The race typically spans for 3 weeks, with brutal mountain climbs, time trials, and bunch sprints making up the majority of the route each year.

vuelta a espana

While it used to be held in springtime, since 2009 it has been held near the end of the cycling season in mid-August until early September.

It was originally created as a shorter alternative to the Tour de France, which had become increasingly popular amongst riders due to its long grueling challenges.

Riders push to their limits while they battle it out along narrow roads flanked by stunning landscapes such as lush forests or steep mountainsides – providing them with a unique experience every year.

This intense yet thrilling test makes it one of cycling’s premier events and provides viewers with amazing spectacles that leave lasting memories.

Famous winners include Jacques Anquetil who won in 1964, Bernard Hinault who triumphed in 1978, Miguel Indurain who dominated from 1992-1995 and Egan Bernal who became the youngest rider ever to win when he took first place in 2019.

Olympic Games

The Olympic Games is one of the world’s best-known cycling races.

An example of this comes from the 2012 Olympics in London, when Britain’s Laura Trott won two gold medals in women’s track cycling events; firstly in the team pursuit and then shortly afterward in the omnium.

This demonstrates how competitive and prestigious these games are at a high-level, drawing attention to cyclists around the globe as they compete against each other.

Olympic Games presents a number of cycling events in multiple disciplines.

On the road, there is the road race and individual time trial which involve breathtaking speed and require immense levels of endurance.

The Mountain Bike racing at the Olympics has only one event, Cross-Country Mountain biking, but this does not make it any less thrilling or challenging.

cycling olympic games

It requires immense technical skills as riders must traverse a hilly offroad loop for about 90 minutes nonstop over various terrains and obstacles.

Another type of cycling on display during the Olympic Games are Track races held on an oval-shaped velodrome crafted out of either wood or concrete with banked corners and straightaways that facilitate maximum speeds for riders to put up amazing performances.

This requires a different set of skills when compared to traditional road racing and mountain biking but still thrills audiences worldwide who can witness elite-level athletes going head-to-head in some of the most challenging competitions in all of the sports.

Cycling has proved itself to be an integral part of the Olympic Games since its debut as a sport in 1896.

From that point on there have been many memorable moments throughout history which have kept fans captivated during each race.

The 2008 Beijing Games saw Chris Hoy break records with three gold medals for Team GB while Sir Bradley Wiggins recorded his fourth gold medal at London 2012 – becoming one of Britain’s most successful Olympians with eight medals.

These spectacular feats show just how important cycling has become over time within the Olympic context, where athletes can perform incredible performances that will forever remain etched into our memories long after their respective games have finished.

The Monuments Of Professional Cycling: Five Most-Prestigious One-Day Races

The Monuments are the five biggest and most prestigious one-day cycling races on the planet.

These races have a long history and are all renowned for their difficulty, beauty, and atmosphere.

They include Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Il Lombardia.

Riders standing atop each podium become legends thanks to their exploits – Italians Fausto Coppi and Felice Gimondi, Belgian Eddy Merckx, and Frenchman Bernard Hinault – all names synonymous with these great events.

the monuments of cycling

As well as producing heroes, these races bring people together from around the world who share an appreciation for cycling’s unique challenge.

Spectators line streets for miles to witness thrilling action featuring the best athletes in pro cycling battling it out over grueling distances through spectacular landscapes dotted with centuries-old villages and breathtaking alpine passes.

Each of these races has its own distinctive character that sets it apart from the others.

Below, I explore further each of them.

Milan – San Remo

Milan – San Remo is one of the most revered and oldest cycling races in the world.

It was first held in 1907, making it over 100 years old.

The race consists of a single day covering nearly 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Milan to Sanremo, which makes it one of the longest one-day events on the professional calendar.

The landscape along this route offers a variety of terrain types ranging from flat coastal roads to steep climbs that test even experienced cyclists.

milan san remo

The race usually takes place in late March and starts in Milano before heading south along the picturesque Italian coast.

Milan – San Remo, also called the “Sprinter’s Classic” has become renowned for its unique flat terrain combined with a mix of physical challenge and technical skill needed to make it across the finish line first.

After covering relatively flat sections for most of its distance, an exciting finale awaits with two major climbs that test even the strongest riders – the Cipressa and Poggio.

The Cipressa is a 5.6 km climb with an average gradient of 4.1%, and a maximum of 9%. Similarly, the Poggio is a 3.7 km climb with an average gradient of 3.7%, and a maximum of 8%.

The Poggio is an exciting moment in the race, as it often determines who will take the win.

Watch Matej Mohoric’ death-defying descent of the Poggio below.

Despite being more than a century old, Milan–San Remo remains extremely popular among fans around the world who follow every edition closely with much anticipation and excitement.

Tour Of Flanders

The Tour of Flanders (Vlaanderens Mooiste) is over 100 years old and one of the most prestigious cycling events in the world.

It has been held annually since 1913, with a race distance of over 260 kilometers that covers some of the toughest roads in Belgium.

Starting in the first week of April, the route includes several cobblestone sections and steep climbs such as the Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, and Muur van Geraardsbergen.

The Tour of Flanders is a true test for cyclists as they must ride aerodynamic road frames with tires that are wider and more durable than most road racing tires.

It’s no surprise then that many riders suffer punctures due to the sharp edges of cobblestones.

It has become an iconic event on the professional cycling calendar due to its challenging course and weather conditions which add an extra element of difficulty for competitors.

Moreover, it attracts thousands of spectators who come out to cheer on their favorite riders as they navigate through the narrow Belgian countryside and towns.

tour of flanders

The Tour of Flanders is renowned for producing epic finishes with exciting sprints or brave solo breakaways often deciding podium placements at this classic event.

Its combination of grueling terrain, passionate fans, and thrilling racing makes it an unforgettable experience every year – a perfect example of how modern cycling combines tradition with excitement.


Paris-Roubaix is one of the most iconic races in cycling, known as the “Hell of the North”.

As part of the UCI World Tour calendar, it represents the pinnacle of professional cycling and attracts some of the world’s best riders.

This grueling event has also gained legendary status among amateur cyclists for its unique challenge and difficulty with a 257 km course that includes 29 cobblestone sectors that span 55 km. (2)

Part of what makes Paris-Roubaix special are the cobbled sections that punctuate much of the route through northern France.

In 2021, fans experienced the first wet edition of Paris-Roubaix in 20 years, making it even more treacherous than usual.

Many riders crashed and suffered punctures due to the slippery surface that day.

These demanding roads require skill and courage to navigate as they consist of both sharp turns and long stretches.

Despite this, they add an extra dimension to the race that riders relish rather than dreading them.

Indeed, many consider these sections a badge of honor after completing them successfully.

This combination has seen some tremendous battles between rivals throughout history, showcasing how far human endurance can be pushed when driven by passion and ambition.

The Tour de France has been running since 1903, but Paris-Roubaix has been around since 1896 – making it one of cycling’s oldest races.

It’s also been won by some iconic cyclists such as Jacques Anquetil and Tadej Pogačar – a testament to its prestige amongst both seasoned professionals and dedicated amateurs alike.


Liege-Bastogne-Liege is another iconic classic that has become renowned in the world of cycling.

It is one of the most prestigious cycling races in the world. Often referred to as La Doyenne, it’s the oldest of the five Monuments of cycling, first held in 1892.

The race consists of a route that winds through the challenging hilly terrain of the Ardennes region in Belgium, with numerous climbs and cobbled sections along the way.

This Monument serves as a symbol of resilience and strength, with punishing climbs designed to challenge even the most seasoned cyclists.

Taking place at the end of April, the course stretches over an arduous 219km distance, renowned for its difficulty and some of Belgium’s most picturesque scenery along the way.

The winner is not always the strongest, but the one who executes the best tactics and strategies as navigating through treacherous descents requires precision handling and good bike control.

Il Lombardia

Il Lombardia is widely recognized as another world’s renowned cycling race.

It has been held annually since 1905 and is one of the five monuments of professional road bicycle racing.

Although the course is often modified, it typically covers a distance of around 247 km, with numerous grueling climbs throughout its course.

These include some of Italy’s most iconic ascents such as the Passo della Presolana, Monte Olimpino, and the famous Madonna del Ghisallo climb which provides stunning views over Lake Como in northern Italy.

il lombardia gran fondo

The sheer difficulty of Il Lombardia makes it an ideal test for top riders from across Europe to prove their mettle against each other.

Today, Il Lombardia remains a highlight in the calendar for cyclists from all disciplines and continues to draw huge crowds year after year despite the grueling conditions along its route.

Its heritage and prestige make it highly sought-after by professionals looking to cement their legacies within the sport while also providing spectators with exciting experiences that they will never forget.

Other Prominent World Tour Events

To kick off this section, it is important to note that the cycling world offers more than just one race for avid cyclists and spectators alike.

Apart from the renowned Grand Tours and The Monuments, there are many other premier events around the globe that have come to form part of an iconic portfolio of cycling races.

Below I explore some of the most popular World Tours events.

Strade Bianche

Strade Bianche is an Italian one-day cycling race that has become a prominent event on the world tour circuit since its inception in 2007.

The race takes place in March each year and covers a distance of 184km, including some of Europe’s toughest climbs.

It features 11 sections of white roads, known as ‘strade bianche’, which are found throughout Tuscany and provide a unique challenge for riders.

In total there’s 63km of gravel, the longest section being 11.9km and the shortest just 800m.


The course typically winds through scenic countryside and hilltop towns, with stunning views of vineyards and olive groves along the way.

The race starts in Siena and finishes at the top of the punishing climb to the Piazza del Campo.

These challenging stretches take a toll on even the best-prepared athletes due to fatigue from constant acceleration/deceleration over rough surfaces combined with extreme gradients.

With strong crowds lining up to cheer them on every year, Strade Bianche has quickly earned its place as one of the most beloved cycling races worldwide.


Paris-Nice is another widely renowned cycling race that showcases some of France’s most beautiful scenery.

The race, also known as ‘The Race to the Sun’, has been held annually since 1933 and covers a distance of about 1,200 km.

paris nice

This 8-day stage race attracts a number of top competitors from all over the globe each year.

Riders must tackle numerous climbs, descents, flat roads, and time trials to complete their goal of becoming champion cyclists on this route through the Paris region and the final stage in Nice.

Amgen Tour Of California

The Amgen Tour of California has been an iconic part of American cycling since 2006 when it was first held as a professional men’s stage race.

As the largest cycling event in North America, this event is the only top-level World Tour in the USA.

Organized by AEG Worldwide in partnership with USA Cycling, the event begins on May each year with grueling mountain passes, epic coastline views, and dramatic sprint finishes.

amgen tour of california

However, due to a change in the business fundamentals of AEG owners, the tour was canceled for 2020. It’s not clear what the future holds for the race.

The typical course measures over 700 miles total with participants racing across 7 to 8 stages ranging from time trials to mountain climbs.

This demanding schedule attracted some of the world’s finest cyclists who come together to test their mettle on one of America’s premier courses.

Final Thoughts

The Tour de France is widely considered to be the world’s best-known cycling race.

It has a rich history dating back to 1903 and attracts top cyclists and teams from around the world.

With its challenging routes, stunning scenery, and passionate fans, the Tour de France continues to capture the imagination of people everywhere.

Giro d’Italia, Tour of Flanders, and the Monuments are also renowned cycling races that have been in existence for a very long time.

Each race has its own unique route and draws thousands of spectators from around the world.

With such rich histories, these illustrious cycling competitions remain some of the greatest spectacles in sport and will continue to captivate audiences worldwide for years to come.

It is no wonder why they are widely considered to be some of the best-known cycling races in the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

The total distance of the Tour de France varies slightly each year, however, it typically covers around 3,400 kilometers (2,112 miles).

This includes a number of flat stages, mountain passes, and time trials that take riders through some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes.

The total prize money for the Tour de France varies each year and is distributed between riders and staff.

For example, in 2022, the total prize money pot for the race is £2.2 million GBP or $2.7 million USD. (3, 4)

The winner of the general classification (GC) gets the biggest share of €500,000 or $562,000 USD.

The second and third-place finishers get €200,000 and €100,000 respectively.

There are also prizes for the points, mountains, and young rider classifications, as well as for each stage finisher.

The winner for both men’s and women’s races in Tour of Flanders will be awarded €20,000 each. Other prizes include smaller amounts given out to riders finishing between 4th-10th places.

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