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Epic Eighties

The Five Monuments of Cycling are generally considered to be the oldest and most-prestigious one-day events on the calendar, after the World Championship Road Race. This weekend the racing begins with the Milan-San Remo before action moves to Northern Europe for the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege at the end of April.

The eighties produced some epic events, we've picked out five classic 'Monument' rides.

1982 – The Great Escape

Marc Gomez

Early escapes in Milan-San Remo are usually brought to heel but not in 1982...

French rider Marc Gomez thought his chances of becoming professional were over, but he'd managed to get signed by small team Wolber at the beginning of 1982.
Gomez escaped in an early break with twenty other riders; purely by chance. The break was allowed the grace of building a good lead because it contained no threat to the pre race favourites.

As the gap closed the favourites began to watch either other, neither wanted to use too much energy on the final climb. This hesitation allowed Marc Gomez and Alain Bondue the remaining breakaway riders more time to get just a little closer to the finish.

On the descent to the finish, Bondue made an error allowing Marc Gomez to get a small gap. Worn down by being in the break all day, he thought he'd be caught. He put his head down and rode hard to the finish.
The crowd in San Remo clapped him home in disbelief; they had expected to see an Italian cross the line not a bespectacled orange jumper wearing first year French professional.

Gomez was overcome with disbelief. "This was one of the most beautiful races in the world – how could I have won it?"

1985 – Klobbered on the Koppenberg

Jan Raas

The Koppenberg is a favourite of Tour of Flanders fans, but the quality of the cobbles deteriorated in the 1980's they became loose and jutted out, pin balling riders into each other and the high banks of the narrow road. A smoother line can be found in the gutter, but it is often heavily splattered with mud from the banks, minimising grip and traction.
In 1985 as former race winner, Jan Raas, ground his way up the particularly slippery gutter, a photographer got in his way, forcing him off his bike. Raas lost his temper and landed a fat left hook on the snapper.

1987 – More Koppenberg Drama

Jesper Skibby

Tempers flared again in 1987 when Dane, Jesper Skibby fell on the climb blocking the path of the race director's car. Skibby had no more than 10 seconds advantage on the fast approaching peloton, the race director had to get past or there would be more carnage. So without warning he drove over the bike, narrowly missing the rider who lay prostrate on the mud covered stones.

1981 - Paris Roubaix – Driven in Anger

Bernard Hinault

Despite conditions being relatively dry Bernard Hinault fell seven times during the race. Hinault in the coveted Rainbow Jersey hit a small dog named, Gruson on a bend 10km from the finish, causing him to lose contact with the six-man breakaway containing riders who were all capable of winning, including Francesco Moser, Roger De Vlaeminck and Hennie Kuiper.

Hinault was furious and he rode driven on by anger to get back to the group. Crashing again with a few kilometres to go, he got back on his bike and again clawed his way back to the group, as his rivals momentarily eased in surprise, Hinault attacked to win the race.

He said after the race "Paris-Roubaix est une connerie" or "Paris–Roubaix is plain stupid"

1984 – Sean Kelly's single layer of cloth tape

Sean Kelly

The mud and weather was extreme making this edition of the race even harder than usual. Whilst most riders would double or triple wrap their bar tape to absorb some of the battering from the cobbles, Kelly wrapped just a single layer of cloth tape to his narrow 26mm diameter bars - proving himself to be either a real cycling hardman, or just plan nuts!

1980 – Leige Bastonge Liege – The Badger gets chilled to the bone

Bernard Hinault

"The snow was driving so hard into our faces, on a crosswind, that we had to protect our eyes with one hand. We needed ski goggles. I couldn't see a thing."

On the morning of the race a cold wind that blew across Belgium brought snow flakes and then a heavy fall within moments of the start.

Riders struggled on, with hands to faces to keep a view of the road. The race was an anonymous mass of plastic jackets and windcheaters. Spectators stood in goggles like upmarket snowmen, red-faced in the bitterness. Within the hour some teams had barely a man left on the road.

Bernard Hinault, the winner, was one of only 21 to finish the course. It took three weeks for proper movement to return to two fingers of his right hand.

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