|This article does not cite any references or sources. (September 2011)|
Cobblestones, like mountainous terrain, are decisive elements in courses of cycling. Many classic cycle races in northwestern Europe contain cobbled sections. The two Monuments of this race type are the Tour of Flanders and Paris–Roubaix, with over 20 cobbled sectors.
The first semi-classic with cobbled sections is Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, which traditionally opens the Belgian classics season, followed the next day by Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne. Starting late March, the Vlaamse Wielerweek (Flemish cycling week) kicks off the most important period for cobbled cycling classics. Before the Pro Tour changes, the most important Flemish races were held in one week. Now it kicks off with Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, the E3 Harelbeke on Friday and Gent–Wevelgem on Sunday. The stage-race Driedaagse van De Panne keeps the riders busy during the following week, concluding with the Monumental Tour of Flanders on Sunday. The Grote Scheldeprijs on the following Wednesday prepares the riders for the historical Paris–Roubaix (another Monument), which ends the cobbled classics.
Among the cobbled cycling races the three most historical are usually held on consecutive Sundays in the early spring: Gent–Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders and Paris–Roubaix. Gent–Wevelgem has lost a lot of its historical status due to the relative easiness of the route. E3 Harelbeke is considered to be harder and thus better preparation for the Ronde and Roubaix. In 2012, both races received equal status on the UCI Pro Tour.
In 2012 Belgian rider Tom Boonen managed to win all 4 races in the same season, as the first and only rider to do so.