Spring Classics 2014: How the seven races were won

The arrival of spring across Europe heralds the start of the annual series of tough and lengthy one-day "Classics" - races which pit riders against uneven roads and unpredictable weather.

From a near-300km race across northern Italy, to the mud and cobbles of northern France and the oldest of all in Belgium, the seven Spring Classics are among the hardest races a professional cyclist will face.

Here's how the 2014 Classics were won.

Milan-San Remo - Sunday, 23 March

Alexander Kristoff wins Milan-San Remo

Kristoff proved the strongest rider after nearly seven hours in the saddle

Norway's Alexander Kristoff won a sprint finish ahead of Swiss Fabian Cancellara and Britain's Ben Swift to claim the biggest victory of his career.

"It's amazing," said Swift. "I only found out I was doing San Remo two weeks ago. I felt good all day. It's just a shame that I got a bit boxed in in the sprint."

Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory in the 2009 race but he could not repeat the achievement as he just came up short in the final metres, crossing the line in fifth place.

Gent-Wevelgem - Sunday, 30 March

John Degenkolb

John Degenkolb saw off a late challenge from 2013 champion Peter Sagan to win at Gent-Wevelgem

Germany's John Degenkolb outpaced Frenchman Arnaud Demare and defending champion Peter Sagan in a bunch sprint after a breakaway group was caught within the final kilometre.

Victory at Gent-Wevelgem, the first of the spring "cobbled classics", is the biggest one-day win in Degenkolb's career to date.

Team Sky's British rider Geraint Thomas, who came third as Sagan won the E3 Harelbeke two days earlier, crashed in the final stages and placed 112th.

Tour of Flanders - Sunday, 6 April

Fabian Cancellara (centre) celebrates winning the 2014 Tour of Flanders

Cancellara (centre) beat Belgians Greg van Avermaet (left) and Sep Vanmarcke in a thrilling sprint finish

Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara successfully defended his title to become just the sixth man to win three Tour of Flanders races.

The 33-year-old outwitted three Belgians in a sprint for the line after initially making his move on the third and final ascent of the cobbled Oude Kwaremont with 17km remaining.

Team Sky's Geraint Thomas, who was in touch for much of the race, could not follow Cancellara's move but was the first British rider to finish, in eighth.

Paris-Roubaix - Sunday, 13 April

Niki Terpstra

Terpstra finished fifth and third in the previous two editions of Paris-Roubaix

Niki Terpstra won the prestigious Paris-Roubaix one-day race as British duo Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins finished in a group 20 seconds adrift.

Dutchman Terpstra broke clear in the last 10km of the 257km race in northern France which featured 28 cobbled sections and finished in an outdoors velodrome.

Team Sky's Thomas and Wiggins finished seventh and ninth respectively after being beaten in the sprint finish for the podium places by German John Degenkolb and three-time winner Fabian Cancellara.

Amstel Gold - Sunday, 20 April

Philippe Gilbert with the 2014 Amstel Gold trophy

Gilbert won the 2012 world road race title in a contest that also finished after an ascent of the Cauberg

Philippe Gilbert broke clear on the final climb of the day to claim his third Amstel Gold victory.

The Belgian rider finished ahead of countryman Jelle Vanendert after a decisive burst of pace on the race's fourth ascent of the Cauberg - a 1200m climb with a maximum gradient of 12%.

Australia's Simon Gerrans was third.

La Fleche Wallonne - Wednesday, 23 April

Alejandro Valverde

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde timed his attack to perfection on the gruelling Mur de Huy to win the Belgian race for the second time.

The Movistar team leader passed Ireland's Dan Martin and Pole Michal Kwiatkowski in the final 200 metres of the 199.5km Belgian Spring Classic.

Britain's Ben Swift and Josh Edmondson, and Pete Kennaugh of the Isle of man - all with team Sky - did not finish.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege - Sunday, 27 April

Simon Gerrans

Simon Gerrans became Australia's first Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner with a sprint finish in the final Spring Classic of 2014.

The 33-year-old Orica rider outsprinted Alejandro Valverde and Michal Kwiatkowski to clinch the 100th edition of the one-day race.

"It's an incredible victory, it's a dream come true," said Gerrans, who won Milan-San Remo in 2012.