Inside the Tour of Flanders, the World’s Toughest Bike Race
By Edward Pickering
The Tour of Flanders – known to cycling fans as The Ronde – is the biggest one day cycling race in the world.
It is a potent mix of grit, cobbles, steep climbs, narrow roads, national pride, beer, brutal weather and the maddest, most passionate fans in the sport.
Every April, up to a million fanatical cycling fans line the streets of Flanders to watch one of cycling’s most exciting and dangerous one-day races unfold. This race is the Ronde van Vlaanderen, more commonly known as The Ronde.
Such is the winding complexity of the race route that many thousands of fans enthusiastically engage in a game of the chaotically mad Belgium-Hopscotch; dashing from roadside to roadside in the hope of glimpsing their hero’s as they fly past in a whirlwind of colour. Flanders is cycling’s heartland, and the followers of cycling are among the most passionate and knowledgeable. The race itself is characterised by a series of short, steep narrow climbs, often over slippery cobbles that can and do send many a cyclist tumbling.
The Ronde though is so much more than a bike race.
The race is, as Pickering explains in this beautifully written book, inseparable from the landscape, and the people who inhabit Flanders. In writing this book Pickering has undertaken a pilgrimage of sorts. He not only provides an exciting in-depth account of the race but also entwines and enriches this sporting behemoth with an assessment on how the geography, history, culture, politics, and so much more, come to form such a vital part of Flemish identity. It is clear from the book that the race itself defines Flanders as much as Flanders defines the race. Pickering also reveals why The Ronde is such a tough race to master, one that has been targeted by the all-powerful Team Sky, but yet still remains beyond their reach. If only Team Sky had stopped trying to control every variable and ‘G’ had focused on the classics … sigh… what could have been!
This book is about cycling in its purest and most compelling form.
It wasn’t a race but a war game
Bernard ‘The Badger’ Hinault
Without question, the hardest one-day bike race ever created
The Ronde is exquisitely written and its style, at least to me, is fascinating. It a mosaic of race history, anecdotes, interviews, geography, sociology, economics, politics, culture, you name it and it’s in there. If this sounds daunting, please don’t be put off as it is magically interwoven by the golden thread of the 2011 race. Won, of course by Nick Nuyens (I was there to witness this most unexpected victory thanks to Nico and his Go4cycling.com team, and The Ronde brought back so many marvellous memories.)
A lucky snap I took from the 2011 race – Nick Nuyens, the eventual winner, is in second place here.
Interview with the author: Edward Pickering.
Late one evening, just prior to publication, I was fortunate enough to grab moment of Edward Pickering’s time to discuss the book.
As Edward stated ‘….The structure of the book is based around the 2011 race, and the chapters are the climbs as they appeared. it’s not just a blow-by-blow account of the races.’ He continues, ‘for each climb I’ve also branched out and incorporated things that have happened throughout the history of the race. So, although you could see the book as a history of the tour of Flanders it’s as much a geography of the race. In each chapter there are tangents into the history of the race… or the culture… or the geography… or the sociology… or the people of Flanders… or whatever context best served the story.’
Pickering is clearly passionate about Belgium and The Ronde.
‘I don’t think you can fully understand The Tour of Flanders unless you have an appreciation of Flanders itself as a historical, political and sociological entity, and why the race is linked to all of this. The race itself is an expression of Flemish geographical pride. To understand why this is so you have to have an appreciation of the history of the region.’
(Full interview will be published shortly on CS.)
Pickering further develops the story by interspersing each chapter with interviews and anecdotes from the main protagonists. The book is enriched by this testimony and the riders motivation for racing along with how their strategies evolved, and how they faced victory, or more often than not, crushing defeat is at times visceral. In places it’s a thriller, a real page turner.
To give you a hint of the riders mindset here’s the list, penned by Nick Nuyens and his sports psychologist, on the eve of the 2011 race;
Understanding the road/wriggling.
Knowledge (parcours & tactics).
Very hard race.
Never give up/perseverance.
Good legs needed to go hard.
To find out more – and to glimpse how and why the races unfolded as they did – read this wonderful book about the world’s greatest race. Unleash your inner Flandrian: the ten-commandments on how to be a Flandrian are revealed within: You will not regret it.
CyclingShorts.cc rating 10/10 …buy this superb book, read it, and enjoy watching The Ronde.
A pocket guide to 50 great rides off the beaten track in Britain
by Chris Sidwell
A. Reviewer: Nichiless Dey. European Cycling correspondent, physics teacher and cyclist of little renown!
i. For Anna ‘The Boss’ Magrath: CyclingShorts.cc (as, ahem, promised, he types sheepishly!)
A wildly inspiring adventure – from armchair to saddle
This book provides the perfect inspiration for you, the armchair-adventurer, to dream, to plan and to venture forth along the oft-hidden tracks, lanes & trails that crisscross much of Britain’s hidden and endlessly varied countryside.
What is Wild Cycling? I’ll let the author describe his vision. ‘… [wild cycling] can be a lot of things, from short ambles through country lanes, to … adventures in a far-off wilderness. For this renowned cycling author though, it specifically means ‘using bridleways, trails, and tiny lanes to explore [the British] countryside.’
Wild Cycling covers the whole of mainland Britain and is packed with looped routes suitable for all cyclists; be you a beginner with a yearning for childhood escapades or a hardened explorer, ruddy of cheek and windswept of beard. You will be, I can guarantee, inspired to don the day pack and head out into the wild and stunningly picturesque scenery that fills the British mainland. Who knew that there was so much to explore on two wheels in this seemingly concrete, car fixated jungle.
Wild cycling encompasses all types of cycling adventure. As the book states, you will be guided along ‘short ambles through country lanes to off-the-grid bike adventures in a [not-so-far-off] wilderness’.
The fifty off-the-beaten-track rides are presented in full colour with the OS Landranger grid referenced start/finish point tabulated above the most accessible location name along with ride distance (km & miles), highest point (m) and approximate ride time (hours). There is a wonderfully descriptive yet pragmatic route commentary supported by the ever-popular snap-shot route map and elevation profile. The map is annotated and contains pointers to several easily spotted landmarks that will help guide you confidently on your way. It also indicates where the trail heads skywards – ever a worry for me!
These tracks are in no way prescriptive, indeed many offer additional loop suggestions, again embedded in the commentary, that may add further life to your day of exploration.
Wild Cycling covers the British mainland in ten chapters and fifty routes. It begins with a very useful piece on what you need. A cyclocross bike is Chris’s recommendation, however anything other than a high-end carbon racing beast will most probably do. Tyre choice will be your biggest decision and the book contains tried and tested suggestions. Having ridden three of these routes (34, 37 & 39*) I can personally vouch for the accuracy and usefulness of the advice given. The final eight chapters neatly cover the country with between five and ten detailed routes for each region: The South & East, The South & West, Wales, The Midlands, The North (lots in Yorkshire!), The North-West, The North-East, and Scotland. The routes vary in length from less than ten to more than fifty miles, with most hovering in the twenty-to-thirty-mile zone. The trail surface and elevation… well, I wouldn’t wish to detract from your sense of discovery so I’ll let you find out yourself. It will be a magical journey.
*Huge thanks to the lady and her dog who found my Garmin on route 37 and waited patiently for me to ride back, in a state of panic.
In summary… From Chalk Cliffs and Curious Sound Mirrors in the south-east to Cape Wrath in the [glorious] north-west, the purity, beauty and essential wildness of these rides will ensure that over the years many of them will become classic – even legendary – cycling challenges. In the meantime, you will have a great deal of healthy and happy adventures. May you be blessed by tailwinds and blue skies as the beauty of Britain rolls out around you!
CyclingShorts.cc rating 10/10… one for the Christmas list too.
Out now in Paperback
About the Author of Wild Cycling
Chris Sidwells is a renowned cycling journalist, photographer and editor who appears regularly in Cycling Weekly, and as a cycling pundit for several BBC local radio stations, including BBC Radio Sheffield during the Tour de Yorkshire. He has written seventeen books on cycling, covering every aspect of the sport and has contributed to, amongst others, Men’s Fitness, GQ, The Sunday Times, and The Guardian.
Cycling Shorts unleashes Santa’s Little Helpers.
Yes the panic is setting in, so much to get organised and so little time, so we’ve all got together to give you a list of gift ideas that won’t disappoint the fussiest cyclist or cycling fan in your life.
We’ve split our choices into four perfect price packages, click on the images to be taken to the retailers website.
Wishing you a Merry Festivemas from all at CyclingShorts.cc!
Luigia Zilli, an Italian artiste with a passion for cycling and currently has an exhibition in Ontario, Canada.
I caught up with Luigi to talk about her art, inspiration and hopes.
CyclingShorts: Tell our readers all about your art and why cycling features so prominently in your work?
Luigia Zilli: I love how my paintings bring out happiness in those who are passionate about cycling. I can see the joy they feel when they see my work. It’s priceless.
Freedom, by Luigia Zilli. Oil on canvas
CS: Why cycling?
Luigia: That is one question I have been asked very often; It may be somewhat unusual in a world where visual artists usually depict landscapes or still-life or the human figure, just to mention few of the more common subject matters. I feel that an artist who is true to them self paints what they feel connected to and passionate about. That is who I am. The passion I feel for the sport of cycling and bicycles in general is rooted in my past.
CS: Tell us about your connection to competitive cycling?
Luigia: I grew up around bicycles and competitive cycling. My father and brother were racing cyclists and introduced me to the world of competitive cycling in my early years in Italy. Between training and racing, watching my younger brother race, working for a TV show about cycling and watching grand tours on TV, cycling encompassed my everyday life. I really missed it when it wasn’t there anymore. That’s when I started to paint it. Although I have an interest in several subject matters, bicycles seem to capture my attention most often. Bicycles and cyclists became a muse and an inspiration for creating something which is embedded deep inside of me. I want to share it with others so that they can feel the passion I have expressed in my artwork. I try to immortalize bicycles in the environment that tells their story the best. With cyclists, my intent is to depict motion and facial expression; speed and movement, strain and pain, fatigue and exhilaration, spinning wheels, winding and weaving during their battle on the saddle. My medium of choice is acrylic paint on textured canvas. I apply texture to canvas creating the look of worn out roughness yet exhibiting an equally deep and rich perspective.
CS: It seems that cycling for you goes a little deeper than simple competition?
Luigia: … to me cycling is comparable to life in general in many cases. Like in life, perseverance will lead us to success, it doesn’t matter if now we can’t do it, if we make a mistake, if it’s too hard. Also hard work: that’s one of my favourite mantras. Hard work will result in success, sooner or later.
CS: That is beautifully put and very true. Do you think your art has inspired people to ride?
Luigia: I’m very positive in encouraging people to ride the bicycle. For some, after they start to do it, it becomes really addictive. I grew up in a small town in Italy where it was the most common utilitarian way to move around for people of any age. I have wonderful childhood memories riding the bicycle with my friends, being able to go everywhere in a short time, it really gives you a great sense of freedom. The bicycle, in my opinion, it’s a simple but very attractive machine, it has its own elegance and dynamism. It’s a great invention and I also consider it a symbol and a precious tool for living our future in a clean environment keeping ourselves healthy and happy.
CS: We see you have linked your exhibition to the Pan American Games?
Luigia: About the Pan Am Games, as soon as I knew they were coming to Toronto and they were building the new Velodrome practically next door where I live, I thought it was a good time for an exhibition to target not only cyclists and enthusiasts locally and from all over Canada, but also coming from the other Countries which are participating. During the Pan Am Games every city that hosts has a lot of events organized in celebration of the games and to entertain the public, either local or visiting. My art exhibition will be one of them and my cyclist friends and family are looking forward to it.
CS: Have you any success closer to home in inspiring people to ride more?
Luigia: I started my partner cycling and now he’s the one buying all the technology and gears for the bike, even more than me!
CS: You may well have opened a Pandora’s Box there Luigia! Good luck with all the bikes, components and gear that will slowly yet surely fill your apartment. Thanks ever so much for taking the time to speak to us during what must be a very busy time for you. Thanks also for the generous offer of a signed print competition – one of our loyal readers will surely be a very happy cyclist.
INTRODUCTION OF ‘THE SUFFER PRIZE’ TELLS STORIES
OF EPIC SUFFERING IN EACH ROUND OF WORLD CUP
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is pleased to announce that The Sufferfest will be the Official Sponsor of the UCI Women’s Road World Cup in 2015.
A leading producer of indoor training videos, The Sufferfest has been a sponsor of the UCI since 2010 and of the UCI Women Road World Cup since 2014. It produces highly effective and engaging training videos using footage of professional races, including UCI events.
This year, the UCI and The Sufferfest will step up their collaboration by introducing a unique, new award for the UCI Women’s Road World Cup. At the end of each round of the World Cup, The Suffer Prize presented by The Sufferfest will be awarded to the rider who demonstrated particular determination, courage and suffering to help a teammate, to animate the race or simply to get to the finish line against the odds.
The judging panel will be made up of the TV production team, the Chief Commissaire, the Race Director and the UCI. The concept was extremely well received by riders and team representatives at the UCI Women’s Teams seminar in early March.
“This award is not necessarily about winning the race, but about the Sufferlandrian values of pushing yourself beyond what you thought yourself capable of,” explained The Sufferfest’s Chief Suffering Officer, David McQuillen. He added: “Women’s professional racing is incredibly difficult and tells inspiring stories of effort, sacrifice and resilience. We want to share these stories and The Suffer Prize presented by The Sufferfest is our way of showing how outstanding these athletes are.”
At the end of the season, The Sufferlandrian community will have the chance to vote for the Epic Moment of Suffering experienced by one of the winners of the Suffer Prize. The final winner will receive a $1,000 USD cash prize.
UCI President Brian Cookson commented: “The UCI Women’s Road World Cup is a magnificent showcase for women’s cycling, and I am delighted that The Sufferfest will again be supporting the series in 2015 with this incredibly unique prize. This is a demonstration of their esteem for this exciting and increasingly popular discipline.”
UCI Vice-President, Tracey Gaudry also welcomed the news: “As a former professional cyclist I have witnessed many inspiring demonstrations of courage and gritty determination within the professional women’s peloton. I am delighted that, together with The Sufferfest, we will be able to highlight some of these amazing stories.”
Winners of The Suffer Prize presented by The Sufferfest will be communicated via social media (@UCIWomenCycling & @TheSufferfest). In addition, news and highlights of the races – including an interview with The Suffer Prize presented by The Sufferfest winner – will also be available on the UCI YouTube channel (www.tv.uci.ch) throughout the season.
As the UCI Official Sponsor of the 2015 Women Road World Cup, the Sufferfest will enjoy visibility throughout the season, having kicked off with the Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe in Holland. The winner of The Suffer Prize on that occasion was Orica-AIS rider Lizzie Williams (pictured above), who crashed twice, chased back to the pack twice and then broke her rear derailleur and had to give up, having no further spare bike.
WINNER OF THE FIRST
SUFFER PRIZE PRESENTED BY THE SUFFERFEST
Williams crashed twice and had twomechanicals. She twice battled her way back from the caravan to the bunch before ultimately withdrawing because she was out of bikes to ride. Not only that, after she completed her interview for The Suffer Prize, she discovered that her team had left without her and shewas forced to find her own way home.”It was probably the worst day on the bike that I’ve ever had, but you have to take the good with the bad in this sport. I had a bad day and hopefully tomorrow will be sunshine and no crashes. You’ve got to get back. You can’t give up. If you’re going to give up, you might as well not be here. I’ve come all the way from Australia. I’m not going to give up just because I have a tumble. I got to the front and hit the cobbles tenth wheel, feeling really positive, and 500 metres later myderallieur broke off and snapped into my back wheel. That was the end of my day. I had no bikes left. I had two bikes and they were both broken.”
Yes, OK, so I bought another cycling T-shirt, and cap, and wristband… It was all for a couple of great causes.
This astonishing pop-up exhibition displayed beautifully a collection of vintage and modern bicycles. There were some true legends beautifully displayed here…
Let’s start with…
Tommy Simpson: 30th November 1937 – 13th July 1967. The first British rider to wear the yellow jersey – 1962. Bike frame number 286.
The display was perfect and very peaceful. People stayed with Tom’s bike for long time, often lost in thought.
No records exist for bikes built by Woodrup Cycles before 1973 due to a fire, however both Barry Hoban – the rider, and Ian McLean – the frame builder, have verified it’a authenticity as one of those from the 1960’s finished in Mercier team colours for the Tour de France. Damaged and returned to Woodrup Cycles to be repaired, Jim, an employee at the time, rode it until it was sold to Chris Forbes in Otley. Restored to it’s present glory by Chris it was eventually sold to Bob Garside – who was very generous with his time and told me so much about the history of this beautiful bike and his astonishing collection – in 2010, its current owner. When can I visit, Bob?
Here’s Barry Hoban, dispelling a few myths, interviewed by Ned Boulting in 2012…
Jackson: frame info needed!
Beryl Burton dominated women’s cycle racing in the UK, setting numerous domestic records and as well as winning more than 90 domestic championships along with seven world titles. She set a women’s record for the 12-hour time-trial which exceeded the men’s record for two years!
Burton won the women’s world road race championship in 1960 and 1967, and was runner-up in 1961. On the track she specialised in in the individual pursuit, winning world championship medals almost annually across three decades. She was World Champion five times (1959, 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1966), silver-medallist three times (1961, 1964, and 1968) and took bronze in 1967, 1970 and 1973.
In domestic time-trial competitions, Beryl Burton was almost unbeatable. She won the Road Time Trials Council’s British Best All-Rounder (BBAR) Competition for an astonishing 25 consecutive years from 1959 to 1983. In total she won 72 national individual time-trial titles.
In 1967, she set a new 12-hour time trial record of 277.25 miles – a mark that surpassed the men’s record of the time by 0.73 mile, and was not superseded by a man until 1969! In the process of setting this record she caught and passed Mike McNamara who was on his way to setting the men’s record at 276.52 miles and winning that year’s men’s BBAR!
Beryl Burton also set about 50 new national records at 10, 15, 25, 30, 50 and 100-mile distances; her final 10, 25 and 50 mile records each lasted 20 years before being broken, her 100-mile record lasted 28 years, and her 12-hour record still stands today.
Her prowess led to the rare distinction, for a woman, of an invitation to compete in the Grand Prix des Nations in 1967.
“I don’t feel that I’ve got anything special about me. I’ve just got two legs, two arms and a body, and a heart and lungs.”
7 times World Champion – Beryl Burton, OBE.
Another installment to come, including the legendary and utterly charming Ken Russell, winner of the 1952 Tour of Britain whilst riding as an ‘independent’ (no team), and his Ellis Briggs racing bike.
1952 Tour of Britain winning bike by Ellis-Briggs
Ken, 84 & Renee, Harrogate, July 2014
Ken’s Ellis-Briggs with his 1952 Tour of Britain Winners jersey.
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