by Nick Dey | Mar 7, 2018
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.
Bernard ‘The Badger’ Hinault
It wasn’t a race but a war game
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;
- Small roads.
- Understanding the road/wriggling.
- Knowledge (parcours & tactics).
- Very hard race.
- Never give up/perseverance.
- Good legs needed to go hard.
- Incredible crowd/fans/arena.
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.
Published by Simon & Schuster; 8th March 2018
About the Author of The Ronde
Ed Pickering is one of the UK’s leading cycling writers, having written for a range of publications from Cycling Weekly to the New York Times & Loaded. He is the author of the critically acclaimed The Race Against Time and The Yellow Jersey Club, and is the editor of Procycling magazine.
My sincerest thanks to Ed for allowing me some of his valuable time.
The full interview will feature in the coming weeks as will a report on my attempt to ride the 2018 Ronde Cyclopsortive (don’t tell my oncologist!)
Nichiless K Dey
European Cycling Correspondent
European Cycling correspondent, physics & chemistry teacher and cyclist of little renown! (his words, in truth he is a cycling god!).
Enthusiast & Optimist-ish!
by Nick Dey | Sep 25, 2017
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.
My thanks to Beth Wright of The Little Brown Book Group for providing my copy of the book.
European Cycling Correspondent
European Cycling correspondent, physics & chemistry teacher and cyclist of little renown! (his words, in truth he is a cycling god!).
Enthusiast & Optimist-ish!
by Hayley Davies | Nov 22, 2014
As the popularity of cycling has risen, so to have the number of cycling books to hit our selves. From the art and beauty of the bike, essential maintenance, the must-ride climbs and biographies from the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Get On Your Bike is a handy, almost pocket sized guide to cycling as an exercise. Written by three well known people in the industry, Rebecca Charlton (as seen on our TV screens), Robert Hicks (Cycling Weekly, Cycling Fitness and Cycling Active writer) and Hannah Reynolds (Editor at Cycling Weekly), GOYB sets out to help define why cycling is great exercise and how to find the happy medium with your bike, regardless of what type it may be.
Who’s the book for?
Unlike most ‘cycling as fitness’ books, Get On Your Bike clearly states from the outset it isn’t a traditional fitness manual – there are no standard dietary plans or fitness regimes. Instead, it sets out to identify ways of losing weight and keeping fit through our love of riding the bike in every day situations, perfect for those just starting out, or as the intersecting case studies demonstrate, those that have found their way back to the bike after illness, injury or life getting in the way.
What will you learn?
The first third of the book sets out to identify how to buy the right bike and gear for you, from how to set up your position on the bike, the type of shoes and cleats to suit you, as well as exploring the best ways to find local cycle routes.
The middle section covers the safety essentials of cycling, key maintenance and tips on riding to work.
Whilst the latter part of the book moves onto fitness focus, starting with weight loss and nutrition, mental stability, health and finally how to manage injury.
I think it’s easy to forget that we were all new to cycling at one point. I remember clearly how lost I was when I first got my road bike, searching YouTube videos on how to set up the cleats on my shoes, or even how to simply work the gears on my new toy! I was a little clueless, as I’m sure many who are picking up a new hobby are.
Built on short sections, it’s an easy to read guide. And new to cycling or not, it’s a great reminder that we’re not alone and why we all love to cycle. Would make a great Christmas Stocking filler for any budding cyclist in the family.
Rating: 75% out of 100
Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
by Fred Bamforth | Oct 4, 2014
The secret of Autobiography Publishing is timing and by and large thanks to Ms Cooke’s former colleagues at British Cycling her timing has been made perfect, Future editions of this book will contain a big ‘thankyou’ for proving her right. Shortly after publication the BC squads for the World Championship were presented, without an entrant for the Female Time Trial, an Olympic event, detailing the wholesale lack of strategy employed by them, and this lack of ‘Joined Up Thinking’ becomes the main theme as Nicole scales her way to the top.
This book could really have had the more Chauceresque title of ‘A Tale of Two Millars’ as Little Nicole begins her interest in cycling as a sport after watching Robert Millar in the Alps but ends with the sad realisation that shamed drug cheat David Millar was, despite his lies and falsehoods, still holding sway in the sport, even after his unmasking, still operating in GB Team colours alongside a then in form Ms Cooke, getting better attention and help and unlike Nicole not coming up with the goods.
It is this and many other inequalities and inequities that Nicole lists throughout her career captured for the first time in print. The term ‘Autobiography’ is a smidge misleading here as the basis of this tome is a small amount of Childhood preamble which is fairly cut & paste from most riders of the pre ‘Deep section wheel/Di2/Carbon everything’ generation seeing Nicole make do and mend with ‘hand me down’ equipment, ‘money was tight but we had fun while all the other kids had better bikes etc’, before hitting the world of Pro Cycling hard at the ripe old age of 16…. Anyone looking for an in depth opening into the life of Nicole will be disappointed as once she gets into big time Cycling she enters a storyline of training, over training, more training and some racing. We are treated to many blow by blow accounts of her battles with riders all round the world which if you and I related would sound like a massive name dropping session but to Nicole it was another day at the office. This underlines the level she operated on and provides the mystery of the piece which is why British Cycling could never [despite her success] use her as a blueprint to help bring on other female British talent. The biggest giveaway is that for Nicole to break into the British squad is that she needed legal help from such a young age. The resulting Race CV generated over the next years is testimony that most of her methods were correct and should have been studied better.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of the book is the endless list of riders, especially on the Welsh cycling Union side, that are messed about and rejected. Money, not talent, is always the issue and the list of these casualties mounts as the book goes on. This is counterpointed by the all too present reality that the names behind the scenes, actually drawing a living wage are mostly the same, highlighting the double standards on quality control that exists. These rejected riders were mostly lost to the sport, showing the lack of vision these bodies and teams have, a sport cannot be sustainable if only the tiniest elite element is cared for.
Without providing too many spoilers Ms Cooke’s biggest battles are behind the scenes, off the bike tussles, with a nebulous array of Welsh Cycling Union, British Cycling and assorted team staff (sometimes a crossover of all the above), which as the book develops give rise to the concept that cycling in Britain is more than heavily male dominated and even in the Lottery cash boom time that exists; the backup of Female coaches for the talented female riders is non-existent. Some of the names listed as being obstructive will surprise, leaving you thinking, ‘What him?? I thought he was a good guy??!!’, Ms Cooke is not afraid to mention these people which underpins her reputation for honesty. To offset any negativity this provides she does however always give praise to when and where it was required throughout her career.
The book offers a few frustrations, we know how Nicole’s career ends but there is no reference to where she goes now or what she would like to do with her time. But it serves as an apt wake-up call for the cycling scene in Britain that action is still needed to bolster the female side of the sport and take advantage of a boom time for women’s sport.
Cycling Shorts gives The Breakaway by Nicole Cooke 91% earning it our Star Buy rating.
Don’t forget to ether our competition to win a signed copy of Nicole’s book. Click here to enter.
The Breakaway by Nicole Cooke is published by Simon & Schuster UK (31 July 2014)
Available in Hardback & Digital: RRP £20.00
by Nick Dey | Apr 21, 2014
The Pain and the Glory
The official team sky diary of the Giro campaign and Tour victory
Introduction by… Sir Dave Brailsford & Chris Froome
Words by Sarah Edworthy, Photography by Scott Mitchell
Cast your mind back to Team Sky’s annus mirabilis. Its 2012 and the halcyon day’s of Wiggo’s dominance in the stage races cumulating in victory in the Tour de France and yet another Olympic gold, this time in the time trial. Every pedal stroke of which, you’ll recall, was chronicled in the rather good ’21 Day’s to Glory’.
Now comes this 2013 Grand Tour journal charting the ups, downs, plan A’s, plan B’s, the tragedies, the triumphs and inner working’s of Team Sky.
The Pain and the Glory delves deep into Team Sky’s attempt to win the double: the 2013 Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. This is a book in two-parts and is generally chronological.
It opens with a well written introduction from Sir Dave and quickly leaps straight into the Giro and Sky’s charge for victory through Bradley Wiggins – remember all the talk, Nibali or Wiggins – and their eventual re-structuring and plan-B second place in GC with Rigoberto Uran. The ‘second half’ of the book covers the Tour and Chris Froome’s gradual deconstruction of the other main GC contenders. Geraint Thomas’ epic ride through of pain will long live in the memory – a legend tales root.
The Pain and the glory has a real fly-on-the-wall feel to it. Although it does leave one or two crucial question unasked – as you’d expect from an internally employed team of professional journalists. The book rally excels in the unusual layers of detail about each and every stage. All supplemented beautifully by the Scott Mitchell’s sublime photography and enriched by input from the all the main protagonists – Wiggin’s, Froome, Uran, Thomas (he of the fractured pelvis in stage 1… This man is one tough dude!), Stannard, et al. It also allows an insight into to the oft hidden, but absolutely vital, work of the mechanics, medical staff, cooks and families.
This is the very official account of a tumultuous yet ultimately successful year in the life of one of the leading professional road cycling teams. Kudos to Sarah Edwards for generating such a flowing narrative.
Marginal gains on the road… Massive gains in reader experience: the book is accompanied by a fascinating commentary from the team players, photographers and writers. Just download the free Livebooks App from The App store or Google Play, scan the photo’s with the livebook symbol and sit back and listen. This really works and is highly effective in enriching and enlightening. I found the chats about photography, framing and choice, artistic and highly educational.
CyclingShorts Star Rating: 80/100 (9 if Team Sky ran a women’s team!)
YOU CAN WIN A COPY IN OUR LATEST COMPETITION – JUST CLICK HERE!
The Pain and the Glory: the official team sky diary of the Giro campaign and Tour victory
Exclusive – with accompanying Team Sky podcast Apps
Harper Collins – Non Fiction on 17th October 2013
Available in Hardback & eBook
RRP £20.00 (Hardback) RRP £13.39 (Digital)
by Carley Brierley | Apr 18, 2014
Racing Weight Cookbook
Lean, Light Recipes for Athletes
by Matt Fitzgerald & Georgie Fear
Matt Fitzgerald and Georgie Fear have come together to produce ‘The Racing Weight Cookbook for Athletes’. This book is aimed at endurance athletes, giving you the tools and knowledge to improve your diet, to fuel performance for training and racing. It’s all about obtaining your optimal racing weight through healthy eating, within the requirements of your bodies needs. It explains that conventional diets are no good for endurance athletes.
I’ve read the pre cursor to this book ‘Racing Weight: How to get lean for peak performance’ so was really interested to see what this book had to offer.
The book is also very cleverly aimed at different kinds of cooks. Those that can’t cook, those that can cook a little and those of us who love cooking. So even if you love cooking but don’t have time, you can use the ‘can’t cook’ section.
As both a coach and an athlete I was very interested to see if the cookbook would enhance what the first book delivered and it certainly does that.
There is a brief outline about the first book, but there is enough information for you not to need to read it. It’s easy to follow and won’t take you long to get started, a definite plus!
This book is really good for those of us who have never managed to stick to a diet for longer than a few weeks, that’s because it is not a diet book. It gives you lots of tips and tricks to get the energy you need without overeating, tips for swapping foods and best of all, lots of recipes. It looks at how many carbohydrates your body needs, dependant on your weight and the amount of hours you are training for. There is also a handy table that can help you score the quality of the food you are currently eating. It’s very easy to follow, which was great for me as I do tend to get bored very quickly.
I have to say the recipes are amazing and the pictures make the recipes look appetising. I particularly liked the chocolate peanut butter banana shake as a post workout meal. Eating post workout is something I struggle with, but this was a great recipe, easy to make and super quick to drink. Plus and I always think this the seller… it tastes great!! Really, it does!
I’ve also had a go at one of their Granola recipes, wow, honestly I have been bowled over by every recipe I’ve tried.
One thing about recipe books though, which I do dislike, besides the American measures, is the need to buy things that most people don’t have in their store cupboard. So essentially it’s all about planning and shopping.
I pondered over whether a club cyclist would buy a book like this or whether it was specifically aimed at competing athletes. On reflection, everybody who spends quite a lot of time on their bikes would benefit from this book, you don’t need to be competing, just putting the miles in, so maybe the title ‘Racing Weight’ will marginalise sales of this book.
Would I buy it? As a coach? Yes I would, as an athlete? Yes definitely. Would I recommend this book? Without a doubt.
The Racing Weight Cookbook gets a Cycling Shorts Star Buy Rating!
Author: Matt Fitzgerald and Georgie Fear
Published by VeloPress
Available in Paperback
Price: RRP £16.95 or $24.95
You must be logged in to post a comment.