Review: Classic Cycling Race Routes: The Toughest 52 European Challenges

 

Classic Cycling Race Routes

The Toughest 52 European Challenges
by Chris Sidwells

Reviewed by Nick Dey

Classic Cycling Race Routes: The Toughest 52 European Challenges - By Chris Sidwells

Published: 15th October 2013

£25 hardback

AA Publishing in association with Garmin

An inspiring book to read and then to ride… if you dare!

This inspiring hardback book presents a selection of the most challenging and rewarding routes for road and racing cyclists. From the South Downs Epic and Tour of the Peak in the UK, to Paris-Roubaix in France and Tour of Flanders in Belgium, from Gruyere Cycling Tour in Switzerland and Tour of Lombardy in Italy to the San Sebastian Classic in Spain, this book is the ultimate motivation for cyclists who want to push themselves to the next level.

The fifty-two classic European cycling routes – one ride for each week of the year – selected to appear in this weighty A4 hard backed tome of well over two-hundred pages cater for the aspiring and experienced cyclist as well as those more romantically inclined, inspired as they are by the epic routes raced by the legends of the sport.

Experience an example… The Retro Ronde.The routes have derived their inspiration from the many professional races as well as the ever growing mass-participation events, the cyclosportives. Indeed the twenty-four routes that cover the UK and Ireland are exclusively ‘sportive in scope.  I’m ashamed to report that I have ridden only one … but can vouch for the books accuracy; I was indeed Flat Out in the Fens! Several of the European events feature in the World Cycling Tour: an age group series in which participants have the chance to qualify for and compete in an age-group final. You, yes you, could become a World Champion!

 

Route 34, pp148-150, covers the outstanding Retro Ronde*

I rode this in 2013 and am happy to state without hyperbole that it is my absolute favourite cycling experience, second to none – full review coming soon to Cycling Shorts (Ed. I promise!)

 

Here I am… climbing ‘The Wall’ Retro Ronde 2013

Here I am… climbing ‘The Wall’ Retro Ronde 2013

 

In the book the route distance is correctly stated as 100 km (I managed 112 km but did get myself lost taking in a few extra Heligen!) but the total climbing was very different to my experience. The book states 525 m however I managed 1200 m. To be fair to the author the organisers fine tune their route each year – and I did do the extra cobbled climbs! All the other information is accurate and succeeds in conveying the flavour of the experience. For experience the Retro Ronde certainly is! I shall be back every year – or as long as the old bike, and even older legs will allow. If you do plan on riding try to make a long weekend of it. The ‘Crit’, ahem, racing on the Saturday is wholly authentic yet rather tongue in cheek, and well worth the entry fee of €5!

Posing for the official photo at the start… the atmosphere was the best I have experienced.

Posing for the official photo at the start… the atmosphere was the best I have experienced.

 

So how does this fine book present the information?

The book in a nutshell …

  • 52 European cyclosportive and Grand Tour routes
  • Full-colour route maps with directions and elevation profiles
  • Advice on ride strategies and techniques
  • Tips on training, appropriate clothing, nutrition and fitness
  • All routes are available to download for your GPS cycling computer
  • Routes cover the UK & Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.

The author suggests the reader takes two possible approaches, both of which allow them to make full use of the route information. The first, and Sidwells strongly suggests this as the most preferable avenue, is to take part in the official event for each route (if there is one) as, and I can only concur with him in this respect, …
“…the atmosphere and camaraderie of these events, where thousands of like-minded souls take part, all enjoying doing something they love, is incredible.”
Additionally, there is also more than enough information within the book to allow you to ride each route, or your own variation of it, independently of the official event and at any time of year. Words to the wise… check before you leave that roads are open!
Each route is clearly described and supported with often fascinating background information along with tantalising titbits of history; and who amongst us hasn’t unleashed the inner child and ridden a classic imagining the spectres of the greats; Coppi, Bobbet, Garin, et al, riding alongside?
There are maps and directions for each route, including profiles that clearly indicate where each hill is located along with rather useful yet often unsettling detail on how long and steep they are! The ever useful height gain is also presented.
In the words of the author, Chris Sidwells, “Enjoy the book, use it for planning and setting objectives, but above all get out and ride these routes. They represent some of the finest cycling experiences you could ever have.”
Classic Cycling Routes in a little more detail …
The introduction is extensive and covers three very important pre-ride requisites: Basic equipment – your bike, creating a training plan, and challenge-ride nutrition. There is a lot of very useful information here ranging from how to best use a GPS device (by Garmin) to the basics of creating a training plan.
The two-hundred pages devoted to the fifty two Race Routes traverse Europe through seven countries but with the majority set in the UK and Ireland.

The UK & Ireland section contains twenty-four routes, as listed below:
Etape Caledonia
The Cyclone
The Fred Whitton Challenge
Etape Pennines
The Ryedale Rumble
Etape du Dales
The Cheshire Cat
Tour of the Peak
The Shropshire Mynd
Flat Out in the Fens
Hell of the North Cotswolds
The Ups and Downs
The Lionheart
The New Forest Epic
The South Downs Epic
The Tour of Wessex
The Exmoor Beast
The Dartmore Classic
Cornwall Tor
Etape Cymru
The Dragon Ride
The Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive
Tour of Sligo
Malin to Mizen

France:
Paris-Roubaix Challenge
Paris-Tours
Megève Mont Blanc
L’Ardéchoise Marathon
La Marmotte
Cinglés du Ventoux
Etape du Tour 2010

Belgium:
Tour of Flanders
Gent-Wevelgem
Retro Ronde
Grand Fondo Eddy Merckx
Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Holland
The Amstell Gold Race

Germany:
Vattenfall Cyclassics
Switzerland
Gruyére Cycling Tour
Alpenbrevet Platinum Tour

Italy:
Tour of Lombardy
Milan-San Remo
A Stage of the Tour of Italy
La Leggendaria Charly Gaul
Maratona dles Dolomites
La Pinarello Cycling Marathon
L’Eroica

Spain:
San Sebastian Classic
Quebrantahuesos
Val d’Aran Cycling Tour
A Stage of the Vuelta
La Pico del Veleta

Don’t forget… all routes in this book can be downloaded to your Garmin (the Edge 800 in my case) from the AA website.

AA Website

In conclusion…

As the book itself says, ‘the classic race routes selected here are not for the faint-hearted. Based on the best cyclosportive events in Europe and on stages of Grand Tours, they are much more than just pretty rides in the country. The fifty-two routes are serious mental and physical challenges (in the case of the Retro Ronde… the liver is called upon to do its bit too!) that require training and preparation. Yet each is accessible and achieved by many thousands of amateur cyclists each year.

Classic Cycling Race Routes allows you to cycle these rides at any time, either as preparation for the race events, or for the sheer joy and exhilaration of the challenge. For those rides that don’t have a dedicated cyclosportive route, the author has designed a ride a ride to reflect the demands and history of the race.

Each route contains a map with directions and an elevations and an elevation profile, and Chris Sidwells provides an overview combining ride strategy and techniques with the history of the race.

Practical and aspirational, Classic Cycling Race Routes will inspire a new generation of cyclists to push themselves to the extreme. You never know, the next Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish or Sir Bradley Wiggins may well be among them!

One for the rider as well as the reader + GPS routes = 100% Awarded our Star Buy Rating!
Cycling Shorts Star Rating Classic Cycling Race Routes By Chris Sidwells
Reviewed by: Nichiless ‘Nicky’ Dey.
Neunkirchen-Seelscheid, Germany


About the author

Chris Sidwells is an internationally-respected British cycling journalist and author, with nine books on cycling, ranging from biography through fitness and training to bike repair. His Complete Bike Book has been translated into twenty-four languages, and his Bike Repair Manual is about to reach its fifth edition. Tour Climbs and Race for Madmen were best sellers in their genre. His The Official Tour de France Recordshas the backing of Le Tour Itself. Most recently he has published The Long Race for Glory: How the British Came to Rule the Cycling World… the next book to be reviewed on Cycling Shorts. Chris’s words and photographs have graced the pages of Britain’s best-selling cycling  magazine Cycling Weekly (indeed he seems to appear in every issue,) and in all issues of Cycle Sport and Cycling Active, along with Cycling Fitness. He has also been published in Men’s Fitness, Cycling Plus, GQ, Running Fitness and the Sunday Times. Phew!

 

 

Tables Turn – The Pro Cyclist Interviews the Super Fan

L to R: Andy’s Dad, Andy Corkill & Ben Swift

Tom Murray chats to Andy Corkill

 

The 2012 Tour of Britain is set to be the best and most supported one ever, thanks to a hugely successful Olympic Games and a certain achievement of Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky in the Tour de France you may have to fight for your spot on the roadside to watch it!

One of those you can guarantee will be on the road side this year is Andy Corkill. Andy along with his dad has followed the Tour of Britain in its trip around the country each year since it took to our roads again in 2004. That’s not just a stage here and there but each stage each year.

In fact Andy is in danger of achieving fame at this rate. He isn’t hard to pick out along the route thanks to his ever present hat, which travel along during to the race too. In fact he is recognisable too much of the organisation, teams and even riders now, I spotted Andy myself while riding in the 2012 Tour Series crit easy enough. Who better to ask then for the fans opinion on the 2012 edition, than perhaps the most recognisable fan out there than Andy himself?

 

Andy, the 2012 Tour of Britain is upon us, are you ready for another hectic 10 days? And is your dad; someone you say on your own blog isn’t much of a cycling fan on board for another lap of the country?

I’m not sure, I am never ready for the start of the race, I have good intentions when the route is announced and have a grand scheme to plan where we are going to be on the side of the road, but it always arrives quicker than expected.  I always end up the night before a stage planning my route.

You are right; my Dad isn’t a cycling fan. He never follows what’s happening throughout the year, but he always attends events with me. He still says he doesn’t understand the racing and it goes too fast for him to pick out anybody. He loves the atmosphere at races and being with his son!

I always say it, but I must thank my wife who puts up with me disappearing to races all year and leaving her at home with the kids. Thanks Jo.

 

What do you most enjoy about following the race around?

I just love being there; I like the racing and the way it all works. Guess I’m nosy and being there every day allows you to see glimpses of what happens behind the scenes. It is so far removed from my day to day work sitting in front of a computer.

It may sound strange but driving is another part of it. I love driving and would drive all day every day. So if any team out there needs a driver get in touch!

 

The hotels, same as the riders or tucked away in a corner?

We always stay as near to the start as we can so there isn’t much driving first thing in a morning. We have never stayed in the same hotel as the riders, I’m sure the last thing they need at dinner or breakfast is fans leering at them.

I decided a long time ago that riders, NEG, police and the organisers had their own jobs to do and I’m not going to interrupt them. If people want to talk to us that’s fine, but I don’t ever want to be in the way.

 

You and your dad have become part of the race in a way now, back in 2004 when you when all this started did you see it going this far? 

When we first went in 2004 I had no intention of attending every stage again, it just grew into a life of its own.

It has been fantastic to see the event grow into the world class race it is now. It has established itself as a great race and is run at a perfect time to sharpen up for the world championships.

The number of spectators have grown year on year and this year, after the successes Britain has had, will be amazing. I’m worried that I may not get a good viewing spot at the finishes this year, there are going to be huge crowds.

 

The hat’s, we had to ask why and when did that happen? 

We started wearing the hats in 2007 so my older children could see us on the TV. I must admit, we used to be a bit embarrassed about it. We used to carry them until we got to the finish line, now they are the first thing on when we get out of the car.  It has been fun wearing them; we get recognised every day and have been asked for photo’s and once an autograph.

 

…and this year, a new design or the old faithful?

Old faithful. We have discussed a different one for next year for the tenth running of the race, but no decision yet.

 

So the 2012 edition…

 

Who are you most looking forward to catching a word/photo with on the race this year?

Rider wise, it’s got to be Bradley. But my youngest children’s favourite riders will not be riding the event, Tom Murray and Malcolm Elliott, they have never seen Malcolm racing as they are only 4 & 6, but fans of both men.

Other than that my son will think I’m the coolest if I get a picture with Kristian House.

 

Give us a prediction?… British winner this year maybe? 

As Cav has already had a stage race victory this year, maybe this could be one for him. I think Brad would ride for him to win the Gold Jersey.

 

Where will the race be won, do you see a crucial stage in there?

I think the final selection will be made in Wales and Devon. I know lumpy roads don’t suit Cav but he could find the legs especially with the support of Sky.

 

Who is going to bring the IG Markets gold Jersey home and win overall on in Guildford? 

Heart says Sky, head says Ivan Basso.

I have never been any good at picking winners except the year of 2009 with 3 predications right. That was Boasson Hagen’s year.

 

Keep up to date with Andy throughout this year’s Tour of Britain and beyond at www.corkadillo.co.uk

 

 

Thanks to Andy for his thoughts on the 2012 Tour of Britain, keep an eye on cycling shorts for more on the race.

 

Tom Murray

@tomminty

www.tommurraycycling.co.uk

Pro Cyclist for Team IG-Sigmasport

 

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