Classic Cycling Race Routes
The Toughest 52 European Challenges
by Chris Sidwells
Reviewed by Nick Dey
Published: 15th October 2013
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
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.
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:
The Fred Whitton Challenge
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 New Forest Epic
The South Downs Epic
The Tour of Wessex
The Exmoor Beast
The Dartmore Classic
The Dragon Ride
The Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive
Tour of Sligo
Malin to Mizen
Megève Mont Blanc
Cinglés du Ventoux
Etape du Tour 2010
Tour of Flanders
Grand Fondo Eddy Merckx
The Amstell Gold Race
Gruyére Cycling Tour
Alpenbrevet Platinum Tour
Tour of Lombardy
A Stage of the Tour of Italy
La Leggendaria Charly Gaul
Maratona dles Dolomites
La Pinarello Cycling Marathon
San Sebastian Classic
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.
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!
Reviewed by: Nichiless ‘Nicky’ Dey.
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 Records’ has 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!
SCCU Good Friday Meeting
Herne Hill Velodrome, Burbage Road, SE24 9HE : 29 March 2013
Marcel Kalz at Good Friday picture ©Paul Wright
Top International riders competing at the historic Good Friday meeting this year are Sprinter Robert Forstemann, Six Day riders Christian Grasmann, Marcel Kalz, Leif Lampater, Nico Hesslich (all Germany) & Manuel Cazzaro (Italy).
Andy Tennant (Madison Genesis) is the leading British rider supported by Dominic Jelfs.
Team Raleigh have a strong presence with Evan Oliphant, Tom Scully and Sam Witmitz. Peter Mitchell, winner of the Open Sprint for the last two years is hoping to make it three in a row.
Live commentary will be provided by David Harmon. Paralympic stars Jody Cundy and Jon-Allan Butterworth are also competing and newly crowned World Sprint and World Keirin Champion Becky James will be making a guest appearance, but will not be racing on this occasion.
The Triumph Thunderbird motorbikes will again take to the track. Two British riders, James Holland-Leader and Symon Lewis will compete against riders from Holland, Belgium, France and Germany in the seven man 40 laps Motor paced race.
There are five races for women this year; women’s specific are the Sprint, Keirin and Scratch, and women will take on the men in the 5 Mile and Devil.
The usual SCCU Good Friday favourite races include the White Hope Sprint for up and coming riders, the International Open Sprint with top riders from home and abroad and the Meeting will end with the now classic Golden Wheel 20 k scratch, which boasts a fantastic £1000 for the winner and a further £1000 for the runners up. Last year’s winner, Marcel Kalz from Germany is returning to defend his trophy against a 125 strong field.
Apart from the usual ‘cycle jumble’ stalls there will be Bike Bling and bike related stalls around the Velodrome, plus a Real Ale Bar, proper coffee and hot food outlets. Gates open at 9.30 for spectators. Preliminary races start at 10.30 and the Finals start at 1pm, all being well it should be done by 5.30.
Good Friday By Numbers:
11: The number of countries that riders come from this year (France, Belgium, GB, Holland, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Finland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia),
22: The number of women competing in 2013
57: Hotel beds booked for the Meeting
148: The number of riders in this year’s Meeting
£675: Total Prize money for the Womens events
£1000: First prize for the Golden Wheel 20k Scratch
1903: Year the first meeting was held
£4610: Total Prize money for the Meeting
Admission is £12 for adults, £6 for 12-16s and free for under 12s. Tickets can be purchased in advance via the website or on the day. There is no onsite car parking for spectators; please arrive by train to Herne Hill station (8 minutes walk) or bike, as there will be plenty of bike parking. Spectators needing disabled parking should contact the organisers in advance.
Further information can be found at: www.bristowevents.co.uk/GoodFriday.html
New riders Lauryn Theryn and Joanne Blakeley will join current riders Eve Dixon, Frankie White, Melissa Bury and Nicola Soden for the 2013 season.
Lauryn joins the team with a wealth of sporting experience and success. Athletics was her main sport up until the age of 20. She was a thrower who competed in the Javelin and Discus at World Youth Games and Commonwealth Games standard. She finished her athletics career in 2006 in order to focus on Bobsleigh where she competed for Great Britain on the Europa Cup Circuit, World Cup Circuit and at the World Championships. She finished Bobsleigh in 2008 ranked 6th in the World, the best result for a British Women’s team in over a decade.
Lauryn Theryn Bobsleigh
Lauryn took up cycling in 2011 after attending a talent transfer programme run by UK Sport called Girls 4 Gold. She joined the Cardiff Jif Cycling Cluband raced for them on the road and track winning Welsh National medals in both disciplines. During the winter she took up playing Rugby and was selected for the England 7’s Development Squad.
After sustaining three serious injuries early in her rugby career she took up cycling again to keep fit. She moved to Manchester in April this year to work for British Cycling setting herself the goal of competing in the British Track Championships and won a silver medal in the Team Sprint.
Champion Systems Maxgear
Lauryn commented “I am really excited to be given the opportunity to race for a local team and am really looking forward to racing with the other girls. My goal for next season is to be a reliable rider who works hard for the team and isn’t afraid of pushing my own physical boundaries in order to rise to any challenge.”
Jo is relatively new to cycling after coming from a running background. She was shortlisted for the Girls 4 Gold programme along with Lauryn. She joins the team after a year of riding with local club Seamons CC in which she achieved a great deal. She won the TLI National Road Race Championship and has produced some solid top twenty placings in National Road Race Series Races. She is also a very strong time triallist with several wins and podium places and 5th at the National Hill Climb Championships this year.
Jo wants to build on her road racing experience next year and is “eager to start racing with and learning from my new team – who love cycling as much as me! I’m particularly excited about racing in Belgium with them next year and gaining more experience on the track and in other areas.”
Ian Bury, team manager, said “Lauryn has had a spectacular sporting career so far both on and off the bike. She is a very driven individual and has much to offer to the team with vast sporting experience and a strong team ethic. Jo is also an exciting new addition to the team with a lot of raw talent. She can do a strong time-trial and is super enthusiastic to work hard with the team. We are very excited about 2013.“
The team have worked well as a unit this year with top tens and podiums in the National Women’s Road Race Series, National Women’s Team Series and races in Belgium and Holland. There has also been top National Championship performances, with Nicola placing 10th in the National Scratch Race Championship, Melissa winning Rollapoluza National Championship and second in the Grass Track 800m National Championship and most recently hill climbs with Eve winning the National Junior Women’s title for the second year running.
2013 line up:
Follow the riders progress at maxgearettes.blogspot.com or on twitter @Maxgearettes
Pictures kindly supplied by Ed Rollason: www.edrollasonphotography.co.uk
I had the pleasure of meeting Martyn Ashton at the Revolution 37 (report online shortly) in Manchester where he made a special guest appearance and I realised I hadn’t shared his brilliant film with you.
In the style of the much followed Danny MacKaskill productions, but Martyn adds a twist; he takes the £10k carbon road bike used by Team Sky‘s Bradley Wiggins & Mark Cavendish for a ride with a difference. With a plan to push the limits of road biking as far as his lycra legs would dare, Martyn looked to get his ultimate ride out of the awesome Pinarello Dogma 2. This bike won the 2012 Tour de France – surely it deserves a Road Bike Party!
Shot in various locations around the UK and featuring music from ‘Sound of Guns‘. Road Bike Party captures some of the toughest stunts ever pulled on a carbon road bike.
A Film by Robin Kitchin
Produced by Ashton Bikes
Music: Sound of Guns ‘Sometimes’
Out takes video