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!

 

 

Out of the Saddle Gets Ready for Evening With The Stars

This weekend, professional cycling brothers, Dean and Russell Downing, will host “Out of the Saddle – An Evening with the Downing Brothers” on Saturday 20th October 2012 at the Carlton Park Hotel in Rotherham.
Last year’s event saw numerous stars from the cycling world join the Downing brothers, and this year is no different. Team Sky rider Ben Swift and new teammate, as of next season Cycling Shorts very own Jon Tiernan-Locke, the overall winner of the Tour of Britain are amongst the stars.

A number of Dean Downing’s teammates from Rapha Condor Sharp will also be there on the evening, including the winner of the Tour of Britain mountains classification, Kristian House, Olympic Gold Medalist Ed Clancy and Directeur Sportif John Herety.

David Harmon, the voice of cycling, will be the MC for the night, interviewing guests as well as announcing the raffle and charity auction. All proceeds from the charity action will be going to support Brothers on Bikes (http://www.brothersonbikes.org.uk). Sam (aged 15) and Ollie (aged 14) have recently completed the John O’Groats to Land’s End ride in memory of their Uncle Malcolm, who passed away with cancer in November 2011, and will be in attendance along with their father Andy Turner.

Other professional cyclists of note include James McCallum, Graham Briggs and Pete Williams. Endura Racing team manager, Brian Smith will also be there on the night, along with Matt Stephens, former pro cyclist, now cycling television presenter.

Dean Downing said: “It’s great that our friends in the cycling world come and support our event. It makes it even better that most of them are current or ex team mates of mine and Russ’s, so I know it’s going to be a bit of a party.”

There will be a charity auction on the night with some very special prizes. Amongst the items on offer are various cycling jerseys including Jon Tiernan-Locke’s signed Tour of Britain gold overall winners jersey, Kristian House’s KOM winners jersey, Chris Froome’s signed Vuelta jersey, and Ed Clancy’s signed Olympic kit. Also up for auction is a signed Olympic photomontage of Tour de France winning Bradley Wiggins and a Jeff Banks bespoke suit. A raffle will also take place on the night, with the first prize being a pair of Festina ladies and men’s watches from Festina UK.

 

Tickets to the event are now sold out for the event itself but you can show your support by purchasing from the Out of The Saddle range at: www.outofthesaddle.org.uk

 

 

 

 

Tour Eye Candy


Check out these gorgeous minimal artworks by the Netherlands based designer Vincent Vermeij aka Chungkong. Away from his day job designing brilliant brand identities and advertising for his clients Vincent spends time creating his own artwork, his posters are really eye catching Chungkong strips the subjects down to their bare bones and brings them to life in vibrant and playful designs, covering a variety of subjects from cult movies, books and sports. Prices vary from $17 to $85 depending on the size, format and whether you want your print framed, he also does a great range of accessories and T-shirts.

To View more of Vincent’s range click here to visit his website.

To go to Vincent’s shop and treat yourself to his full set of Tour prints, movie images & T-Shirts click here.

 

FREE Poster!

Chungkong is very kindly giving all Cycling Shorts. readers their own copy of his Giro D’Italia Poster for absolutely nothing! You get to download a high resolution PDF for you to print or have printed for your own personal use (not for commercial reproduction). This is for a limited period so act now!

All you have to do is one of the following; if you use the Twitter or Facebook options it gives something back to the artist, Vincent gets some promotion from you downloading, so go on it’s good karma:

Pay with a tweet or Facebook post by using the button or QR code below and it will take you to the download page once the tweet or post has been sent.

Or…

Fill the form in below and you will get a link to download your file. If you’re already on our mailing list you won’t be added again, so enter your details with confidence.

Free Giro D'Italia Poster

Please fill in your email address and we will send you an email with the download link for your free Giro D'Italia Artwork. Your email will ONLY be shared with the artist Vincent Vermeij, no third parties will get your data. You can unsubscribe at any time you wish. Both Cycling Shorts. and Vincent manage responsible and secure mailing lists.

A Quick Peek at the Ultimate Domestique

 

Team Time Trial--2009 Tour de France Image ©Copyright AFP

 
Who are these riders who give their all in support of the team and its superstar cyclists? Who are the domestiques?

Let’s make no mistake here, all pro-peloton domestiques are super talented riders. They’ve won races throughout their careers and show great promise.

Of course, they have to be that good. If they weren’t great cyclists, they’d never come anywhere close to being considered for a Pro-Tour team. Nor would they be part of that chosen few who support the team in the big races, the Giro, Vuelta, the Tour de France. It’s the pinnacle, the place where all great cyclist aspire to be.

On Cycling Shorts I’d like to spotlight these riders, look at some history of how domestiques and tactics have developed, and profile current and retired domestique riders. In the meantime, maybe we can also get a few to talk about their experiences as professional riders and domestiques.

First though, I really want to start with an ideal, a model of what I think has evolved into the Ultimate Domestique. This is the rider with exceptional, star talent who choses to ride in support of the team instead of inflating his own palmarès.

Yes, it is true. Most of cycling’s superstars started their careers as domestiques-carrying water bottles, blocking the wind, protecting the star rider, then they developed. Lance did, Boonen did, even Contador did, and some of today’s top riders still play both roles, in a sort of super domestique way: stars in some races, support in others.

But occasionally, through circumstances of team or timing, a rider will fulfill the supreme supporting role; that of the Ultimate Domestique. An outstanding rider, one who could easily be a superstar on a different, lesser team, yet he is someone who choses to be part of something bigger. The Ultimate Domestique is that star cyclist who choses to ride and give his all in support of another and help the team win a major Tour!

So, who is my choice? Which rider epitomizes that role of the Ultimate Domestique? Hands down, it’s Andreas Klöden.

 

Photo Courtesy of Team RadioShack

An outstanding rider in his own right, Kloden’s individual talents on the bike are really pretty darn impressive. Twice he’s finished second at the Tour de France (2004, 2006), won at Paris-Nice (2000), and brought home a Bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Yet, he’s chosen time and time again to spend his career with the some of the world’s best teams (Team Telekom/T-Mobile, Astana) riding in support of the most heralded superstars of this generation–Ullrich, Armstrong, and Contador. And much to the frustration of those covetous Team Directors who would love to pay him to come be the big star on their teams.

Klöden has used his talent and stamina to support his team leader through the mountains, in the time trials, and through the grueling weeks of a Grand Tours with the focus on the Tour win for the team. Once again it looks like Klöden will quietly operate away from the intense glare of the spotlight and continue to play his role as the ultimate domestique, this year with his new Team RadioShack.

Having seemingly been dropped from the media’s tentacles, Klöden rarely gives an interview anymore–which is a shame, because among other things he seems like he’d be a pretty fun guy to get to know. Instead he allows his performance on the bike to speak for itself, but that probably says more than dozens of interviews ever could.

So, while I think we may get lucky and see a few more individual accolades before Klöden retires from professional cycling, one thing appears to be certain, he’s discovered his place and he seems happy. Andreas Klöden has found his cycling balance as the ultimate team player — the Ultimate Domestique.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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