My first foreign cycling trip was also my first completely solo adventure. Cycling onto the Dover to Calais ferry early one morning and heading across France, over the Swiss alps and onwards to Venice in Italy. It was both incredibly exciting and scary as hell. Not least because I barely spoke any French or Italian. I could order a croissant or beer, say please/thank you and apologise for being English, that seemed like the absolute basics I would need – until inevitably I got a bit stuck.Continue reading
It’s glorious sunshine outside, with temperatures above 20°C. It’s a beautiful evening for a ride, but I booked the tickets to this a month ago, I’d better go and sit in a dark theatre. Ventoux by 2 Magpies Theatre, a play about stage 12 of the Tour de France in the year 2000. Where Marco Pantani comes back to cycling to challenge Armstrong after Armstrong’s first Tour de France win, a win that many thought was a fluke; a fluke because there were no previous grand tour winners to compete against. Continue reading
If you had to show one of your oldest cycling friends one route to show off the best of your local National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, what would you include? It had better be good to make it worth them travelling over for, and there had better be some cake stops and a pub lunch! Hills bring stunning views and descents, and we’d want some tight twisting descents as well as epic fully tucked charges. This varied route through the North of the Peak District National Park is littered with reservoirs and takes in what could arguably be one of the best bits of tarmac in the whole country: Tarmac initially laid for the Tour De France Grand Depart (but with the entire 16km section of Mortimer road now being freshly laid and unbelievably smooth). Continue reading
Cycling has a rich history and the history of the Tour de France has to be the most frequently referenced of it all. History is respected in cycling, and the Tour de France loves to publicise it, so it stands to reason that as obsessive cyclists we could do to know at least a little about cycling history. Continue reading
The peloton’s most straight talking cyclist has written a book, and it’s very entertaining. It’s not the usual autobiography that you might expect from a successful cyclist, but a collection of thoughts on every aspect of road and track cycling and life on the road. Though inevitably the book does cover Geraint’s own experiences and anecdotes, so there is some degree of biography present. With no story line running through the book, and short sections/chapters it’s really easy to fit into a normal busy day. Making the “Be with you in a minute, just let me finish this chapter” challenge quick and easily achievable. Continue reading
The American accent cuts through the conversations on Bedoin’s main street, it’s early evening and the restaurant’s outside seating is full of diners in full conversation. “Have you rode up the mountain yet?” I overhear, “We rode up this afternoon” the American voice proclaims. They are a retired couple from America, in their late 60s, touring Europe and they had Mont Ventoux on their to do list. The giant of Provence seems to captivate the attention of so many as a cycling mountain, not just cyclists either, but anybody young and old who wants to challenge themselves. The array of people who attempt this mountain, on all manner of bicycles from basic mountain bikes to serious road bikes, is really something to behold. Continue reading
We arrived in the early afternoon and set about finding a hotel for the coming night. It was going to be a flying visit, a single ascent of Alpe d’Huez followed by a refreshing shower and some dinner. The village of Bourg d’Oisans lies at the foot of the legendary alp and after a quick walk around town we settled on the Hotel Des Alpes on the main pedestrianised street. The hotel looks to be in the process of a renovation, the deluxe rooms being nicely finished but the rest of the hotel and standard rooms looking a little unloved and out dated (the owners are friendly and a room is provided for bike storage in the basement).
There wasn’t time for lunch so I stuffed down an energy bar whilst assembling my bike in the car park, and prepared to see what all the fuss is about this “legendary alp”. First impressions were that it looked pretty unspectacular, you can see the ski resort from the valley roads and it didn’t look all that far away. The statistics also didn’t sound that bad: 1118m elevation gain, from 742m to 1860m and an average gradient of 8.1%. That all sounded quite acceptable when reading it on paper, so just what made this worthy of the Hors catégorie status? After all it’s far from the longest or the highest climb in the area. Continue reading