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Digital postcards from the road

September 9, 2019

This year the Vuelta visited one of its new favoured battle grounds, Los Machucos, a road so ridiculous it will push the riders to the very edge in order to provide us blood thirsty fans with the entertainment we crave, but is it as hard as it looks? Is it harder than the Angliru? Monte Zoncolan? I’ve been lucky enough to ride all three and each one presents a unique challenge that I’ll never forget but which really is the toughest?


Let’s start with The Angliru which I first rode in 2014. That day I arrived at the base fresh, eager, and as excited as a puppy in a toilet roll factory. The first half is tough but manageable, then there is the flat section, the interlude where you can grab a drink and some popcorn before the main feature starts. Passing the large image of the late José María Jiménez, (who won the stage the first time the climb was included in the Vuelta) the 20% gradient starts. It’s not 20% the whole way up but there are enough double digit sectors that your speed begins...

June 17, 2019

At the start of the year Sports Tours international asked me to write a blog on a new trip they were about to launch, a trip that would be truly ‘monumental’. On paper it looked madness, in reality it would be insane, it was to ride the courses of all five of cycling’s monuments in a single week. Milan-Sanremo, Tour of Lombardy, Liège-Bastonge-Liège, Tour of Flanders and finally Paris-Roubaix. Just taking on one of these famous parcours in a week takes some guts, to do all five with all the traveling in between would need a herculean effort. I wrote the blog, sold the adventure best I could but secretly never expected anyone to actually take up the challenge.

Roll on a few months and I get an e-mail. “Simon, we have two clients booked on the Monuments week, we need a ride guide for the last three, are you up for it?” “Um... I’ll get back to you.” I replied. I needed to think about this task. I’ve ridden the L-B-L course a couple of times and they are still the two longest rides I have...

June 2, 2019

The Struggle Dales.

I don’t want to get out of the car.
I really don’t want to get out of the car.

Sitting outside the headquarters, warm and dry, with the wind and rain lashing the windows the urge to remain inside was almost overwhelming, but it was an urge that had to be fought. I was here to ride the Struggle Dales, a relatively new event on the calendar but one with an already fearsome reputation which would only be enhanced by today’s conditions.


The Struggle Dales does exactly what it says on the tin, it’s a Struggle. 174 kilometres long, climbing 2,874 metres and crossing some of the toughest climbs in the Dales, including Malham Cove, Greenhow Hill, Trapping Hill and of course Park Rash. In a world where you can roll up to a sportive, ride the short or ‘mini epic’ route then an hour later be left with a medal hanging round your neck it’s good to see an event with just a single distance. There’s no option to turn off, no watered down version, it’s simply a case of “Come and h...

April 18, 2019

Time on my research trips is always short as I aim to keep the budget tight and days away from the family to a minimum. It’s essential I do all the leg work before I leave so the climbs are researched, routes devised, hotels booked and daily schedules plotted to the minute to squeeze as much out of each day as possible.

While researching the Colle del Nivolet, a climb I’d been aching to ride for a number of years, it became apparent that to complete it from base to summit I would have to begin some 56 kilometres down the valley in Cuorgnè. There was simply not the time in the schedule for this though so I was forced to pick a suitable point further up the road, but not too far as it was still essential I got a proper feel for the climb. Looking at the profile it seemed the serious gradient kicked in just after the village of Noasca as up until then there was nothing more testing than about 4% so that would be my start point. After calculating the estimated ride time, locating a place...

January 30, 2019


There’s something that draws me to the south Pembrokeshire coast, in particular the few metres of tarmac that run parallel to the shore south of Newgale. Protected from the onslaught of the sea by a simple mound of pebbles (I’m guessing there may be more to it than this), it has such a tangible connection with nature, the planet, lying within touching distance of the waves. On each of the three occasions I’ve been fortunate enough to pedal this path the weather has been harsh though, the wind has been howling and the sky filled with varying amounts of precipitation. Battling along this short, pan flat road you can taste the sea as the wind blows the salty water inland. Filling the air with a fine mist the envelopes you as heading south you begin to rise from the shore on the climb up Black Cliff. With every meter gained the view out across the water improves and it’s all but impossible not to stop, to halt your climb, tired or not, and simply soak up the beauty of your surroundings.

Of...

January 22, 2019

As you may have noticed in my rides and if you follow me on Twitter and Instagram I have been particularly well dressed as of late thanks to the amazing support I have been given by Assos. Signing me up to their ambassador program and sending me a whole box of winter clothes has been nothing short of a dream come true, and I mean that.

Back in the early ‘90’s, looking through copies of Cycling Weekly there was one logo on permanent display at the front of races, the bold, graphic A of Assos. Most club kit back then was limited to a jersey and that’s it, you either provided your own shorts or I guess if you were good enough you had them bought for you and the best always wore Assos. From Paul Curran to Pete Longbottom, from Steve Farrell to Joey McLoughlin they all had that magic A on their shorts and naturally I wanted a pair.


Assos shorts however were not cheap, they would need to be saved for so saved I did. I’d go into Castle Cycles in Newark each lunch time to just feel the qualit...

July 2, 2018

I almost feel guilty writing this, why me, how come I got THIS lucky. Today was the amazing Maratona dles Dolomites. I’d never ridden it before, had always been drawn to The Marmotte, mainly because it’s so much easier to get to, but when Sports Tours International offered me the opportunity to work with them at this year’s event I jumped at it. I’d been to the Dolomites once before, ridden a few of the climbs, but on this trip, together with my mate Paul I spent a week here ticking off everything from Monte Grappa, The Marmolada to the insane Zoncolan, (researching my next book). Once all the research was done, and with 10,000 metres climbing in my legs it was time for the Maratona. Like I said I’d ridden the Marmotte many times and though that was a big event, until I came here.

The Maratona feels like a stage of a Grand Tour, roads lined with advertisements, banks of motorbike outriders, helicopters circling in the air and the guys up front, they take this very seriously indeed. Th...

May 18, 2018

The Fred Whitton, the one and only Fred Whitton, the toughest baddest sportive in the land. Some are longer, some gain more altitude but only the Fred has the climbs of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Cold Fell, Hardknott, Wrynose and now Blea Tarn, and for this reason alone it is without parallel. My ‘relationship’, and yes for all the pain it has caused I do love it, began back in 2009.

I entered because I knew a lot of the climbs I needed to include in my first book were on the route, in fact six of them, so what better way to experience them than one after the other, and yes, what an experience it was. All started well but once on Hardknott pass, after I’d cramped trying to force a 39x26 up the 30% bit, snow began to fall. I can tell you honestly that I have never been more afraid on two wheels before or since than I was that day descending first Hardknott and then Wrynose on a road that was fast turning white. Dropping down through 25% hairpins in the dry is a test enoug...

May 15, 2018

My love affair with riding in the mountains goes back to the summer of 1992. In-between my first and second year at university, along with a couple of club mates I booked on a trip to chase round after that year’s Tour de France. I either paid very little notice to the itinerary or have little recollection of it but what I do remember is that the first couple of days were fraught with problems. Our bus broke down numerous times meaning we never got to where we were meant to be and did no riding what so ever. We saw brief glimpses of the race but it wasn’t until the third day, when our much maligned coach pulled up in Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, at the base of the Col de Télégraph that we were set free.

I’d ridden plenty of hills, and on holiday in Italy some reasonably long climbs but nothing that could be classed as a mountain, so this was to be a journey into the unknown. There was a mix of eager excitement and also nervous trepidation as we built our bikes up, I knew II was pretty swi...

March 27, 2018

No year in the saddle is complete without a trip to Belgium to chase around after a big race. After last year’s successful mission to see E3 Harelbeke, I had to return and this year I took my mate Chris with me to immerse him in the best the country has to offer. He’d been to Belgium a couple of times but never to follow a race so he was in for a treat as the plan was to catch the action at least five times and also take in a few more of the famous Hellingen on our way round.


We had a bite to eat in the Tour of Flanders museum café then set off to our first berg, the Wolvenberg. Far from the longest or steepest, and coming after just 45 minutes of racing it wouldn’t shape the race but it gave us our initial view of the riders, many of them showboating up the 15% climb by taking jackets off whilst riding it (easy? you try it). Once they passed through, and from then on the day was total mania. Our itinerary was tight and packed, I was keen to give Chris the ‘platinum package’ and squeez...

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Britain's Greatest

Cycling Climbs BOX SET

Comprising a total of 545 ascents from the tip of Cornwall all the way up to the highlands of Scotland, the eight region-specific volumes of Britain’s Greatest Cycling Climbs contain the most comprehensive documentation of Britain’s hills ever compiled for road cyclists.

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