100 cycling climbs blog

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Digital postcards from the road

February 19, 2018

At last, from the darkness of winter comes the bright light of a new racing season. Yes, there have been skirmishes in deserts, in southern Europe. and a few clashes down under but this Saturday marks the start of the season proper with the 73rd running of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and our first chance to see the peloton do battle up the infamous Hellingen. The small, viciously steep and predominantly cobbled climbs that punctuate the Flanders landscape are as famous as the riders who do battle on them and known to cyclists the whole world over. They are the building blocks, the beating heart of these mighty races and like the mountains of the grand tours they are also there for us all to ride 365 days of the year.

Inspired by seeing our heroes fight it out over their jagged stones we have always been compelled to follow in their tyre tracks, to experience the drama of these notorious roads for ourselves. From the savage slopes of the Paterberg via the sheer chaos of the Molenberg to the...

January 26, 2018

The weather in the UK has been pretty dire as of late, freezing rain, ice, snow, you know, basic crappy winter stuff, so to break up the monotony of cranking out miles on the roads, or having to avoid them because they’re just too dangerous I like to take to the trails. Now, that isn’t too unusual is it? Thing is I don’t own a mountain bike, I don’t have a cross bike, an adventure bike or even a gravel bike, so what do I ride? I take my ‘hack’ bike’. My steal frame, odd wheels, 69 inch fixed gear, single front brake, no nonsense ‘hack’ bike.

Back in the late 80’s at my first cycling club, Newark Castle CC, it became apparent that if I was going to join in with the pre Xmas club rides, then owning such a machine was a necessity. In the period between the end of the hill climb season and the start of proper winter training the idea was to just have fun, no structure, no pressure, certainly no goals and a big part of this involved riding a fixed gear, everywhere. Up to this point I’d neve...

December 19, 2017

There’s been a bit in the news this week about Man Flu, some (male) scientist somewhere has claimed to prove it exists, which of course was instantly greeted by all women collectively sighing and placing their heads in their hands. Man flu, (or the common cold) as virulent as it is, is nothing though, nothing compared to cyclist’s flu. Man flu may stop you going into work, stop you going to the office party, but cyclist’s flu, that stops you riding your bike, that robs you of your very reason to live. You know it’s coming, bit of a sore throat, runny nose, then you start to feel tired and you ache, then it hits. Throw the training plan out of the window, throw everything out of the window, cancel Christmas, that's ruined, this is going to be BAD.

Day one. You still look and feel like the ‘athlete’ you were the day before so you try to stay positive, maybe it will just blow over, you can have a day off, everything will be fine, it’s not the end of the world.

Day two. You are still ill...

November 15, 2017

A few days ago I had the great pleasure to meet one of my idols, the one and only Alberto Contador. I say meet, I queued up for a few minutes to have my photo taken with him, receive my complimentary signed hat and share whatever conversation I could shoe horn into this brief encounter. Like most bike racing fans, I’m gutted to see him retire as he lit up the races like no other. In this world of controlled wattage and power meters he was one last gladiator. A man willing to act and race on instinct alone, to throw it all on the line, for death or glory and we loved him for that. Waiting my turn I knew our interaction would be brief so I had my lines prepared in advance.
“One more year” I asked him,
“Just one”
“You’ve seen the route for next year’s Tour de France, stage 17 was built for you!”

That did make him smile, but I wasn’t going to get much more, he had after all be standing there for close to an hour. Still a smile will do for me and we parted, another idol met, and for once my...

October 15, 2017

The Hill Climb season is brief but intense, the past five weeks have revolved around short week day training rides, each with multiple visits to the pain cave then a single excruciating race effort on the Sunday. Results have been satisfactory, I have performed pretty much the same as last year and the year before that. I made one Veteran’s podium and I am content that I have again stalled the aging process for another year. With the best bike stripped down for racing and with me ‘in theory’ in the best shape of the year it makes sense to spend the rest of the week trying to bag as many KOM’s as I can. I need to train hard, I need to make the efforts, the bike and body are prepared so if it stays dry and mild, now is the time to go hunting.

Each target is scrutinised the night before, I plan no more than three or four per ride, it’s the quality I am looking for not the quantity this time of year. Each route is no more than two hours long and each time I roll out of the city I have the...

October 5, 2017

Monsal Head, climb number 30 in my first book, is a hill I know all too well. In fact I could describe just about every lump, bump, ripple and kink along its diminutive, but challenging 500 meters. Home to maybe the most famous British hill climb race on the calendar, dating way back to 1930 it is one event the best all want to win. The course record, the infamous 1.14.2 has stood since 1981 and belongs to the great British sprinter Malcolm Elliot, and before that it belonged to the legendary Tom Simpson, yes, this event oozes history. The first time I rode it in anger was in 1991 (but as I’ve lost the results sheet so I’ve no idea how I faired), I didn’t return for a further 21 years, but having pinned a number on for the past six seasons, I can now consider myself a veteran of the event. If you were to build a hill climb course from scratch then what you would end up with would look pretty much exactly like Monsal Head. A challenging gradient, room to finish your warm up at the base,...

August 2, 2017

OK, it’s not the Tour de France, but to me it’s the one prize I crave the most, the Les Black trophy for the winner of the annual Norwood Paragon club hill climb. Most clubs tend to hold their hill climb at the end of the season, around late September or early October, but the Norwood Paragon have always favoured a summer spot, typically the first Tuesday in August. There are benefits, it’s much warmer and because it’s light for longer we can hold it in the evening so as not to overcrowd the weekends. On the flip side though, it being the season of BBQ’s and summer holidays it usually means we’re all carrying a little bit too much weight and key competitors are often away on holiday (their loss).

This year will be my tenth participation since my first in 2005 and a lot has changed over those ten years. Yes, I am now 10 years older, I have two kids and life is far more complicated but with almost metronomic certainty on that first Tuesday in August I find myself on the start line for...

July 15, 2017

When I first entered at the Marmotte back in 2006 the word ‘sportive’ had yet to enter the lexicon of the British cyclist. Back then we trained and we raced. I know there were riders who just rode for fun, or rode Audax events and the like, but they were mostly men in their 60’s who wore baggy woolen tights and sported mudguards year round. I guess the closest us ‘racers’ got to a sportive were the early season reliability trials. These events were organized at the pointy end of winter to allow us to ‘test’ our legs in a ‘non-competitive’ environment before the real business of racing got underway. We paid £3 to enter, smashed round the familiar course and took home a certificate at the end, yes, bit like a sportive, (apart from the price). The Marmotte though, this was to be a new experience, this was European and exotic and even though it wasn’t a race, 174.5 kilometres crossing four mountains gaining over 5000 metres of altitude seemed a worthy challenge. How though does a competiti...

July 6, 2017

Following on from my previous blog I arrived at Alpe d’Huez last week to take part in the infamous Marmotte (175km of toil over four mountains, climbing a total of 5000 metres) but also with half an idea of attacking my ‘PB’ for the climb of Alpe d’Huez. I’d packed the best wheels but I’d been out of sorts for a few weeks, consumed by the troubles of life, so neither my head nor body were really in the right pace for a committed 100% effort. There was the option to ride the official ‘La Grimpee de l’Alpe’ time trial the following morning but after 14 hours in the car the thought of a 6 am alarm call was too much, so if I was to have a crack I would have to do it solo later in the day.

Waking on Friday the legs were stiff, and one half of me said “No, not a chance, go back to bed!” The other half though, that said “Wait a minute” you’re here, you’re in Alpe d’Huez, I don’t care if you’re not 100%, you MUST sieze the bloody day!” After all, the weather was good, I had my best wheels and...

June 26, 2017

Before I head of to Alpe d’Huez at the end of the week to ride the Marmotte, here’s a column I wrote for Cycling Active last year about my annual pilgrimage. This year I ‘plan’ to make my PB attempt during the Grimpee de l‘Alpe first thing Friday morning after the long drive down. Maybe in the heat of battle I will improve on my time, you never know, let’s wait and see.

Each year, come hell or high water I make a pilgrimage to Alpe d ‘Huez to test myself on it’s cruel slopes, and that time has now come. There can be no more talk of scales and training, of diets or intervals, it’s too late now, what will be, will be. It’s always a logistical struggle to squeeze my attempt into a family holiday and because of my ritual we never fly south, we always drive, yes, just so daddy can ride up a stupid mountain! My attempt often comes at the end of the nine hour trek from Calais which isn’t good for anyone’s legs, so this year I built some leeway into the schedule so I could ride the following mo...

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June 17, 2019

June 2, 2019

January 30, 2019

January 22, 2019

May 18, 2018

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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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