"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Belgium anymore."
You’re right Dorothy, these are proper cobbles, these are Yorkshire cobbles, and at last we’re going to see some included on the route of the Tour de Yorkshire. As soon as the race stages were announced I scanned their profiles, looking for climbs with the precision of a doctor scanning an ECG printout. Every peak was analysed, every bump dissected, firstly I was looking for vicious gradients, but more importantly I was searching for cobbles. After waiting patiently for three years I’ve finally got some, and there are non better than those of the mighty Shibden Wall. A fearsome, legendary road, climb number 40 in 100 Greatest Cycling climbs, this should and hopefully will blow the race to pieces providing an awesome spectacle for the waiting fans. It’s not the first time racing has graced this road and much of its fame is due to its inclusion in the 1988 Kelloggs Tour of Britain. (There’s some rather fuzzy footage on Youtube if you want to have a look, see link below). Unfortunately during that race, due to low spectator numbers, riders were allowed to mount the smooth pavement, therefore neutering the obstacle and denying the sadistic audience some of their pleasure. This time round though there’ll be no chance of that, cycling’s recent exponential growth in popularity should ensure every inch of road side sanctuary is occupied by screaming fans, lusting after the pain and suffering of the peloton, and I for one can’t wait. So what’s it like to ride? Well, from the moment you hit Lee Lane, to give it its official name, the road ramps up close to 20% but to start with at least on newly laid, silky smooth tarmac. Then, 300 meters in and with the legs already burning it’s time for the dreaded stones, the transition between contrasting toppings further accentuated due to the pristine condition of the preceding surface. Amplifying the effect of an already savage gradient it’s now eye balls out to preserve your momentum up to the right hand bend, following which there’s a slight respite. This brief lull doesn’t last long before the road bends hard left and from here to the top the gradient never relents, not for an inch. The stones get bigger, the gaps between them wider as each one hits your front wheel like a hammer shaking the flesh from your bones. You struggle with your bike like a rodeo rider trying to control a bucking Bronco, the cobbles dictating your path forcing you to instantly react to each and every lump. Salvation arrives abruptly as you reach Swales Road, where you’ll either say never again, or like me head off to search for more, and yes there are more, lots more. My dream is one day that Yorkshire will host it’s own ‘cobbled classic’, a race to rival the Belgian monuments, so we can see the riders bounce up not only the Shibden Wall but other great roads such as Gibb Lane, Thwaites Brow, Hainworth Lane, and maybe even Trooper Lane, OK, maybe that would be a step to far. For now let’s look forward to this years race and if you want to witness the action first hand it’s due on the hill at around 14.45, Sunday April 30th, but I’d advise you get there nice and early to grab a good spot. Simon Footage from 1988 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4PtZEGCgbA You can read all about the cobbles of Yorkshire and how to find them in The Cycling Climbs of Yorkshire. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cycling-Climbs-Yorkshire-Regional/dp/0711237042/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492770348&sr=1-5 Or download the 100 Climbs App for iOS http://apple.co/2iL3tl8 and for Android http://bit.ly/2iIfBoQ