Bawtry-based journalist, photographer and broadcaster Chris Sidwells saddles up for a new book on cycling
- Credit: Cyclesportphotos.com
What Chris Sidwells doesn’t know about cycling, frankly, isn’t worth knowing. As an acclaimed writer on the subject, a qualified coach, fitness instructor and, perhaps most important of all, a lifelong cyclist with race wins in every discipline, he’s the go-to man for this widely popular – and rapidly growing – sport.
His new book, Classic Cycling Race Routes (£25, theaa.com), is not for the faint-hearted (or weak-legged). Based on the best cyclosportive events in Europe and on stages of the Grand Tours, they are much more than just pretty rides in the country.
The 52 routes – one for every week of the year if the mood takes you – are serious mental and physical challenges that require training and preparation. Yet each is accessible and achieved by many thousands of amateur cyclists every year.
‘The book allows you to cycle the rides at any time, either as preparation for race events or for the sheer joy and exhilaration of the challenge,’ explained Chris, whose best-selling cycling books and manuals have been translated into numerous languages for sale around the world.
‘For those rides that don’t have a dedicated cyclosportive route, I’ve designed a ride to reflect the demands and history of the race.’
Among the tough challenges he sets out in wonderful, well-mapped detail are the 120km Megeve Mont Blanc in the High Alps of France, which takes in three major Tour de France mountain climbs; the 242km Amstel Gold Race in Limburg, Holland, comprising 30 hills, hundreds of direction changes and 1,000 speed bumps; and the 147km La Pico del Veleta in Andalucia, Spain, which is the highest paved road in Europe.
Closer to home, Chris has chosen to include the Ryedale Rumble, a 133km slog up three very steep North Yorkshire climbs, and the 180km Etape du Dales, which has no fewer than four major climbs with a lot of exhausting undulations in between.
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‘The Ryedale Rumble – a new cyclosportive event – had a stuttering start when it was cancelled in 2012,’ said Chris. ‘However, it has its place in the book not because of its history, but because it’s located in the North Yorkshire Moors, an area that’s the perfect setting for a cycling challenge.
‘The moors are high and wild with wide-open views; an undulating plateau that’s deeply dissected in places. Some fearsome climbs have been created by the steep sides coupled with the deep dissections, including one of the hardest in the country – and the Ryedale Rumble goes up it.’
In a similar way, the Yorkshire Dales is the perfect playground for intrepid cyclists, and has been ever since the bike was invented and 19th century mill, factory and office workers took the opportunity to explore the area on two wheels.
‘Green valleys, gaunt hills and vivid slashes of limestone crags; that’s the Dales, and the Etape is a celebration of their scenery,’ said Chris. ‘It drives right up and down the backbone of the Dales, visiting the valleys one after the other against the grain, so the route generally drops into and has to climb out of them. This is the Etape du Dales’ unique challenge.’
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