There is nothing like riding in the tyre-tracks of the idols of cycling. Here is Cycle Sport's definitive list of 10 stretches that any self-respecting amateur should attempt
Words: Lionel Birnie
1 L'ETAPE DU TOUR
The blue riband event among cyclo-sportive rides, this year's ride covers 177 kilometres from Mourenx to Pau, taking in the Col de Marie-Blanque and Col d'Aubisque. It takes place on July 11, and is already sold out. However, there is a wealth of holiday companies offering the chance to ride some of the cols made famous by the Tour.
2 TOUR OF FLANDERS RANDONNEE
The pros make the Ronde look easy, don't they? Well, book a place in the 2005 Tour of Flanders randonnee and try it for yourself. Held on Saturday, April 2, 2005, the day before the race, it is a chance to ride the famous climbs in the company of a few thousand crazy Belgians. Sadists can try the full
270-kilometre route, but saner folk can opt for the 150-kilometre alternative.
3 HELL OF THE NORTH
The Paris-Roubaix randonnee is organised every two years and, sadly, 2005 is not one of them. But that doesn't mean you can't take a trip to north-eastern France and ride some of the cobbled stretches. Download the race route from www.letour.fr and plot your own ride - making sure you take in the Arenberg Forest.
4 LIEGE-BASTOGNE-LIEGE RANDONNEE
Or to be more exact, Tilff-Bastogne-Tilff, as the event cuts out the trek into the outskirts of LiËge. Held on May 15, there is a long, 220-kilometre ride and a shorter 150-kilometre option, but both take in the steep climbs of La Doyenne.
5 ALPE D'HUEZ
Any self-respecting cyclist should climb this 13-kilometre mountain once in their life. Of course, no one expects you complete the 21 hairpin bends in a Lance-like 39 minutes but you can still time yourself from bottom to top and register your time with the tourist office at the top.
6 THE ANGLIRU
The brutal 13-kilometre climb, in the Asturias region of northern Spain, was recommended to the Vuelta organisers by a cycling fan, who wrote to them saying the climb would shatter the race, In its first inclusion, in 1999, it did just that, with only star climbers like Jose Maria Jimenez able to handle the gradients. Try it, if you dare.
7 THE GAVIA
The monster of the Dolomites is the most famous climb in Italy. At a massive 2,618m, the Passo di Gavia is not to be tackled half-heartedly. Also within striking distance are the Passo di Stelvio
and the resort of Madonna
8 MONT VENTOUX
The Giant of Provence is one of the most demanding tests in Europe. It's long, very steep in parts and the elements can play havoc. Once you leave the relative security of the tree-lined section of the climb at Chalet-Reynard it's up through the rocky terrain. The observatory at the top almost taunts you, never seeming to get any closer.
9 THE POGGIO
The coastline between Albenga and San Remo offers some beautiful riding country and a brief visit to the area can take you over many of the small climbs which punctuate the decisive stages of Milan-San Remo. The Poggio branches off to the right of the main road like a super-steep driveway before twisting to the top. But it is the descent that really captures the imagination as you plummet back down to the same main road, past the famous greenhouses.
10 COL D'EZE
This is the mini mountain which has been used to decide Paris-Nice for 50 years. The Race to the Sun used to culminate in a time trial up it, but in recent years there has been a road race, scaling the climb three times before finishing down on the Promenade des Anglais.
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