"If your legs scream in the forest and no-one is around to hear them, do they really hurt?"
you may, on the basis that you'd little better to do, have read about my recent transatlantic (in a manner of speaking) jaunt by boat to the shores of northern ireland; ballycastle to be more precise. this totally uncharacteristic foray into (literally) unknown waters in order that i and a few others might witness the giro d'italia in ireland was, to put not too fine a point on it, the highlight of my month. not only was it my first trip to our nearest neighbours on such a small boat, but it is also the first time i had witnessed the italian grand tour in real life. the fact that it poured with rain the whole time we were there was really of no nevermind.
however, to quantify the day's activities with a more critical and less emotional eye, we collectively spent around four beautiful hours in a small boat to witness, at most, ten minutes worth of cycle racing. the breakaway of four passed us by at around 1:30pm, with the main peloton following around eight or nine minutes later. if you take into account the preceding vehicles and those following behind, the whole enchilada passed in just a tad over fifteen minutes. as a cycling obsessive, those fifteen wet minutes require no justification whatsoever, but several of my non-cycling acquaintances regard it as convincing proof that i am, in fact, totally off my trolley.
taken at such superficial face value, it's not too hard to see where they're coming from, even if i do resolutely continue to disagree. had this second stage of the giro, however, been conducted over one of the race's great mountain climbs, our viewing pleasure would have undoubtedly occupied a far greater portion of our time. and during this extended race-watching, such would have been the speed of any breakaway, individual riders, peloton and a chasing (?) grupetto, that it would surely have been possible to see which rear sprocket each had employed and possibly even the power output on their bar mounted srm units.
it's why the mountian stages in the grand tours are so popular with spectators. not only does the racing take place at a more acutely observable pace, but the much vaunted pain and suffering is plain for all to see. perish the thought that we are ever called upon to compare our own climbing efforts with those of our heroes. unfortunately, that's obviously a gap in the personal cycling education of simon warren. not content with partaking of the above collective spectacle, he has seen fit to gird up his loins, wife and children and ride up each of the many mountains and passes that have graced the stage of the world's largest bike race, the tour de france. and to add insult to injury, it appears he may actually have enjoyed it all (at least once it was over).
mr warren's mental state, however, apparently has further down to go. for apart from riding all those hills, he has collected each and every one in logical fashion and popped them in this highly attractive, pocket-sized volume, optimistically ending with a numbered checklist for when we all follow suit. simon obviously does not live in the same world as the rest of us.
or does he?
actually he does, and very much so. though i think the chances of my riding up any of the one-hundred included ascents to be pretty much non-existent, there is little more enjoyable than doing so by proxy via such a well-written book. he has had even the great intellect and foresight to make mention of robert millar's win at guzet-neige in 1984, winning the polka dot jersey to boot. i approve wholeheartedly, and probably so does robert.
while you and i may enviously admire mr warren's tenacity while castigating it as foolhardiness, it is well-nigh impossible to deny his enthusiasm for such an undertaking "I'd gone through a world of suffering to come out the other side reborn!". the author's descriptions of the ascents happily stay clear of unwarranted hyperbole. each is accompanied by an essential factfile, detailing the summit altitude, height gained, average and maximum gradient and a couple of small maps showing the climb itself and its geographical location in france, a system honed over warren's previous three mountain books. he also marks each ride out of a maximum of ten for difficulty.
i absolutely adored simon's last publication in this series entitled 'hellingen' comprising a whole host of belgian climbs that will also probably never see my tyre tracks. but the mark of a good book, in my opinion, is one that can be enjoyed even by those who have little intention of making its singular purpose, manifest in their own day to day. 100 cycling climbs of the tour de france fulfils that function admirably, is compact enough to fit in a jersey pocket and contains inspiring photos for those moments of froth supping in the cafe at sea level.
"WOW. This is the road I dream of at night, this is the road I'll be riding for all eternity when my time comes to leave this world..."
frances lincoln have graciously offered a copy as a prize for the sender of the first correct answer drawn from a polka dot jersey. "on what mountain did robert millar take the king of the mountains jersey in the 1984 tour de france?"
e-mail your answer to email@example.com along with a complete postal address. closing date is wednesday 28 may.
friday 23 may 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................