Quick post, while I’m working on some other significant pieces. Edinburgh may be the City of the Seven Hills, but Glasgow also has a few stings in the tail for cyclists riding around the city. The town centre, between Blythswood Square to Buchanan Street has several steep little side streets that must be a killer if you’re riding one of those pedal-taxi things.
But tucked away in Partick is Gardner Street, that looks like something out of a Steve McQueen movie.
Image by David Lindsay
On a recent trip to Brittany I rode with a local touring club and learnt about The Diagonales de France– like a multi-stage equivalent of Lands End to John-O-Groats.
The challenge involves 9 randonnées based around 6 cities at the apex of the ‘hexagone’ of France: Brest in the West of Brittany, Dunkerque in Normandy, Strasbourg in the East bordering Germany, Menton on the Mediterranean border with Italy, Perpignan in the South and Hendaye, bordering the Spanish Basque country.
Between these 6 cities are 9 routes. You must complete them all, to be able can call yourself a diagonaliste and apply the badge below to your bike. Routes between the adjacent cities are not part of the diagonales.
In a bizarre Tarantinoesque double-death, this Breton corn snake reared up and punctured the tyre of the cyclist, bringing him down at 3omph, while at the same time being decapitated by the 23x700c tyres.
Just kidding- came across a dead snake on the road. Not something you see every day back home.
OK, so I’m not actually lighting a fire in the Foret de Broceliande and brewing a pot of tea, but since I am in Brittany I thought it’d be interesting to do some cycling posts from the area.
Normally being on one’s holiday’s would be the time to disconnect the online life and relax. However, I’ve been almost too busy to write any blog posts lately, so it’s actually an ideal moment to write a few pieces and catch up with other rare pleasures such as reading.
Back in December 2010, one of the hardest winters in history, that Edinburgh-based cyclist Markus Stitz ploughed his way with a singlespeed bike through snow and ice in a cruel 14-day journey to arrive in time for Christmas.
This time he is taking the easier option, a geared road bike, but is slashing the travel time in half. With only a saddle bag to take his luggage, Markus will cycle approximately 1300km in 7 days starting Saturday 14 May, with the first part of the journey from Edinburgh to Newcastle. He is again supported by Ashington-based company Montane, who will provide him with lightweight gear for the trip.
This Sunday is the Sam Robinson Memorial Road Race, promoted by the Glasgow Nightingale CC, is one of the classics of the Scottish calendar. The route skirts around Callander, actually, but the showpiece is the Dukes Pass.
Easily accessible from Stirling, and accessible as part of a longish ride from Glasgow, the Dukes is a meaty climb that you can really get your teeth into.
A few weeks back, when the February cold was still biting, a post on La Gazzetta della Bici gave me hope for the future. 24 Hours in Brittany, by Phil Gale who spent 6 seasons in the region racing as a full time elite amateur. This post is as much for my own research purposes as anything, but as Phil points out, race fans in the south of England can get the ferry over to St Malo and have easy access to three Tour de France stages.
I’ll be based in the centre of Ille-et-Villaine for 3 weeks and will be within easy reach of stages 4 and 5. Brittany can be perceived as flat next to the Hors Categorie mountainous ranges of the Pyrenees and Alps but in reality it is rolling, punchy terrain and can be very windy. Breakaways might have a chance to succeed and unusually, stage 4: Lorient-Mûr de Bretagne on Wednesday 5th July has a tough uphill finish. The steep, straight Mur is known as the Breton Alpe-d’Huez.
First stop was to recce stage 4 Lorient – Mur de Bretagne arrival. The finish is on a 2km 15% climb, I’ve race down it at 100kph.
The Tak Ma Doon road, with its quintessentially Scottish name, is accessible from Glasgow, central Scotland and even Edinburgh, for a longer ride. I assume it was originally a drover’s road – it climbs from Carron Bridge in the North, located in rural Southern Stirlingshire, over the Campsie Hills and down to Kilsyth. The Kilsyth side is a much more challenging climb on a bike however, as you start with less height and the changes of gradient are more testing, so I’ll cover that here.
It’s a classic Central Scotland climb but isn’t used in any races or sportives, due to the ford on the other side that crosses the road near to Carron Bridge.
It provides access from near Glasgow to a host of other riding in the Carron Valley and towards Stirlingshire, and is ideal when ridden in a loop with the Crow Road.
A sign in Kilsyth points the way.
I’m ignoring my own advice about counting your chickens with regards to a Scottish Grand Depart for the Tour de France. I much prefer to assume they have already hatched and proceed directly to speculating on a prologue route.
Dave Hamill kindly commented with an excellent suggestion that takes as many attractions and historic monuments as it’s possible to do in 5 miles.
Dave’s route starts in the Grassmarket, surrounded by historic buildings and closes, where the Nocturne Series has hosted an elite crit for the past three years. Surrounded by pubs and hotels, this is an ideal starting point for media and hospitality, although conditions might be a bit tight.
Making the most of the extreme conditions we have had, this video, shot by local rider Steven Smith, showcases the skills of Stirling mountain bikers on a section of built trail nicknamed Streetfighter.
In drier conditions, Steven filmed himself riding Bridge of Allan’s Mine Woods– also well worth a watch.