Here at Cycling Torque we have put together a panel of cycling experts and enthusiasts to give their take on some of the key issues in the industry.
For June, we asked our panellists; “What’s your favourite riding destination and why?”
Luke Rowe, Team Sky
I love a good bash round the lanes in South Wales – an unstructured ride around Christmas time. That said, it’s hard to compare anything with the riding out around Cote D’Azur – up some of the famous climbs around there, early spring when the temperature is in the low 20’s. Col de la Madone is my favourite.
Having given this question lots of thought, I would say that my favourite place to ride is somewhere new. To me, exploring is the best bit of cycling. I will often find somewhere new that becomes my favourite place. I have ridden in some stunningly beautiful places, in the Dolomites, Pyrenees Alps and the Sierra Nevada in Southern Spain. Equally though, I regularly find new roads within 20 miles of my house that I haven’t ridden before that provides a huge amount of enjoyment. Make a pact with yourself today to find a new road to ride at least once a week, and it will breathe fresh life into your cycle training!
Living in London, I’m grateful for every time I discover something that even vaguely resembles the countryside. My favourite riding destination would have to be the North Downs in Kent and in particular the Sevenoaks District.
Whilst trips to France and Italy provide a fantastic riding experience, I must remain loyal to the villages of Eynsford, Shoreham and Otford. No other locations come close to rivalling these three villages and their rolling hills are responsible for not only my weekend rides, but my development as a cyclist. I’ve tackled these roads in all sorts of conditions, from unrelenting rainfall to jersey-unzipping sunshine.
Zooming in once more, we reach Rowdow Lane – my favourite climb. If I come down from Knockmill, I get to start the climb with a brilliant hairpin. It’s less than half a mile long but averages a gradient of over 10%. It’s short enough to dance up but tough enough to force you into a grind.
Perhaps the best thing about Rowdow is its close proximity to the wonderful Knatts Valley and the fast route back to Eynsford. Every ride features a stop at the Riverside Tea Room, a coffee or tea, and a massive slab of lemon cake.
Should I plump for the most cycling-friendly destination I’ve come across to date – Mallorca? We first encountered this gem of an island on a Stephen Roche cycling camp with guided rides and full support. Returning on our own, I was nervous about getting hopelessly lost trying to find good routes but needn’t have worried. As the island’s roads are teeming with cyclo-tourists, all you need to do is latch onto the nearest wheel and before you know it, the grandiose climbs of Sa Calobra and Cap de Formentor will be yours for the taking.
But what about the area where I spend the most cumulative time turning the cranks? I commute through Richmond Park all year round, at all hours. It has amazing wildlife, plenty of fellow cycling enthusiasts and great coffee stops. Should Richmond Park win my prize as best cycling spot?
Then there’s my Provencal obsession. Riding up Mont Ventoux is like pedaling inside an old newsreel or a film set. Flickering images of Tom Simpson and past Tour battles flit through your head as you grind past the Simpson memorial and glance up at the old meteorological station perched on the stark summit like an improbable birthday candle or a Soyuz rocket on the Baikanur launch pad.
I attempted to become a ‘madman of Ventoux’ making three ascents in one day. Fading light forced me to turn for home after my second. I blamed a late start and over-indulgent lunch – rather than lack of fitness! – for my failure to make the third climb. It may be an overused description of Tour-related destinations but the ‘bald mountain’ genuinely deserves to be labelled ‘iconic’.
So, Ventoux it is.
It’s a real close call for me, the climb from sea level to the top of Mount Teide in Tenerife is quite spectacular but as far as best overall experience goes, for me, you can’t beat Santa Barbara, Central Coast California.
You can ride from the beach to the mountain top via the infamous Gibraltar Road, which periodically graces the Amgen Tour of California, in about an hour. The roads are surfaced well and the locals are friendly and tolerable towards cyclists.
You can expect consistently good weather all year around and it’s on the Pacific Coast Highway which is one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever ridden.
Santa Barbara is my favourite destination to take clients on 1:1 coached camps. You can hit the flats or the climbs; working on technique is easily achievable. Racing and group rides are frequent and easily accessible. The busy city roads have more than adequate cycling lanes and the back roads are quiet enough to do some meaningful coaching.
Truly for me it is cycling paradise.
In 2001 my wife and I came to France and rode our bikes from Normandy to Nice. It was my first time riding in Europe. After this, every couple of years I found a reason to come back and explore more of the continent, and in particular, France.
I became obsessed with the idea of moving here because hell, you probably only live once. Anyway, even if I ended up living a few times I wanted to make sure one of those lives included a good deal of cycling in France…so we moved!
I’ve been living in France nearly 10 years now and I never, ever get tired of riding here. The sheer number of roads in this country is astounding – probably directly correlated with the immense number of villages and hamlets (France has over 35,000 communes; half of all of Europe) – and in general, the state of the roads are excellent.
France is also a country of amazing geographic and cultural diversity. In a 50 km radius of where I live in the south, you’ve got crêpe-flat marshlands (La Camargue), hilly vineyard country (Costières de Nîmes, Côtes du Rhône, Côteaux de Languedoc), and 15 km climbs (Les Cévennes), and I can drive to both the Alps and Pyrenees in less than 3 hours.
I haven’t even started on the respectful drivers, the Tour de France each summer, or the fact I get called ‘Poulidor!’ by the occasional old man when riding through town. It almost makes me wish I could live once more.
That´s all until next time! In the meantime, please let us know in the comments below where your favourite destination is!
Also, if you are interesting in learning more about the panel, click here.