Whilst some books about the mountains that cyclists seek out to suffer upon are coffee table publications that fall into the (still wonderful) class of ‘road porn’, Simon Warren’s concise book of 100 of the climbs used in the Tour de France over the years is definitely a guide book. It’s not going to be the one you salivate over, turning the pages slowly and reverentially at home – the Mountain High and Mountain Higher series by Daniel Friebe is far better for that – but it is the one you are going to use for planning your trip to either the Pyrenees, Alps or Massif Central, and it is definitely the one you are going to take with you when you do go as it is full of useful info about finding the climbs, linking them together and, most tellingly, it has a list at the back where you can tick off your conquests.
The 100 Greatest TdF Climbs book (Frances Lincoln Limited, £9.99), which was published on last week, is the fourth in the ‘100 Greatest Climbs’ series by Simon Warren. Having filled two books with British climbs and one on the Hellingen of Belgium Warren spent a summer riding and researching the much more challenging routes in this latest edition.
Arranged into six separate geographical areas – Pyrenees, Massif Central, Vosges, Jura, Alpes du Nord and Alpes du Sud – each climb comprises the same double page format. Photo and difficult rating on the left; climb description, info, maps & profiles on the right. Without having tested them it’s hard to comment on the directions but they seem comprehensive and always look to make navigation as easy as posible. Quite a few of the maximum gradients noted on the profiles don’t tally up with those in the description paragraph but this hardly interrupts the usefulness of the book.
The written descriptions are excellent, noting everything from the climb topography and direction to the subtle changes of gradient that interrupt your rhythm and can sap your will. Warren waxes lyrical about some climbs whilst berating others for the unrewarding punishment that they inflicted upon him. Notes often also include optional ascent routes that Warren had to choose between allowing a rider with more time the option to consider multiple ascents.
Obviously the book includes the most famous of the Tour climbs, such as Ventoux, Alpe d’Huez, Galibier and Tormalet, but it’s some of the lesser known climbs that really whet the appetite. All of the above would be on most cyclist’s ‘To Do’ list but mine has now swelled with the addition of quite a few more. Wanting to conquer a climb like Alpe d’Huez or Ventoux because of their infamy is fine but learning that the Pas de Peyrol or the Cormet-de-Roseland are, according to Warren, simply two of the most fantastic roads that you can pedal a bike up is worth the modest cover price alone. It’s definitely worth picking up a copy before this years Tour hits some of the same slopes to give an extra understanding of the stages.
COMPETITION TIME: We have one copy to give away. Just send your name and address, along with the answer to the following question, to firstname.lastname@example.org and a winner will be picked at random on Monday 9th June.
How long (in km) is the hors category climb up to Superbagneres?