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Pedal The Peaks


Time was, anyone still cycling past their teenage years was regarded with a certain degree of suspicion. But, in the past decade, cycling has undergone a huge surge in popularity.

And now, many of us are even taking our bikes on holiday spurred on by the desire to conquer the peaks of mainland Europe, like our idols who begin the gruelling 3,497km Tour De France this weekend. But which to take on? So many hills, so little time. We asked cycling journalist and authors of Mountain High, Daniel Friebe, to select his favourites. What are you waiting for? Get pedalling…

Mountain High: Europe’s 50 Greatest Cycle Climbs by Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding is out now (Quercus)

Alpe d’Huez

Height 1,803m

Where Central Alps, France

Vital stats 13.9km with 8.2 per cent average gradient

“The scene of the Tour De France’s first high-altitude stage finish in 1952; one million spectators lined the 21 hairpins in 2004. As a climb it is tough, but not prohibitively so: a leading pro goes from top to bottom in 40 minutes, we might take 30 minutes longer.”

Pico de Veleta

Height 3,384m

Where Sierra Nevada, Spain

Vital stats 46km with 5.7 per cent average gradient (from Monachil)

“Given that trained cyclists say oxygen debt kicks in from around 2,000 metres above sea level, it’s not hard to imagine how tough climbing becomes in the second half of the Veleta assault. No pro race has ever ventured to the summit – nor will it.”

Mont Ventoux

Height 1,909m

Where Provence, France

Vital stats 21.5km with 7.2 per cent average gradient (from Bédoin)

“Roland Barthes called it ‘The God Of Evil demanding sacrifices’. To anyone who attacks its lunar landscape on a bike, it is a brute. Steep from both of its best-known angles of attack, suffocatingly hot and often dangerously windy, this is on every cyclist’s wishlist.”

Monte Grappa

Height 1,745m

Where Veneto, Italy

Vital stats The easiest route is 25.1km long with 6.2 per cent average gradient.

“The 10 possible routes to the extraordinary mausoleum range from straightforward to gruelling. Anyone who completes all of them in a single calendar year earns a certificate from the local tourist board.”

Passo dello Stelvio

Height 2,758m

Where Lombardy, Italy

Vital stats 24.3km with 7.4 per cent average gradient

“The Stelvio is the Giro d’Italia’s most famous summit, and the feat of engineering required to build it was mind-boggling. The view from the top has been described as the best in the Alps.”

The Koppenberg

Height 78m

Where Flanders, Belgium

Vital stats 600 metres with 10.8 per cent average gradient

“The evil mosaic of cobblestones force even pros to get off and push during the Tour Of Flanders.”


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