Thursday, 29 January 2009

Cycling In The French Alps, Paul Henderson (2005)

Cicerone 1 85284 445 0 Paperback 217pp £14

A detailed guide to eight, multi-day cycle tours in the Alps including numerous colour photographs, route itineraries and ride profiles

Had this book been written by a life-long cyclist, then chances are its impressions of the Alps would have been framed by the routes and riders of the great tours. But it was not. Cicerone are an ambitious publisher with a good many cycling titles in their catalogue – but whose starting point is mountaineering.

In many respects this is refreshing. Far more awesome than the spectacle of, say, the Tour de France, are the mountains themselves and it is good to focus on them without the second hand perspective of the feats of Bahamontes or Pantani.

The ‘eight classic cycle tours’ through which Henderson guides us are each multi-day excursions. He envisages in his Tour of the Ain, for example, spending six days, covering between 46 and 77 kilometers a day. Daily height gain varies from 500 to 1197 meters per day.

This would certainly be a fabulous way to spend a week – although for many cyclists the schedule is perhaps a little unambitious. You don’t have to be a Category 1 racer to be able to comfortably contemplate double the daily distance and a height gain of 2000 meters over that period. Still, there is no reason why one should not cover Henderson’s routes in half the number of days.

For each route, the book provides detailed directions, showing each turn that you should take over the course of the route. Such information is critical in the mountains, as the roads are generally few and wrong turns can prove disastrous. These pages would be easy to copy and keep in your back pocket – or simpler still, programe into your GPS.

There is also a lot of good general information and some spectacular illustration. I would certainly consult this if I were planning a summer trip to the Alps. I would find it hard not to cross reference it with a guide to the climbs of the Tour before completely settling my plans

PS January 09

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