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My perfect cycling year

Felix Lowe
6 Jan 2017

If you could spend an entire year riding the best cycling races on the planet, which events would you choose to take in?

The thought first came to me while gazing at a painted phallus adorning a Normandy backroad during a long ride from Cherbourg to Barcelona last summer.

I remembered the meat and two veg graffiti from the Grand Départ in last year’s Tour de France. Riding over it represented a two-fingered salute to the humdrum nine-to-five life many of us lead.

That feeling of needing to escape by bicycle returned to me at the recent launch of a book called Ultimate Étapes by cycling writer Peter Cossins.

In the book, Cossins has created a theoretical Tour of Europe, taking in 25 iconic pro stages that draw on his experiences as both writer and rider. 

The accompanying raft of wow-inducing images from Jered and Ashley Gruber had me itching for an extended two-wheeled adventure of my own.

Your own Grand Tour

What if, I mused, you took Cossins’ concept and applied it to a global stage? What if you could just drop everything for a year and do your own Grand Tour around the world, following the major races and sportives with your bike?

You’d sign up quicker than you can say Jeremy Clarkson. I started planning the route straight away.

While the vast majority of pro races are in the pedalling heartlands of France, Spain and Italy, WorldTour races now feature in 15 countries – stretching all the way from Australia to Canada. In 2017, events in the USA and Middle East will join the party.

With some turkey-fuelled chilly training miles in the bag, you’d start in Adelaide with the Tour Down Under in late January before riding the Great Ocean Road event (doffing your casquette to Cadel Evans), then perhaps catch the Spirit of Tasmania ferry from Melbourne to emulate Richie Porte and Cameron Wurf on one of their crazy 250-milers.

Forget Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Oman in February – most people will. Instead I’d make a beeline to Portugal for the Volta ao Algarve, followed by nipping up to France for the start of Paris-Nice on 5th March. 

Once you’ve chased the sun to the south coast, it’s only a short hop sideways to catch the sprint at Milan-San Remo on the 18th.

Classics time

Next it’s back up north for a few bleak weeks in Belgium, taking in the Flanders and Roubaix sportives before ample time hanging around with Dutchmen drinking Amstel and eating Ardennes pâté in April.

Decision time in May: take the bike to Italy for the centenary Giro d’Italia or decamp to the States to sample the Tour of California? By opting for the latter, you could squeeze in the Trans-Am amateur endurance epic while listening to Dauphiné updates as you pedal 4,000 miles across America.

Who knows – perhaps the Tour de Trump will have got going again by then?

Back in Europe for July and you can emulate author Tim Moore by shadow-riding each stage of the Tour de France.

By now you’ll be peaking in sync with Alejandro Valverde, so it would be a shame not to enter the 4,000km Transcontinental race that this year features a checkpoint on a famous climb you may have missed during the Giro: Monte Grappa (not to be confused with the vile fruit punch that is the Del Monte Grappa).

Now in tip-top shape, you’ll squeeze in a competitive tilt at the Haute Route Pyrenees on 13th-19th August before viewing the Vuelta action in various hotspots around Spain.

War of the Worlds

Still want more? Then have a pop at the fiendish Rapha Cent Cols Challenge in the Pyrenees before some Scandi downtime in Norway during the Worlds in Bergen from the 16th to 24th of September.

As the fallen leaves clog up your metaphorical mudguards, target Lombardia for the season’s final Monument in early October before something quite novel: a trip to Africa for the Tour of Rwanda in November (where in 2016 the crowds put those deserted Doha Worlds to shame).

Geographically speaking, you’ll then be in the same continent for the final phase of your gap year: winter training with the pros in the Canaries and some last-minute sun before a suitably chilly Christmas in Blighty and some much-needed readjustment.

What do you think of Felix's selection? Any other races you'd put in your own dream cycling calendar? Leave a comment and let us know!

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