8/10 .It's funny, Mayomaniac, the week following the Tour route presentation, I created my own route as a response to what I didn't like about that route (but overall I had mixed feelings as there were a lot of good stuff too), and while the overall structure and balance is somewhat similar, the only start or finish town we share is Paris and the 7 passes we both use (5 in the Pyrenees, no surprise) are all opposite sides. With your route being counter-clockwise and mine clockwise and the both of them together covering most of France, they fit perfectly as successive editions! Only trouble is that we both omit Pau, which is a bit unrealistic as we haven't had two years in a row without the city since '69, '70. The horror ...
First for the overall impression: As for balance and overall structure, it's obvious from my first paragraph that I'm quite happy with that. Your route is a bit short though: Overall distance is ~3300 km. Not trusting Cronoescalada's categorization of climbs and not having yours, by my own count you have 30 climbs, 10/12/8 (HC/1st/2nd). It's the same as this year's edition had, but with twice as many HC climbs. 2018 was the edition with most HC climbs (9) and a total 26 climbs of cat. 2 or higher, so you are certainly not lacking in that department. I personally think that is quite fine, especially so with a more normal amount of TT'ing than in recent years. I too share the view that we need more of both, but it does make it hard for me to suggest changes that would add to the tally.
It's a good domestic Grand Depart, and I can definitely imagine something not too dissimilar happen in the future. But I have to object to the finish of your 2nd stage. I don't think the short finish circuit can work in this context. Just like the 2018 edition had a Tour du Finistère stage that was modified so it was without the small circuit in the end. I think the larger circuit is quite fine. I don't watch Tro-Bro Léon, so I can't say how much else would need modification, but given the rumours in recent years, it's clear that Ribinoù are on the table.
While I know of cases nearby, the Tour has never had a finish on a border before and I'm not sure if it's the case with the other GTs. I don't really think it's a problem, but it got me wondering, and I definitely prefer the full Larrau ascent over a finish at Col d'Erroymendi. The next day is absolutely fine, I'm not sure if it's too overused (here) to finish straight after Tourmalet with something extra in-between. Beyrède is always an alternative for either of the two final climbs, but not really a clear improvement.
I have to say that Ventoux here feels a bit weird to me. I appreciate that it serves a function and that it's the rare side, but wouldn't climbing to Chalet Reynard by the traditional side be fine too? I think it makes sense to insert Col de Lagarde-d'Apt afterwards, but I'm aware that it adds to the tally without adding crucial quality to the stage. I think Tonton's idea work too, but I'm not sure what to have afterwards, as it would be pointless to go directly to the ITT.
I don't have anything to add to your Alp stages. I really like your Jura stage and its circuit shouldn't be too short to cause trouble - I think it's an excellent combination of the climbs. My only suggestion would be to change the beginning and go over Sapenay instead (or alternatively move the start to Rumilly and go over Clergeon) and also use the fourth side of Grand Colombier from Anglefort so that all four sides are in use. An illustration.
I like the nod to Puy de Dôme in the end, giving the route a retro feel. All in all, I quite like it. 8/10
Mauna Kea MTF to be balanced with Ironman Hawaii ITT?I've got a few routes for shorter stage races up my sleeves, one of the most interesting is probably my Tour of Hawaii.
The original version had 8 stages, but I've been thinking about cutting it down to 7 stages, you could market it as "the hardest week in cycling".
About placing inmt on the calender, it could take the spot of the Tour of California and teams could also use Big Island fof altitude training camps.
So the stage race starts in Cortian d'Ampezzo and finishes in Gijon, Cortina's hometown?Libertine Seguros, do you want try this idea?
Big fan of this stage Libertine as it passes through my home town of Kidderminster and would go right by my house on the way up to Bewdley. The climb up Clee Hill is a great ride and has some nice views of the area on a clear day.The problem would then be the direction of the circuit in order to be climbing the proper climbs rather than descending them, that was a bit harder to put together, unless we returned to Chesterfield like they did in 2016, but I wanted to keep the main climbs near to the finish because there's a more serious climbing stage later in the race so I thought racing from distance is only likely across the last couple of climbs here.
Stage 4: Stoke-on-Trent - Worcester, 164km
Bewdley (cat.3) 1,2km @ 5,8%
Clee Hill (cat.2) 4,2km @ 5,2%
Stage 4 is a flattish affair, but it makes up for that by going all for the women’s equivalent of Milano-Sanremo in distance, exceeding 160km in length and ensuring that this will not be one for the crit types, more that it will favour the durable and tough sprinters/classics hybrids that have made the Women’s Tour their preserve, such as Christine Majerus, Lisa Brennauer, Hannah Barnes, Marta Bastianelli or Lotta Lepistö. Or, you know, Marianne Vos.
The stage sees us move southward through the West Midlands region, beginning not far from the Peak District through which we raced yesterday, in the ever-cycling-supportive city of Stoke-on-Trent. Often, as many of these named-for-their-rivers cities are, it is often referred to simply as Stoke, in much the same way as “Frankfurt” omits the “am Main” unless it is in specific comparison to “an der Oder”, “Newcastle upon Tyne” is commonly just “Newcastle”, or “Brive-la-Gaillarde” is just “Brive”. It’s a relatively large city in Britain - over 250.000 inhabitants - formed as the result of industrial revolution era expansion of a group of towns, circled around its largest constituent part, Hanley, into a conurbation that merited treating as a single entity. This also gives it an unusual poly centric model and a north-south layout along the main road which runs through the former towns. The name of “Stoke” was taken from the oldest settlement in the area. Stoke is an industrial city, as many in this region are, although it is comparatively unusual in having a two- or even three-pronged industrial heritage; it is - or at least was - a large producer of coal and also of steel, though far outstripped by Newcastle for the former and Sheffield for the latter in terms of esteem (“coals to Newcastle” is a British idiom for something unnecessary, while Sheffield is, like Toledo or Pittsburgh, popularly known as the steel city). But when it comes to pottery, however, Stoke is peerless, and it is for this trade that the city has become well known, which reflects to the extent that its football team is known affectionately as the Potters. Particularly desirable and renowned pottery firms such as Wedgwood and Royal Doulton are based in the city, and this is its main heritage in public esteem. However, that is not to belittle the other industrial heritage - once the conurbation boasted the deepest coal mine shafts in Europe, while the steel mills in the city were of particular importance to the RAF during World War II. However, with the increasing transition towards service industries, the mines and mills are now either closed or on highly limited capacity, and the slag heaps and other scars they have left on the landscape now characterise the region, making it also one which gets some stick for being unattractive, a little like, say, Charleroi.
Many famous faces have come from the city, largely in the last 2-300 years subsequent to the expansion of the pottery industry. Arnold Bennett, the late 19th-Century writer, brought the city to life in real or fictionalised versions, while it has developed a slightly unusual heritage - dispersed wildly - for rock and roll; while none of its rocking sons ever really tied themselves down to Stoke, it is nevertheless the hometown of punk anarchist Steve Ignorant, from Crass, and Ian Kilmister, the iconic bassist known to the world as Lemmy, whose tenures first with Hawkwind and then as frontman of speed metal pioneers Motörhead have left him a deified figure of outlaw rock - his Ace of Spades will forever go down as one of the all time anthems of heavy music, setting the boundaries for how fast and how hard a record needs to be. You can be faster, you can be harder, but you don’t need to. Also, Stoke on Trent was the childhood home of Guns ’n’ Roses guitarist Saul “Slash” Hudson, though of course his British background is oft forgotten now. In the field of sports, the city’s most famous progeny is probably Sir Stanley Matthews, an iconic footballer of the immediate post-war era who continued to play to the highest level into his 50s, and the regionally popular Phil “The Power” Taylor, considered the best ever player of the sport of darts, largely confined to Britain and British expatriate areas, with some popularity in areas of the Netherlands and Germany.
Stoke-on-Trent was also the hometown of marathon cycling specialist Tommy Godwin, who set a number of endurance titles including the most distance covered in a year award, set before the outbreak of WWII and which stood until 2015 - averaging over 320km a day for an entire calendar year. More recently, Les West brought fame to the town, riding in the era of Tommy Simpson. He was a fortunate winner of the Milk Race in 1965 - thanks to a positive drugs test meaning the Spanish team, including race leader Luís Pedro Santamarína, was ejected from the race (of course, the Spanish and Italians are the only ones who have the reputation for manufacturing situations around home wins - at the time punishments for doping were in their infancy, and some races just applied time penalties, others ejected single riders, others ejected teams). He relocated to the Netherlands to compete more regularly in pack races, which rewarded him with a silver medal from the amateur World Championships on the Nürburgring, after losing the sprint to Evert Dolman. He was scheduled to join Bic for 1967 but due to administrative issues remained an amateur, winning the Milk Race once more, and then held off until after the 1968 Olympics to turn pro. He largely remained within the relatively insular British professional scene through the 1970s, but did distinguish himself by being part of the decisive break in the 1970 World Championships on home roads in Leicester - however he was the one member of the break to miss the medals after cramping up in the sprint.
It is perhaps due to this heritage that the city was chosen by Cycling England to be a “Cycling City” (capitals due to branding) and invested large amounts of money into building a cycling infrastructure in the area. This was promoted through bringing numerous bike races through the city following the relaunching of the Tour of Britain in the early 2000s, and has continued on through the cycling boom in the United Kingdom. On the shingle-inducing routes of the late 2000s, when the organisers hadn’t quite got the placement of obstacles right and HTC-Columbia were strangling the life out of anything that wasn’t hilly-to-mountainous, it frequently hosted the “queen stage”, albeit on stages that looked like this. 2008 featured a stage from Worcester to Stoke-on-Trent, so the reverse of my stage, with some small time gaps being opened up by Edvald Boasson Hagen and Giairo Ermeti; from 2009 to 2012, each year featured a stage which both began and ended in the city, known somewhat ominously as “The Stoke on Trent Stage”. Boasson Hagen won a sprint in 2009 and so did Lars Boom (!) In 2011. In 2010, Gregory Henderson won from a breakaway which was given ten minutes of leeway as HTC were happy that their not-yet-outed-as-a-racist puncheur Michael Albasini would be best placed to profit in the subsequent Constitution Hill stage (and they were right), while in 2012 Marc de Maar held on for a solo win. In 2013 and 2015 it served only as a départ town in the Tour of Britain, but it did resurface as a finish town in the 2016 Women’s Tour, with Marianne Vos winning from a group numbering around 20, and then again in 2017, with Amy Pieters winning as the group split up in the late going as attacks came in from those trying to win back time lost to Niewiadoma the previous day.
The city has also hosted the nation’s Tour Series, a collection of city centre crit courses designed to bring cycling to the masses as well as produce a coherent ranking for wildcard teams to be selected for the Tour of Britain out of the national péloton, nearly every year since the inception of the series in 2009. Familiar faces have won a number of these, including Russell Downing, Ian Bibby, Scott Thwaites and Christopher Lawless, while points winners have included track specialist Sebastián Mora, now racing for Movistar. Women’s events were appended to the series in 2011, with Dani King/Rowe, Helen Wyman and Katie Archibald among the winners. So yes: lots of reasons to believe Stoke would be a viable and willing host.
The stage begins with a bumpy but uncategorised first section over some small hills towards the town of Market Drayton. The profile makes it seem worse than it is - that spike on the profile is 2,8km @ 3,4%, so really not that brutal. It is the alleged hometown of Oswald Mosely, the notorious British fascist leader, but this is unofficial. We then wind southwards through small villages and twisty roads through exposed countryside to an intermediate sprint in Telford. This is actually somewhat uphill - 1km at 5,6% according to Cronoescalada, so take those numbers with a pinch of salt - in a part of town known as The Rock, not to be confused with Dwayne Johnson of course.
Telford is a post-war “New Town”, with a rapidly increasing population of 175.000 and seen as a hotbed for investment as its growth in the post-industrial landscape was largely tied to the service industries rather than being an old-fashioned industrial town built around mining or commodity production like many around it. It was largely built in the 1960s and 1970s, designed to house overspill and commuters from the West Midlands conurbation clustered around Birmingham, which had grown into a megalopolis. With such a short history, the town doesn’t have too much by way of famous children, though British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was educated in the town, and leftist comedian Stewart Lee was born in the vicinity. It also hosts a theme park known as “Wonderland”, which one presumes is likely to be ironic.
We then continue south through Bridgnorth and through our feed zone to a second intermediate sprint, this time in the town of Kidderminster. An older overspill town of the West Midlands conurbation, 55.000 people call the city home. This, in earlier times, included the racing driver Peter Collins, killed in an accident at the Nürburgring at the 1958 German Grand Prix, and the team owner and engineer John Wyer, who played a crucial role in Aston Martin’s work in the late 50s and early 60s, and was part of the Ford program that led, eventually, to the famous 1966 Le Mans triumph immortalised in film, although that particular event took over after the team was taken out of his hands and placed in the control of Holman Moody and Wyer’s former Aston Martin collaborator Carroll Shelby. He operated GT40s and modified Mirage M1 prototypes, before switching to Porsche 917s, which have also been immortalised in film of course. John Wyer’s personal connections were the reason for the iconic Gulf Oil livery as well, as he had ties with the company’s director, and they followed him from Ford to Porsche as a result. The town hosted the Milk Race back in 1973 and 1982 but since then has not been involved with cycling at all as far as I can tell.
From here we turn westwards, and cross into the small town of Bewsley for a short climb to Bewsley Long Bank. Some rolling terrain into Cleobury Mortimer then sets us up for the main climb of the day, the cat.2 Clee Hill. This is the shoulder of Titterstone Clee Hill, just about the highest point in the county, over 500m above sea level. We obviously don’t climb to the summit, just to the shoulder road as the last 1200m of ascent are on a dead end road. It’s not very steep - mostly consistent at around 4-5% - though there is a ramp of up to 14% at one point. The first half is tougher than the second. There’s then a long, gradual descent into the scenic Cotswold town of Burford, famous for its cheese.
The climb crests 45km from home, so it really shouldn’t be particularly decisive (notwithstanding the expectations of the 2009-10 era Tour of Britain organisers), but the length of this stage should play a distinct factor in the finale, when after a rolling closing stretch including a couple of uncategorised ascents, the riders arrive in Worcester. For this I have cloned the final couple of kilometres of the 2018 stage from Evesham to Worcester, which was won by Amalie Dideriksen in a sprint of THE ENTIRE PÉLOTON, not really a fitting tribute for a stage which was intended as a tribute to the late Sharon Laws, a Kenyan-born British late-blooming cyclist who grew up in nearby Gloucestershire, and had been a strong climber in her time. She was originally an endurance mountainbiker, who turned into a road pro at age 33, after being approached by Dave Brailsford to ride for the Halfords team that was designed around winning Nicole Cooke the Olympic gold in Beijing - before disbanding saying “mission accomplished” and putting their money into the domestic men’s scene. Her biggest wins were a stage of the Tour de l’Aude and the British national championships, though she did take the GPM at the inaugural Women’s Tour. She retired mid-season, just after her 42nd birthday, but didn’t get to enjoy it as she soon revealed that she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. The silent, remorseless killer took over a year to take her down, but Laws passed away in December 2017 at the age of just 43.
Aside from that Women’s Tour stage, Worcester has also appeared in the Tour of Britain a few times recently, however only as a stage start, with stages in 2007, 2014 and 2017 starting in the city as well as the stage to Stoke-on-Trent mentioned above. It was never a host of the old Milk Race, as the Malvern Hills to the southwest of the city tended to host stages whenever the race came to this neck of the woods. It does however have a long history going back to Roman times, and is famous as the final battleground of the English Civil War in the mid-17th Century, being a Parliamentarian stronghold that was taken by the Royalists and held for several years before being besieged, and then being won back by the Parliamentarians in 1646, then once again in 1651 when a Scottish-backed Royalist force in support of Charles II was forced to flee. In an act of staggering hypocrisy, the city then appealed to Charles II after the restoration for compensation, and branded itself The Faithful City. Much of its medieval centre was destroyed in the mid-20th Century, somewhat inexplicably largely in the 1950s and 60s after surviving World War II intact!!!
Worcester is seen as a somewhat well-to-do, posh city in comparison with many of its neighbours in the outlying West Midlands area; its main sports clubs are the rugby and cricket clubs, which are both prominent, whereas the city’s football team is well down the British football pyramid. It is also the hometown of composer Edward Elgar, as well as a formative influence on fellow 20th Century British composers Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams, both of whom grew up in neighbouring Gloucestershire. However, at the same time, Worcester Woman is a fictionalised swing voter that represents a “median” voter which is frequently used by British political parties in strategic planning, and is more lower-middle/upper-working class in character. It’s also a pretty cool place to host a women’s bike race as it is the birthplace of Hannah Snell, Britain’s earliest attested wartime cross-dresser (a somewhat derogatory nomenclature for what should surely be seen as heroic acts - a woman who at times before this was allowable would dress and pass as a man in order to fight for their country). So it should be fitting that we see a marathon stage being fought out between some heroic, tough women, no?
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