5) The Muur Van Geraardsbergen.
I can’t write anything remotely original about this mythical climb, so I’ll use personal experience instead. The reason it makes number 5 is because its actually quite awful. Its so unfathomably rough, and when raced, its unfathomably hard. I genuinely dislike riding up it. It’s only in my top 5 because when watching others race it, I swear it emits some kind of shining light. Its holy ground. There is no location in cycling history, in my opinion, that more definitively describes bike racing through a picture.
4 ) The Cote de Saint Roch
It comes after only 90 km in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Its not so definitive in the race. The peloton just rides up it. I say just rides. I drove a van up it for the first time this year. I had to use 1st gear up it, and the foot and handbrake on the way down it. Its that steep. Its the only hill I have ever ridden that I wished I had a granny ring on for. Its so steep, I am surprised the houses do not slip further and further down each year. Its painful, short, and totally cobble-less. Its my kind of climb! Houffalize is at the bottom of it too. Belgium’s most picturesque town.
3) The Trieu.
Its the 2nd climb in the Tour of Flanders. Its also my 3 Min effort hill. It just gets steeper and steeper. Unusually, for the Tour of Flanders, its made from tarmac. Ahhhh, sweet tarmac. After this climb in the race there is a main road decent at over 80kph. You have to make it over here in the front. Its a thinking mans climb. You have to race for it 10km before it starts. Miss it and your race is over. In a bunch of 200 the first 10 spots are hard to come by. Its a real fight to the bottom of this hill. Plus, when doing my 3 Min efforts, I can believe I am solo in front of the Great Race. Until I look round and see I am holding up a tractor.
2) The Eddy Merckx Climb.
It steep and long. About 22% for 1km. Its decisive in L-B-L too, its towards the last 70km of the race. My team mate Chris Macic and I did a 240km ride that took in this hill this year. Why so far training? Because “Big Chris” is a nutter, and a friend. You come off a fast sweeping decent, throw a hard right and hit out straight up this wall. Its just goes on and on. You come out into a forest on top and its dead quite. I often pulled out my earphones this year to hear me try to catch my breath and listen to the silence. The atmosphere at the top is the polar opposite than what you experience on your way up. The top is peaceful, and tranquil – a place to recover. The way up is angry, and it burns – a place to hurt yourself. Because I am a fan of the hopeless Romantics of centuries past, I love this juxtaposition. Plus there is a statue of The Great Man at the top, engraved in bronze, watching you ascend in a blaze of lactic acid fiery pain.
1) The Rosier.
In the L-B-L it arrives with 60km to go. Its the longest climb in Belgium too. 4Km in the race, 9km if you do the full bottom – to – top run. You can ride leisurely up it too. Its not steep. Its just long. You traverse open fields and hammer through dense forest. Its perfectly tarmac-ed and when your chain is perfectly lubricated with your tyres containing the correct pressure all elements combine to make that beautiful mechanical whooshing noise and you almost silently ride along. If I had a bad race, I would try to ride this hill a day or two after. It reassured me, that as long as I am on a bike, everything will be just fine. Of course you can drop your chain halfway down your block and engage the big ring if you really want a decent hit out. Its one of those sections of road that make people fall in love with road cycling. And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that.