Pave to some, cobbles to others, for some cycling purists there’s nothing quite like the thrill of rough terrain to get the blood flowing. With Northern Europe boasting some of the best sections of cobbled roads in the world, we take a look at a few that are well worth a visit.
1) Even the word ‘hellinglen’ sounds epic, and they don’t come much better than the Koppenberg; Flanders' own cycling hell on earth topping out at 22%. The climb is a regular feature of the Tour of Flanders, and one slip means that even the pros will be reduced to walking rather than riding. Shop the Koppenberg Block Culture print here.
2) Shibden Wall is one of the best-known cobbled climbs in the UK, with a distinctly Belgian feel. Having featured in the Tour of Britain (tamed by the legendary Sean Kelly) and the Tour de Yorkshire, the rough going is well worth a visit. But while there, try out some hidden gems such as Old Lane and Trooper Lane. Brutal.
3) Perhaps not the first place you think of as a cycling heartland, Slovenia boats the Vršič Pass, in the Juian Alps. It makes up in beauty what it lacks in fame, with cobbled hairpins and amazing views, it should be on the list of any self-respecting fan of pave.
4) The Tour de Suisse has been gaining in stature year on year, but even they haven’t dared brave the Passo San Gottardo (St. Gotthard Pass). With 3km of cobbles on the north side, and almost 15km on the opposite flank, you’ll get two for the price of one. Mind that descent.
5) Not particularly known for its cobbled climbs, the Ardennes region boasts a partially hidden gem in the form of Cote de la Rue Naniot, included in recent editions pf the Amstel Gold Race. Only short in length, it boats a brutal average gradient of 11%. Band of Climbers have a great range of prints celebrating the cobbled classics.
All blog images by Russ Ellis.