The first experience of Box Hill
Having put off moving from the Cote D?Azur to the hills of Surrey last year knowing that when the time came to leave I would be saying goodbye to the hills and gorges that I had been lucky enough to call my local riding for the past 10 months ? but like all good things they sometimes have to end, and in this case it was my time down there!
None the less this would mean the opportunity to suddenly have all new roads to ride and explore, the climbs might not be long, but they would be steep and narrow. Guess that?s an accurate description for the hills of Surrey bar Box Hill, which many describe as being the best example of an Alpinesque climb in the area. But let?s not get carried away here, it wouldn?t even compare to the coastal road between Nice and Monaco for its difficulty or even the elevation changes that occur ? but none the less it was going to be an experience riding it for the first time!
So with a 13km warm up in my legs that saw me have to negotiate Crocknorth Road, and the descent off Ranmore Common, dealt with, swerving the pot holes and still getting used to the way of the drivers in the UK ? Box Hill appeared looming large. Not wanting to wait any longer it was time to ride up it. It measures only 2.5km, average gradients of 5% with just an elevation gain of 129m ? not much in the scheme of things, but I never underestimate a climb and had heard great things! With all that in mind I started the climb
Taking the right hand turn onto the Zig Zag road and the climb began, it wasn?t what I had expected it to be at all. The road heading straight into the distance, quite dark and shaded due to all the tree cover that was over hanging the road. The road felt as if it was part of one those valley road sectors in the Pyrenees where you are climbing very steadily, but just don?t feel like you?re getting anywhere fast! Knowing that the climb is only 2.5km long meant that this wasn?t going to last long ? and with the road being named the ?Zig Zag? I had a fair idea in my head that there would be a hairpin or two ahead?!
Sure enough there was two of them in fact, not technical or challenging, but reminiscent of the Alps all the same. The first was a sweeping left hand bend, the ideal corner to gather up some speed on the entrance and keep pushing on, of course being my first ascent it meant that the notion of setting a respectable time on Strava was one of the key thoughts. Several hundred metres later followed by a tight right hand bend, that caught me off guard ? it came up a bit quicker on me than I had expected and lost most of my momentum on the exit of the corner. The bends reminded me of climbing Col de Braus out the back of Nice (one of my absolute favourites for the famed ?Snake of Braus?), constant gradients through the turns, and a smooth exit ? alas there wasn?t another eight to come – that was the hairpins dealt with.
Knowing I was over ? way through the climb and with another long straight section awaiting, there was only one thing to do ? go for it! I couldn?t count how many times these long straight climb strips in the mountains had broken me, but for some reason this time I was just thriving on it ? with the right hand turn negotiated and the Garmin showing the caf? was a mere few hundred metres away I decided there was no point leaving anything behind, smashing myself for the final few hundred metres while sending the HR in to the red. Moments later and the caf? appears! Box Hill has been ridden!
So in summary, it wasn?t what I had expected. I think I had gone in with the idea of it being just a constant climb up to one of the higher points in Surrey and I guess I was very wrong. It provided me with a few challenges and while it certainly pales against the climbs of the Cote d?Azur, I am sure over my time in the UK I?ll be back there more.
If you love the hairpins of Box Hill then I guarantee you will love these three climbs
Passo Stelvio (Bormio Ascent)? Italian Alps ? 21.3km at 7.5%
One of the most known and photographed climbs in Cycling, the Passo Stelio is also the 2nd highest rideable Col in Europe at 2758m. It has featured throughout the Giro D’Italia’s history including that infamous snowed in incident in 2014 which saw N.Quintana disappear down the road. you’ll tackle 42 hairpins, sections over 10% and altitude making this one of the tougher climbs in Europe.
How to climb the Passo Stelvio with Le Domestique Tours
Passo Stelvio is a key part of the KOM Giro trip, in which riders will tackle both sides of the great pass, a day that many won’t forget!
Sa Calobra ? Mallorca ? 9.4km at 7.1%
Needing very little introduction, Sa Calobra is a world famous climb that frankly looks almost cartoonish, with a road draped across the cliffs of the northern Mallorcan coastline in an endless series of twists and turns. Though probably more famous for the corkscrew that guards the final section of this climb, Sa Calobra also sports some of the finest hairpins that Europe?s road builders have created. Just be sure to arrive early before the crowds and tourist buses!
How to climb Sa Calobra with Le Domestique Tours
Sa Calobra and Mallorca are one of the most popular destinations for cycling training camps, with Le Domestique Tours offering a full range of scheduled Mallorca cycling training camps throughout spring and autumn each year, together with an endless number of Bespoke camp options for groups who wish for us to build their perfect package.
Col de Braus ? Cote d?Azur ? 10.3km at 6.4%
The Col de Braus and the entire Cote d?Azur are not as well known to UK riders as the classic alpine area of the Alps surrounding Bourg d?Oisans, yet in my eyes and the those of the many pros that live down here, the riding is unrivalled. The Braus is probably best known for the classic Snake of Braus sector of eight hairpins stacked one on top of the other, reminiscent of the infamous Nokia phone game Snake. Simply amazing.
How to climb Col de Braus with Le Domestique Tours
The Col de Braus is a popular inclusion in our Bespoke tours run out of the Cote d?Azur, combined with the Col du Turini to make for one of the best days of riding in the world.