London may not have pavés (cobbles) like in the Forest of Arenberg or bergs like Geraadsbergen Muur but we do have cobbled streets and we also have short sharp climbs.
So using these facts, a group of imaginative folks from South London put together The London Classic, based on the series of bike races held in the Spring on the steep and cobbled roads of Flanders (Belgium) and Northern France. This ride was less than 60km long, but it was quite a bone shaker for those uninitiated to the quirky world of Spring Classics.
Under sunny skies we set off from a pub South of the river and then headed into central London where we were treated to our first section of easy pavés in Covent Garden.
Then it was on through The City where the more serious, bumpier stuff was to be found on the old streets of Stepney and Wapping.
Having ridden the Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders cyclosportives in the past, I thought I would have been ok on the cobbles of London. But then I remembered that I had been spared the worst of the jarring at these events by being on my sturdy cyclo cross bike with chunky tyres. On this day I was on my delicate road bike with slicks. So in fact I suffered the shakes more than I'd anticipated. Thankfully the cobbled stretches in London were nowhere near as long as those in Northern France or Belgium.
Heading back to South London via Tower Bridge I took a quick breather before preparing myself for a tough final 10 miles home. We were treated to a rapid succession of steep hills through South East London - Maze Hill, St John's, Honor Oak Park, and the worst of them all - Canonbie Road (oof)! This road should carry a "don't try this at home" warning. It. Is. Steep!!
Back at the event HQ of the Alma pub at Crystal Palace we then watched how it's done (or not, in Tom Boonen's case) when we followed live coverage of the queen of the classics, the Paris-Roubaix professional bike race.
We may not have had to negotiate 260km of cobbles in pouring rain and wind on our ride, and it was far from being the "hell of the north" (or the south even), but I had definitely ridden my bike, and Stepney had felt like my Carrefour de L'Arbre while Canonbie Road was my Koppenberg! Maybe for next year the organisers should award us with a genuine Stepney cobble as a form of trophy for our efforts! (I hope the Council aren't reading this!)
Thanks to Dave Mullarkey and Brixton Cycles for putting on a great event!
Photos by Wig Worland