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TOP 5: Cobbled Sportives

by Nick Gregory

2) The V-Sprint Tour of the Black Country

The 100km Tour of the Black Country takes in 20km of cobbled roads, stony farm tracks and bridleways in the West Midlands, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Staffordshire. Inspired by the European Cobbled Classics, particularly Paris-Roubaix, it includes fifteen unpaved and cobbled sectors and finishes on a large outdoor velodrome, at Aldersley Stadium on the outskirts of Wolverhampton. 

The 15 unpaved sectors vary in length from 300m to 1800m, and are all passable on a standard road bike, in all weathers. These sectors are concentrated in the final 40km, with the last sector leading directly onto the back straight of Aldersley Velodrome. Each sector is rated out of 5 stars according to difficulty, as with Paris-Roubaix. The route is relatively flat, albeit with one challenging cobbled climb - the five-starred Waltonberg. At 600m in length, and with a gradient of over 20% in places, with its rough, irregular and broken cobblestones, it exceeds even the infamous Koppenberg in difficulty - a climb which has reduced some professional riders to walking in the Tour of Flanders. 

The roads are virtually traffic-free, despite being located close to Birmingham, and the majority of the unpaved sectors are closed to all traffic. There is also the option of a shorter 60km route, which skips sectors 8-12, but is otherwise the same as the 100km route. The French flavour is continued with croissants at the feed stations! 

Sean Lacey tackled the inaugural edition earlier this year, read his full review HERE:

"Mirroring the queen of the classics, we completed a lap of the velodrome before crossing the finish line. Being presented with a glass of champagne as you finished was a unique touch, along with a cappuccino cupcake and a lump of polished Black Country coal. Not your usual goodie bag!"

Battling the Waltonberg at the Tour of the Black Country

Dunkerque-Roubaix with Geraint Thomas...

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