A memorial to a local cyclist, Paul Skelly,
who died suddenly in 2016 aged 53.
The Downs are chalk hills that typically have a scarp slope and a more gentle dip slope. In the case of the North Downs the dip slope faces London providing a steady and fairly gentle climb up to the ridge that overlooks the Kent and Surrey countryside. After a narrow and steep descent down Hesiers Lane, the Col du Skelly (Beddlestead Lane) is a fairly steady climb of 3.16 kms at an average of 4% with a height gain of 120 metres that takes you to the ridge at the top of the North Downs dip slope. Carrying on into Kent and Surrey will take you down the steep inclines of the scarp slope. Here are found plenty of steep challenging climbs – some with up to 20% gradients and more, which will test even fit young cyclists.
It was back in the late 1970s and 1980s that I rode and managed these hills on a conventional bike now I enjoy riding up them on my electric bike, which still allows you to work hard but without expiring at the roadside.
These are short, sharp hills more akin to the famous climbs in Belgium that are a feature of the Spring Classics, such as the Tour of Flanders. Certainly nothing like the long Alpine climbs that face the remaining riders in the 2020 Tour de France this week – assuming that the race continues after all the riders and staff are tested for Covid-19 over the rest day.
Leaving aside the racing, which has been exciting this year, the Tour de France is a great advert for the beauty of the very varied French countryside – all the more so now with high definition TV pictures compared to the grainy but atmospheric black and white of the early days of television and the time of news reels. The length of stage races also allows commentators to talk about the food and wine of the regions the race passes through. Wine wise journalist and author François Thomazeau is to date the most impressive and knowledgeable without being precious or pompous. A few nameless others broadcast their ignorance and prejudices with gusto.
Along with travel guides and crime novels often set in Marseille, Thomazeau also compiles the official guide to the sights along the route of the Tour that briefs commentators allowing them to talk knowledgeably about places of interest – châteaux, churches etc. Thomazeau can be heard on the excellent daily Cycling Podcast along with Richard Moore and Lionel Birnie.
It won't be long before we know whether Slovenia will have its first Tour de France winner and whether Irishman Sam Bennett will dethrone Peter Sagan as King of the Green Points Jersey.
Here complete list of the Tour de France stage winners from the first edition in 1903 to the present day.