The Bournville Classic is the latest addition to the Cycle Classics series of events modelled on the one-day ‘Classics’ – the inspiration this time being the oldest (and perhaps the most difficult) one-day professional cycle race in the world – Liege-Bastogne-Liege – first held in 1892. The distinctive feature of this race is a series of a dozen steep climbs through the Ardennes Forest in Belgium (home of the Formula 1 ‘Spa’ circuit). The Bournville Classic follows a similar pattern, with a relentless series of sixteen tough climbs, one after another, right from the start.

Lengths and Gradients of the 16 Climbs of the Bournville Classic – Click for Full-Size Image

These climbs are typically 1-2 km in length, with gradients up to 17%, criss-crossing the Lickey, Clent, Wast and Waseley Hills to the southwest of Birmingham, building to a climax with the Hagley Wood – Winwood Heath – Beacon Hill triad, all of which are over 15%. The extremity of the event is clearly visible in the dramatic sawtooth profile above, with steep climbs every 5km, constituting an athletic challenge of the highest order.

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The Clent Hills – climbed from three different directions.

Of equal importance to the climbs in defining the character of the Bournville Classic are the ten long, broad, sweeping descents (typically around -4%). These descents have been carefully chosen so that they can be pedalled down hard in top gear, without spinning out and without needing to brake. This generates an intense feeling of speed, easily surpassing that of passively freewheeling down steeper slopes that require periodic braking. While other Cycle Classics events have relied on variations in road surface to generate speed and excitement (e.g. via cobbles, gravel roads), the Bournville Classic is completely different, utilising instead long descents to produce exhilarating sensations of speed and power. The philosophy is the same however, geared towards amplifying our experience of speed, and those pleasures that make cycling such an attractive and addictive sport.

The Bournville Classic is 68 miles long with 6000 ft (1800m) of climbing, mostly on quiet country roads, yet all within ten miles of Birmingham. It starts and finishes at the 19th-Century Cadbury chocolate factory in the workers’ model village of Bournville, Birmingham. Chocolate will feature at the feed stations. The event takes place on Sunday 21 October 2018, starting at 0845. Entries are now open, priced at £25.

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Interactive Map – Click to View and Access GPX file

Interactive Route Profile – Click to View

CLIMBS AND DESCENTS

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HIGHLIGHTS

Climbs

Early highlights are the 14% climb of Forhill after only 12 km, and the steep, straight ramp up Rose Hill.  Egg Hill, at roughly the halfway point, is topped by the landmark ‘Frankley Beeches’, an artificial copse planted by Richard Cadbury, which provides panoramic views over the whole of Birmingham and the surrounding countryside. In the second half of the event, the difficulty of the climbs increases, culminating the challenging trio of Hagley Wood Lane, Winwood Heath Rd and Beacon Hill (the highest point in the Birmingham area). These three climbs, which follow one another in quick succession, are highlighted in pink above.

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The first major ascent, after 12km: Forhill. 2.3km long, 14% max. gradient.

The middle section of the Forhill climb in the fading evening light. The Lickey Hills ridge is visible in the background.

Over the crest of Beacon Hill – the highest point in the surrounding area. Features an alpine-style hairpin with crash barriers!

Towards the summit of Winwood Heath Rd. Perhaps the most difficult climb in the whole event, with ramps approaching 20%. Previously used in Regional Hill Climb competitions.

A forested climb in the Ardennes – the location of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the one-day Classic which was the inspiration for the Bournville Classic. Note the similar scenery and landscape to Winwood Heath in the preceding photo.

A comparison of the profiles of the Bournville Classic (top) and Liege-Bastogne-Liege(bottom), on which the Bournville Classic is modelled. Note the similarity in number of climbs, length and steepness, with the difficulty increasing in the latter stages.

Descents

The most exciting descents are the Twatling Rd – Brookhouse Rd pair, Newtown Lane, and the Frankley Services-Illey combination. These descents are between 2 and 4km long, at roughly -4%, and speeds approaching 40mph can be generated for long periods, without spinning out. These sections are arguably the highlight of the entire ride.

A sweeping descent in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the race on which the Bournville Classic is based.

The descents in the Bournville Classic have been selected with great care (typically 4-5%) to enable continuous pedalling all the way down at high speeds – similar in gradient to the descent pictured above from the 2012 Tour de France.

Feed Station

The main Feed Station is located at National Trust Cafe in the Clent Hills, at the summit of Hagley Wood Lane -otherwise known as the ‘Nimmings Wood’ Cafe. The cafe does excellent doorstep bacon & egg and sausage sandwiches. Diary Milk and Bournville chocolate will also be provided to all entrants. In future years we will also stockpile Creme Eggs for distribution (only on sale January to Easter unfortunately).

Start and Finish

The Bournville Classic starts and finishes at the 19th-Century Cadbury chocolate factory in the workers’ model village of Bournville, Birmingham. This factory was the inspiration for Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ featuring Willy Wonka. Roald Dahl himself worked as a chocolate taster for Cadbury. The site also houses Cadbury World, a major tourist attraction, which showcases the history and production methods of the company.

Bournville Village was built by the Cadbury family (who were quakers) in order to provide a more rural and healthy  environment for their factory workers than the polluted inner city of 19th-Century Birmingham.

The tiled exterior of the 19th-Century Cadbury Factory in Bournville.

The factory was revolutionary for its time in being situated in a green out-of-town location.

The Cadbury Factory in Bournville knocks out a million creme eggs a day.

History

Léon Houa, winner of the first three editions of Liege-Bastogne-Liege: 1892, 1893 and 1894. The year 1893 was famous for the introduction of the first pneumatic tyre. Liege-Bastogne-Liege is the oldest race on the current cycling calendar.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege is one of the toughest races to win, partly due to the hilly terrain, but also because of the severe weather conditions which sometimes occur. Here Bernard Hinault triumphs in the snow-affected 1980 edition – permanently losing sensation in the fingers of his left hand in the process.

Cadbury’s Chocolate – recommended for the gentleman cyclist since 1886. The legend reads, “To Cyclists – Strength and Staying Power, with admirable nutritive, flesh-forming qualities, are retained in a concentrate form in Cadbury’s Cocoa, providing an exhilarating beverage–comforting and sustaining for long or short-trips.”

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