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Cycling the Mountains of the Tour de France

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At some point in their life every amateur cyclist dreams of riding the high roads of the Tour de France, discovering first-hand what it’s like to tackle Alpe D’Huez or the Tourmalet.

Not many cyclists ever get round to turning that notion into reality. Author Rolf Rae-Hansen and his best friend did just that, and to Alpe D and the Tourmalet they added another 33 of cycling’s most feared and revered mountain passes.

Just days into their adventure and it became clear that these two distinctly amateur cyclists had bitten off more mountain than they could comfortably chew. As they ticked off the climbs one by one, their friendship was tested to, and then beyond, destruction.

Through moments of laughter, sadness and exhilaration, Rolf Rae-Hansen documents the highs and lows of tackling the biggest names in cycling, from the Stelvio to Alpe D’Huez, to Mont Ventoux and the Tourmalet.

With themes both personal and universal, The Breakaway is a book for cyclists and non-cyclists, a story of (mis)adventure, friendship and overcoming grief.

Not only had I an insatiable desire for the mountains, I also had a newfound respect, a realisation that from now on the names I would champion would be those from the parcours and not the peloton. The paint on tarmac will fade to be replaced in a continual cycle of renewal but the names printed white onto brown summit signs will never desert me — always there, for all of us, and future generations too. In essence, the climbs that Drew and I had tackled were the very same routes ridden one hundred years ago, the same arduous ascents cyclists will be slogging their way up in another hundred years to come. Tourmalet, Ventoux, Galibier, Stelvio, D’Huez … those are the sport of cycling’s true legends. They feature in races (and the headlines) year in year out; they never lose form, can’t retire. More importantly, in this era of doubt, the mountains won’t test positive — solid as the millennia of rock upon which their roads were laid, guaranteed to never let you down.