Tired of the Etape? Mortified by the thought of the Marmotte? Then maybe the Ch’Ti Bike Tour is the event for you. It takes place over the weekend of 25 and 26 August in the Nord department of France, which lies directly adjacent to Belgium. The event takes its name from an ancient appelation for the inhabitants of the region, and comprises a cyclosportive on the Saturday and a more relaxed randonnee on the Sunday.
The ride is based near Armentieres, which lies about halfway between Calais and Lille, and is accessible from both the port of Calais and the Lille Eurostar railway station. Last year’s Tour attracted 2200 participants over the two days, including just two from the UK. This year, organiser Didier Soenen of DSO hopes to double the number of entrants, and is particularly keen to see British cyclists enjoy this slice of French cycling culture.
Saturday morning sees the start of la Laurent Desbiens, which is reckoned one of the most scenic of the events that make up the French Cycling Federation’s Label d’Or trophy. Run over 156km, it racks up a solid 1800m of climbing thanks to four ascents of Mont Cassel, two each of Mont des Cats, Mont Noir, Mont de Boescheppe and Merckegem. Known as the Monts des Flandres, these short, sharp climbs provide a demanding and challenging route that rarely stays level for more than a couple of kilometres. With scratch and age classifications, backup that includes 30 motorcycle marshals, route marking and marshalled road junctions and a post race nosh up featuring the best of the local ‘buffet du terroir’, la Laurent Desbiens will satisfy the most demanding of cyclosportifs.
Those with anything left the next day can take a more leisurely ride around the Route des Monts, which offers a choice of distances from 60km to 160km, mtb rides from 20km to 55km and a family route over 20km. Refreshments en route and a post-race pasta party make this a great sequel to the agonies of Saturday. RCUK was so taken with the event that we plan to make an office outing of it, so see you there.
Entry to la Laurent Desbiens costs €30 in advance and €38 on the day, and groups get one free place for every 10 entries. The Route des Monts is €8 in advance and €10 on the day, and entry in advance to both events together is €34. The Ch’Ti Bike Tour website is at www.lechtibiketour.org, and entries from the UK can be made through: