|Flanders in Shropshire|
With the spring classics in full swing and my two favourite races of the year only a few weeks away, it seems like the perfect time to reflect upon our very own piece of Flanders in Shropshire.
Nestled in the heart of Shropshire between Canyton and Beckbury, this most innocuous 2.5km stretch of badly surfaced concrete road has something special about it. It’s that intangible property which transforms otherwise ordinary roads into something so much more.
It can be ridden either way, but for me it has to be in the direction ridden on ‘The Toothpaste’, Shropshire’s tribute to the greatest one day race of them all, The Hell of the North, Paris-Roubaix.
Ignore the sat-nav error signs as you turn off the main road, and as you pass the small cottages on your right, you’d be right to ask what all the fuss is about. But as the fields open out, the landscape is transformed. Wide open, and seemingly always windy; you really could be in Flanders. It’s not difficult to imagine the road being lined with spectators and campervans, as the pro peloton thunders past.
Ninety degree left and right turns do their best to upset any momentum you’ve managed to gather, and the potholed surface means you need your wits about you at all times. As you crest the gentle brow it’s now a drag race all the way to the end. The farm buildings pass in a blur, and with gradient finally in your favour, speed builds almost effortlessly.
All too soon it’s over, and the right hander back onto the road bring you back to earth with a bang. Suddenly normal tarmac seems ever so slightly dull. Every time I turn off the Belgian Road I make a promise not to leave it so long next time.
If you’ve never ridden this beauty before, do it, and I just hope you enjoy it half as much as I do.
Vive la Velo