Thursday 22 September 2011

Copenhagen Road course

Geels Skov (© Jørgen Larsen CC3.0)
Stage Map: click here

If there was ever a parcours guaranteed to please spectators - and TV crews, for that matter, which pleases even more spectators - then it's got to be the route around Rudersdal. It's got some difficult corners, some lightning-fast straights and even, though this part of Denmark is pancake flat, so respectable climbing: only 105m per lap, but that soon adds up: the Elite Men will climb 1785m in total, which would take them higher that the highest point of the Col d'Aubisque. It also passes through some very beautiful landscapes, making it not unlike a stage in a tour. However, it has one advantage from a spectator's point of view: instead of the usual several hours of waiting followed by two minutes of excitement before the long haul journey to tomorrow's parcours, fans can see the peloton pass by several times - the Junior Women will complete five circuits, Junior Men nine circuits, Elite Women ten circuits, Under-23 Men twelve circuits and the Elite Men seventeen circuits (plus a 28km section from the Rådhuspladsen in Copenhagen city centre.

The circuit begins on the Kongevejen, a highway running along the western perimetre of the Geels Skov - a forest which has become as famous for its mountain biking trails, some of them running along ancient roads still rutted from the wheels of the logging carts that once ran along them, as it has for the anemones that completely obscure the leaf litter every Spring. In the centre of the forest stands what now appears to be a natural hill, unremarkable but for rising up like a tiny Mont Ventoux from the otherwise flat surroundings. In fact, it's not natural at all; having been specifically built as a ski jump in 1947 and remaining in use until 1980 when the site was returned to nature. Today, Geels Skov is a quiet, peaceful and very beautiful place, but it's seen its share of violence - in 1945, Yngve Marinus Nielsen and his wife Hildur Ruth were brought here by Resistance operatives and executed with a machine gun. Though the couple, both hairdressers, were known to have collaborated with the Nazis, the execution caused much controversy as it took place two days after Denmark was liberated.

Church in Søllerød, near the route (© Claus B. Storgaard CC2.5)
The riders set out from the car park halfway along the road at 55°48'16.87"N 12°28'37.41"E, near the entrance to the mountain bike blue trail - in other words, a trail considered to be moderately difficult and thus suited to riders with some experience, and head north-west for 0.7km, descending a fairly steep hill to a right turn onto Øverødvej. Arriving at a roundabout 0.18km later, they take another right onto Vangebovej which, having passed by a car park and some buildings, heads into the forest. There are pedestrian crossings immediately before the first turning, the white sections of which can become slippery when wet, then a raised central section immediately afterwards. There are further crossings both immediately before and immediately after the second turn, as well as a central reservation which would be very easy to hit if the corner was taken too fast or simply by too many riders at the same time. The reservation continues in three parts for 196m with two gaps permitting cars to turn into side-roads - these could be used by riders on the right-hand side of the road to swap to the left in order to take the quickest line through the upcoming bend, a gentle left. The remaining 0.6km is straight and climbs, reasonably steeply in parts.

The next bend is a very gentle right, leading into a short straight of 225m with a very slight descent - possibly a good spot for a breakaway group to attack, gaining a slight lead before hammering on the gas when out of sight around the coming medium left whilst the peloton can't see what's going on. The next straight, 0.53km, leads to a 90 degree left onto Mothsvej - however, as the roads are wide, they're shouldn't be any issues in getting around the corner at speed provided the pack is sufficiently spread out so as not to force anyone into the little traffic island (with signs on metal poles) in the middle of Vangerbovej as they enter the turn.

A much tighter 90 degree left 200m later, meanwhile, could require caution. It's on a narrower section of road with gravelly paths either side - a front wheel slipping on gravel could very quickly lead to the bike hitting a kerbstone and catapulting the rider into the rather scratchy looking hedges shielding the houses from the road. A very similar right-hander lies 65m ahead before the road straightens for 154, leading to the grand cast iron gates of Søllerød Slot, a baroque mansion dating to 1740 and set in parkland with a formal garden. (The house, incidentally, was occupied by Johan Frederik Vilhelm Schlegel; a lawyer who according to the auto-translated page on the house I'm currently reading earned himself an Access to IT qualification in 1787. Clever guy.)

Emma Pooley - a dead cert for
second place in the Elite Women,
we reckon
(© John Chapman CC3.0)
Turning right at the gates leads along Søllerødvej and a section that would be perfectly straight were it not for two very slight deviations, first right and then left. Descending slightly, this could prove to be a very fast part of the race before the tight left corner joining onto Altemosevej (55°48'37.92"N 12°30'33.48"E)  which climbs quite considerably for the next 323m; not enough to make the slightest bit of difference to the Voses, Pooleys and Monforts, but unwelcome to the Cavendishes - especially in the final few laps. There are short metal bollards along the edges of the road after the turn, caution being required to avoid them, and as a main route through a suburban area is very much the sort of place where buses sometimes spill diesel. 323m later, the section ends at a medium right bend - there's a crossing with chequered white squares, rather like the stripes of a zebra crossing, immediately upon entering the bend which could be extremely slippery if the road is wet. Note the bike lane to the left of the road, which will be running alongside for some time - for much of its length, it's in much better condition than the road. If only all the world was like Denmark!

Wiggins for Elite Men silver?
(© Adambro CC3.0)
The following section is narrow and, in places, overhung by trees which at this time of year especially can result in slippery leaves on the road. However, it runs straight for 0.53km and as such will likely generate high speeds before the next turn, a gentle left leading past a grassy bank on the left - hence potentially slippery road surface after rain - and a tiny, very pretty thatched cottage on the right. There is a narrow, raised speed hump 1.63km from the start of the road and a tight right turn onto Egebaekvej 163m later (the turn coming shortly before an 18th Century mansion with extensive formal gardens that helicopter-borne camera operators will probably be unable to resist), then only very slight deviations for the following 0.59km to a bridge leading over the E47 and E55 motorways. To the left, as the road crosses the bridge, there's a very low kerb separating the road from the cycle lane which riders will need to avoid and to the right, a low kerb made of blocks of stone separating the road from a gravel path. There is forest either side of the road as the riders leave the bridge, thus a potential for slippery leaves. There is no kerb on the right from this point, leading to leaves and twigs collecting along the side of the road - best avoided in case of punctures - except for a short section running along a metal barrier 129m after the bridge; riders will need to avoid hugging the right-hand edge of the road to avoid this.

Having followed a slight bend to the right 0.38km after the bridge, the roadside vegetation on the right includes what looks to be a stumpy, thorny hedge after the route passes a somewhat ramshackle half-timbered thatched cottage on the left. Punctures are extremely likely in this section.

As the athletics and sports centre at Rundforbi Parken comes into view on the right (55°49'36.27"N 12°32'28.22"E), any riders who have been making use of the cycle path will need to be cautious of the bollards around the entrance to the car park on the opposite side just past a pedestrian crossing. There are more on the right, but these are positioned where they won't be immediately in a rider's line - however, catching the right-side pedal on one could be disastrous. The end of the section at Rundforbivej comes 1.23km after the motorway.

Sommer's Automobilmuseum (© The Owner, used with thanks)
The corner is tight with a painted pedestrian crossing and a traffic island with metal signs, caution thus being required here. Another pedestrian crossing lies just around the corner, then the road passes through a short narrow section with bollards either side 0.48km later and then travels by a small lake on the right a short while later. There's another slightly narrowed section at the end of the white fence on the right just past the lake, then a traffic island 380m after the lake. Large industrial plants on both sides of the road as the race enters a wide bend (55°49'9.37"N 12°31'45.27"E) to the left immediately after the traffic island will increase the possibility of diesel spills. Sommer's Automobilmuseum on the left is must-visit for petrolheads visiting the races, as it has a collection of more than 60 vintage and/or rare cars including some unique examples. The road is straight for 135m, then reaches two pedestrian crossings either side of a traffic light-controlled crossroads, widening and becoming a dual carriageway and thus ensuring plenty of room so that the central reservation - split into three parts after the crossroads - doesn't get in the way and cause problems.

While most people are backing
Wiggo, Thor or Gilbert, we rather
fancy Geraint Thomas' chances for
the Elite Men title... (© Petit Brun CC2.50)
After 175m from the last pedestrian crossing, the route arrives at another and a right turn onto Skodborgsvej - this is the point (55°48'54.09"N 12°31'46.99"E) where the Elite Men will join the circuit following the 28km ride from the Rådhuspladsen in Copenhagen city centre on Sunday. Another pedestrian crossing, and a central traffic island, lie just around the apex as the race enters the long, mostly straight penultimate section heading south-west back over the motorway (55°48'53.55"N 12°31'43.03"E) and on towards the Kongevejen. There are another two pedestrian crossings on the other side, this time hit head-on and as such unlikely to be hazardous, then the road narrows down to two lanes again. There's another traffic island 275m after the crossing, with a further hazard caused by the horse chestnut trees on the right of the road around 100m later - the spiky shells of the conkers can cause punctures and become slippery when mashed up by car tyres, plus the conkers themselves can act like ball-bearings under wheels. There are seven more traffic islands in the next 0.6km as the road enters a wide bend to the left.

The route enters a long straight with overhanging trees before being divided by another central reservation leading to a crossroads, once again with pedestrian crossings either side - the road becomes quite narrow for a short stretch until the end of the central reservation, then passes a lay-by 137m later (55°48'27.48"N 12°30'29.71"E). The following section has trees lining the roadsides, meaning slippery leaves and snapped collarbones for anyone who crashes into a trunk. After a short while, a turn for Mothsvej passes by on the right, followed by traffic islands 0.24km later as the road leads to a roundabout.

...and for Elite Women gold, can
Marianne Vos be beaten?
We very much doubt it
(© Rolf van der Zwart CC2.0)
The first exit leads straight on, with caution being required to avoid the cobbled traffic island immediately after the roundabout. There are more trees lining both sides of the road but the road is straight, smooth and unchallenging until the next traffic island 0.37km ahead, followed by a crossroads and the island's twin on the other side. We then enter a suburban area with a series of raised speed humps coming in close succession, followed by another smooth stretch leading to the right turn at the junction with Kongevejen (55°47'50.05"N 12°28'55.52"E) - it's not an especially difficult transition in the dry, but a selection of pedestrian crossings (immediately before and after the turn), street furniture (road sign in the middle of the road immediately after the turn), sunken, knobbly kerb (around the right-hand edge of the turn) and central reservation (immediately after the turn) could make it potentially very difficult when wet. With both roads being main routes, there's a reasonably high possibility of fuel spillages - rain combined with  patch of diesel halfway through the turn could very easily end the race for anyone sufficiently misfortunate as to hit it.

This end of Kongevejen, like the northern part at the start of the race, is a wide highway with plenty of room for a mass sprint to the finish at the end of the final lap of each race. A final climb leads up into Geels Skov, past an obelisk-shaped milestone marking the last 300m of the lap and on to the finish line, back at the same point from which the race started.

For a guide to the 28km section featured in the Elite Men's race only, click here.

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