Interview Michiel van Lonkhuyzen (CyclingCols.com)


Tuesday 23 June 2020 by Frank Jansen


Cyclingcols is the site Cyclokalender uses when it comes to climbing profiles. We spoke with Michiel van Lonkhuyzen, the man behind the website. An interview with the man who climbed more than 3500 cols.

When did you start Cyclingcols?

"I started Cyclingcols in 1994. Somewhere in the pre-digital era I discovered the Altigraph's col books. In 2001 I started to make a digital version of them. The first version of the site was just made with Notepad and Paint and contained about 100 cols, mainly in France".

At this moment there are over 6800 climbs on it, divided over more than 3700 cols. Did you ride all the climbs on your site?

"I get that question quite often. I estimate that I rode about 90% myself. Sometime people send me data, and if the quality is good, I'll publish that. The big names are all there, but I keep discovering interesting things. The Vuelta, for example, often goes to special climbs that nobody knows about. Then you immediately see that people start looking for those profiles".

What equipment do you measure with?

"In 2000, I bought a Ciclomaster from Ciclosport. I used it until quite recently, because the data is of very high quality. At the moment I use a Sigma Rox and a Garmin as backup. By the way, I always have to edit data, which takes a lot of time. You always have some drift. I often pack the device in plastic to remove the influence of wind and moisture".

What is the most requested climb?

"That's the Mont Ventoux, followed by the Galibier and then the Stelvio. By the way, most people visit the website in the summer months. Now because of the coronavirus there are less visitors".

Are there any new things coming up?

"I don't really have a schedule, but I do have a big list of things I can do. Users can now claim cols if they link their Strava profile. I still want to create the option to make my own lists, for example a bucket list or a holiday list. New statistics have recently been added, such as the steepest 5 km. For my work in IT I'm also working on Google Data Studio, and maybe I'll do something with that for Cyclingcols".

Of the steep three (Mortirolo, Zoncolan, Angliru), which one is the hardest in your opinion?

"Hard to say because the shape of the day is more important than the profile of the climb. On the Mortirolo I suffered the most, while on paper it is the easiest of the three. Usually you prepare mentally so well for such climbs that it's not so bad in practice. Apart from the 'steep three', I also want to mention the Punta Veleno, a kind of Zoncolan but a much worse road. I had to step off the bike there a few times."

How do you find all those special climbs?

"Nowadays, it's easy via Strava. I just look at the local segments, you'll find climbs that are not on any map and sometimes not even on Google Maps. The spectacular discoveries are what I do it for."

Is the site a hobby project or is there a business model behind it?

"I get some donations from time to time and I have some advertisers but it's mainly a hobby project. The site cost me thousands of hours. I've thought about making it more commercial, but I don't like to spend time on it. But if someone offers a 100k, I'll sell it. (laughs).

Do you get a lot of feedback?

"Every week I do get questions or tips via e-mail. People often send photos, including Cyclokalender editor Henk Postma. Michel Wuyts has mentioned me in the live broadcast."

You've got some competition nowadays, like Mycols and Climbbybike.

"Mycols looks very slick, I'm less impressed with the data. At Climbbybike I have my doubts about the authenticity. Veloviewer is also very smart, but the data they use from Strava is just not always reliable. I do think my site is best if you look at the combination of quality and quantity. I have to say however that there are some very good local sites that show very accurate local climbs, for example in Spain. My primary motivation is a personal one by the way, if no one would look at the site anymore I would still do it".

You don't have any Dutch or Belgian climbs on your site?

"There are already a number of sites that map out Dutch climbs. They do that very well, so that's not my focus. By the way, I'm looking at new regions, that's how I would be in Ireland by now. The last couple of years I've also added a lot of climbs and England and Scotland. Croatia seems like fun too."

We noticed that you update some profiles as well?

"I've refined the process. Nowadays I indicate the gradient per 500 meters, I find that especially irregular gradients are better than that".

Final question: soon we will start with a new Top-20: the most epic climbs in Europe. What do you think is the most epic col yourself?

The Gavia. Especially the south side. That narrow, bumpy road, that little tunnel. An inhospitable mountain landscape. Very impressive.


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