They may not reach as far into the sky as their legendary French cousins, but Britain's Alps of Surrey--the primary site of the 2012 Olympic road race--offer some of the kingdom's most spectacular climbs. (Search: Best bike routes in America) We asked Alan Flaherty, technical advisor for the Olympic course, to map three challenging rides in the area. You'll start and finish in the village of Dorking, about 27 miles southwest of London. Along the way, expect everything from mellow rollers to Olympic centerpiece Box Hill--and a few steeps organizers might wish they had chosen.
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Wind along shaded, rolling country roads on this 22-plus-mile loop. You'll get a taste of everything Surrey is known for: medieval hamlets, high hedgerow lanes, and tea shops like the Tanhouse Farm Shop in Newdigate, where you can top off your tank with a traditional English breakfast and fair-trade tea and coffee.
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Start this 55-mile ride at the Denbies Wine Estate, home to the United Kingdom's largest vineyard. You'll earn your share of the winery's famous bubbly on a scenic loop that includes sweeping grassland views along the undulating ridge of the North Downs and two of Surrey's most infamous ascents--Leith Hill and Pitch Hill. Be ready for more than 3,000 feet of climbing.
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Featuring the Olympic-course crown jewel--Box Hill's Zig Zag Road--this 62-mile route tops the podium with roughly 5,000 feet of climbing, including a couple of 21-percent-plus grades. (Related: Top 5 Bike-Friendly Destinations) Panoramic vistas reward you at each summit, followed by plunging hairpin descents and smooth, forest-draped lanes barely wider than a garden path. Stop about halfway through in the quaint village of Shere for a hearty ploughman's lunch at The William Bray pub.
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Know before you go. Most of the Olympic road course is accessible for free. But you'll need a ticket to watch the action on parts of Box Hill. For GPS maps of these routes, go to bicycling.com/londonrides.