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Friday, June 14, 2013

Elevation - I can climb

Five years ago I ventured out one early spring morning.
It was a Sunday, and so early that nocturnal revelers looked at me quizzically as I strapped my cycle to the rack on the the rear of my car.
There had been a hard frost and even with a double layer of socks, I still worried about how cold my feet would be.
After thirty miles into my first ever sportive the temperature of my feet was the least of my worries as I was confronted by Mow Cop.
The mile leading up to this ridiculously steep gradient had already taken its toll and I had enough lactic acid in my legs to bottle it.
I was finished and stopped.........the excuse to Simon, my fellow rider was that others were falling like flies directly in front of me.
I argued that their inconsiderate tumbles onto the sloping tarmac presented me with too demanding a technical challenge.
Especially when cycling at 4mph.
Although this was true, the reason I got off and pushed was simply because I was not good enough.

Mow Cop
As I pushed my cycle up that hill, along with 50% of the other participants, I looked enviously at the ones who made it.
I later saw them queueing up for their medals at conquering such a beast.
I wanted one.

That day was the start of my love-hate relationship with climbing.
There is no greater sense of achievement in life when you reach your summit.
In cycling you get to do that every time you go out.
And on reaching the top you get a double treat - The Descent
The thrill of the fair, with no queues, or cost or a nagging child demanding some candyfloss.

Although I love climbing, the hills don't like me, and they try to knock me out of my stride.
Being a classic Endomorph my body type is not equipped to go up slopes.
Gravity and my genes gang up and conspire against me.
It is said that climbing never gets just get faster.
I never wanted it to be easy, but I there is tough and there is............. tough.
I stoped wearing a heart rate monitor as I did not want to be frightened at what it displayed.

Up to a 5% gradient I would still be able to ride in a way that resembles a cyclist, over that it all got messy.
I would turn into a tormented beast, haunched over my bike as it it were the axe mans block. 

Of course I know that being lighter makes it easier, and as each season progresses I do get lighter.
I could even say that towards the end of each season I temporarily become a 'Puncheur' .
Just able to power up the short, steep climbs and enable my fellow riders to not have to wait so long at the top of the longer and steeper climbs.

Having got 100 greatest cycling Climbs as a present I often looked at the iconic list and dreamed of being a climber. To tap out a rhythm up each ascent like Mario Cippolini

The attraction of climbing is a very British thing, we may not have the alps but we do have some very extreme gradients. Whilst alpine roads meander up the sides of valleys using switchbacks - Ours just go straight up.
Traditionally at the end of each cycling season clubs around the country hold Hill climbing events, the oldest being the famous Catford hill climb originating in 1887.
Another famous ascent for hill climbing is the spectacular Winnats Pass in Derbyshire.
Climbing Race on Winnats Pass
This old Black and White Photo could easily be mistaken from some alpine pass on the Tour de France.

This March when winter still held us in its icy grip I went to a cycle coaching session being held by a local cycling coach Adam HARDY
The evening changed my cycling life!!!!!!
There was one key message that I got from his presentation.
 When you ride,don't just ride. - Every year I have been riding between 6,000 and 8,000 miles and each year I have got marginally better.
I did not like 'Marginally'

Adams message was to look at what you do, to have an aim for each ride ie:- High intensity, climbing, cadence, technique (Never just ride)
He even advocated learning to do bunny hops to jump pot holes when your in a confined space. 

So this year as well as the customary diet I decided to never Just Ride.
High Intensity - Every ride I work to my limit for at least ten minutes. If I don't feel sick I dont consider I have worked hard enough.
Climbing - Pick a steep hill, climb and repeat, and repeat and repeat
High Cadence - Get out of the comfort gear and Spin, teach your legs that whatever their cadence currently is they need to learn to to do better
Technique - My posture is so much better and I can now bunny hop over pot holes.

The results have been amazing.
Over the past month I took on The Richmond Sportive in the Yorkshire Dales and The Tour De Peak in the Peak District - Both Climbing Sportives.
I enjoyed them!!!!!!
My book 100 greatest cycling Climbs now has some new climbs accomlished
The Stang
Tan Hill
Winnatts Pass
Cat and the Fiddle
Winnats Pass
I may never be a climber.........but now I can Climb and can do so with a smile on my face

Climbing Winnats Pass

At top of Cat and the Fiddle
With the cycle season now in full swing, we have still had time for more domestic challenges and trying to promote The Mules Cycling Club.
Wedneday Evenings are attracting double figures with many new faces and a few new bikes promoting some bike envy.

On weekends which are not occupied by Sportives we have been out exploring our own dramatic inclines.
Last weekend we revisited our old friend in Troustsdale (See below)
The 20% accent was conquered by our newest  Mule Manuel (Contador) Duenas.
Manuel is from Spain and discovered the Mules onthe interenet.
He smiled on seeing our club name as apparently in Spain, cyclist call their cycles Mules or Donkeys.

We like this a lot and look forward to having Manuels company on future rides

Manuel and Yours truly

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