As the old saying goes: ‘practice makes perfect’. But I think that’s a load of rubbish – and here’s why.
Practice – especially the practice I am currently undertaking – makes passable. Passable, however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
As you may be aware from reading my blog posts, I, alongside my Dad, am currently training for the third in our series of tortuous French mountain climbs.
We both ride Felts, we both love climbing, and we both love complaining that riding ‘hurts our lungs, legs and lives’.
But it’s not all bad.
In fact, it’s actually one of the most enjoyable things I do – especially when all the training culminates in reaching the summit of a particularly long, steep brute like the Col du Tourmalet or Mont Ventoux.
(Again, see my first few blog posts).
But England has its fair share of ‘brutes’ – the second stage of last year’s Tour de France (irony noted) taught us that. http://blog.veloviewer.com/the-climbs-of-stage-2-of-the-2014-tour-de-france-part-1/
That stage was held in Yorkshire. I live in the Chilterns in Bucks. But still, it’s not flat.
For instance, 26 miles into my 45-ish mile ride on Monday is proof of that fact.
Hill Road in Watlington (yes, really) has a build-up of about six miles, which leads onto a 1.2 mile, 6.3% average climb.
Sure, it doesn’t sound all that bad but as many riders will know, these so-called ‘short climbs’ with their ‘average gradients’ are often the most agonising.
Hill Road is just such a climb.
As I said, I usually ride just with my Dad but by chance on Monday we were accompanied by two other riders who, at the foot of the hill, put pedal to the metal.
Time to pull out my inner, well, not Armstrong…..but you get the idea. And so I did (a bit).
Look at that shade….dayyyyym, son!
We chased our two rivals from about half a mile up.
This is what riding is all about, let’s be honest.
We caught the first rider without too much difficulty. His legs had gone, but in the interest of fairness I am going to assume this hill had come after 50-60 miles of riding….so fair play to him.
His compatriot, however, was……errrr…..an absolute machine.
This man has a serious case of pink eye….
I didn’t see what he was riding, or what kit he had, at the bottom of the climb and I certainly didn’t stand a chance once he got out of the saddle, dancing on the pedals like a Home Counties Contador, and shot off up Hill Road as if it were a speed bump.
By the time I reached the summit (second out the four….*cough cough*), he had already got off his bike, gone for a piss, and picked up his winner’s teddy (no, not really). It was a modern flight of the Phoenix – though he didn’t crash and wasn’t stranded on an Island.
And he did all this on a 1.2 mile climb. Impressive is an understatement.
I hate losing things like that.
However, in losing to that bloke on a climb that barely seemed to faze him but that almost killed me; I found a renewed sense of hope.
He clearly trains hard, puts in the miles, and reaps the benefits. I can do that. I have done it before. I’ve got to do it again now.
But why bother?
Because I haven’t yet mentioned the outcomes of the last two mountains I, my Dad and my Brother have climbed – I have never said who won, essentially.
There’s a simple explanation: I’m embarrassed.
In 2013, on the Col du Tourmalet, I was on a Felt F5 and my dad was on some steel-framed Saracen. Needless to say, I won that particular battle.
In 2014, however, on Mont Ventoux, I was on a felt F6 and my dad was on an F5, while my brother was on a Specialized Allez.
My Dad blew me away that day, kicking with about 2km to go after climbing side-by-side for 20km.
He admitted to me while on Monday’s ride that he knew I was suffering on the Ventoux, and that I ‘played it all wrong’ that day.
I doff my cap to him…he saw a weakness in me and he made me pay. It’s exactly what I would have down, had I had the legs to do it.
It won’t happen again. It can’t happen again. Least of all because he will be 65 for our next adventure, and I will be 27.
But, I take nothing away from him. ‘Age is just a number’ as they say, and he certainly champions that mantra.