Hill Climbs

This weekend was spent getting miles into the legs, and spending time in cheltenham, chez belle. Saturday i rode from bristol to cheltenham; this was quite a long ride (well, it felt long) into a stiff headwind. the roads were surprisingly quiet; but it was fun. i stuck mostly to the b-roads, not knowing the lanes well enough for a complicated and circuitous exploration of the cotswolds. nevertheless, it was great; lots of testing climbs, most notably the road up out of wotton-under-edge (home of UA Fanthorpe, scourge of poetry anthologies up and down the secondary modern system) which ascended quite steeply up the escarpment to the top of the cotswold plateau. it’s quite an alpine climb, with the odd sweeping bend. a long, windy ride across the top followed, some descending, then another climb out of Slad (the impaler), again back up on top. it’s beautiful countryside, lovely views, typically english (and grey).

i ate my own bodyweight in tofu and rice with belle at bar and wok in cheltenham. it’s fantastic, huge plates of food, perfect. then i ate my own bodyweight in curry that evening. it was fast shaping up to be a 200+ mile week, the food intake seemed to reflect this.

the next day i went cycling with belle’s dad and another chap on a mission to check out dovers hill. apparently it’s the traditional home of the Cotswold Olympick Games; a sort of medieval festival of odd dark ages sports, probably including pin the wart on the maiden and splat the bubonic rat. apparently:

Seventeenth-century fights, whether for sport or anger, sometimes resulted in maiming or death. In a fight between Sir German Poole and a Mr. Hutchinson, Poole cut off three of Hutchinson’s fingers before he had even drawn his sword. In revenge Hutchinson sliced off Poole’s nose, picked it up, pocketed it and went off with it so that it could not be sewn on again. It was the mean attitude in taking away the slice of nose, not the fact that it was cut off in the first place, which made this particular contest the subject of gossip.

so there you have it. sadly, medieval sports were off the agenda, and cleeve hill had to be negotiated beforehand; the highest point in the cotswolds, and quite a savage climb, although not fiendishly steep. i dropped my banana so had to go back for it, temporarily losing the rhythm, but saving the fruit. it came in handy later on. the landscape is a combination of lowland and highland at the same time; country estates, windswept plateaus, woodland, rolling hills, huge open and empty fields and the obligatory shit-covered farming roads – in hindsight it may have been a bit too early in the year to take the summer bike on a tour of the cotswolds.

dovers is a great climb; steep and consistent, with a really unpleasant middle section. i didn’t time it, not really having the means or the inclination. i didn’t feel that great – quite heavy-legged by this point, and rode in the lowest three cogs; using the granny at one point. my companions – who had kindly led the route – did a sterling effort and mike in particular seemed to conquer the beast with a steady cadence and really dosed the effort. there was a saunier duval van at the top, although i suspect it belonged to a heating engineer rather than the ex- tour de france team.

from there on it was almost downhill all the way to cheltenham. apart from a few nasty bits.  and a 100 or so miles over the two days, which is a start. or at least, the beginning of the start. endurance training hurts, i know that much.

14% is steep.

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