There is no ambiguity about training for hill climbs. It’s utterly revolting. It hurts like buggery, possibly worse, although i wouldn’t like to speculate any further what with this being a family blog. Yesterday was my first day of ‘proper’ hill climb training, consisting of a few half-hearted repetitions on a fixed wheel. Today was always going to be the full English.
The intention today was to get some hills into the legs. More generally, i can loosely break my training block down as follows:
1. Ride hilly routes, tempo, with hard efforts on the hills and some recovery between. (this isn’t all that different to my usual training, just even lumpier and more masochistic).
2. Ride hills repeatedly and as fast as I can until i feel like blowing chunks, or on occasion, begin retching repeatedly on a grass verge, repeat.
3. Eat less, cut out all ancillary gourmet items, including chocolate. when combined with the latter part of (2), this has a significant effect on racing weight.
So it’s a heady mix of losing weight and riding way above both lactate threshold and into the realm of oxygen debt. Frequently. You can see why it’s so much fun.
In order to squeeze a marginal 6,500 feet or nearly 2000 metres into 60 miles you have to plot a careful route that runs up and down the escarpment of the Mendips, or subsitute Mendips for your local range of hills. In the absence of an Alpine Mountain it’s quite tricky to do. By some margin the worst climb of the day was Draycott Steeps. In fact, I would argue it’s the hardest climb in the Mendips and amongst the most difficult climbs you are likely to face. It isn’t absurdly steep, like the Rosedale Chimney, nor is it an undulating and long beast, like Shap Fell. It’s almost as straight as an arrow with a few gentle bends, and it stays at almost unrelenting and consistent 10%, but increases to around 16% as you near the top, just to rub it in. By this point, if you’re stupid enough to ride around with nothing more than a 25 cog to cover your modesty, your legs will be dancing to their own syncopated rhythm and your lungs and chest will be heaving like a rolling, stormy sea. I crested the top and began to relax when i rode almost straight into a herd of cattle coming the other way. the bassy and rasping lows of the friesans were not dissimilar to my ragged breaths.
All of which clearly makes it a ‘must-do’ climb and I highly recommend it. I wouldn’t attempt it fixed. Or at least, i wouldn’t attempt it fixed on anything over 50″. Which might make getting there quite a long journey.
Another highlight of the day was the chance to see my favourite road sign.
I also dropped down the Gorge on my way to tackling Shipham. Cheddar Gorge never ceases to amaze me. It’s worth remembering some sage advice given to me once by a mountain biker (unusually, and probably the only piece of sage advice given by a mountain biker to anyone, ever) who i used to work with. he said neatly, ‘think goat’. I didn’t think anything more of his exhortation to think goat, until one day, when descending at about 40mph, i came across a family of goats making the road their own space and had to do a high speed weave and goat-evasion manoeuvre. Ever since then, the motto has been ringing in my ears whenever i stamp on the pedals at the top of the gorge, ready for the blast to the bottom. For what it’s worth, descending the Gorge is a much more spectacular affair than ascending, which is pretty boring. It’s not much of a climb, despite being used for the National Hill Climb Championship a few years back.
I saw a peregrine falcon but was too tardy to pap it. Doesn’t help that the Peregrine is the avian equivalent of Mark Cavendish either, the speedy little blighters.
Lastly, i came across a group of cyclists doing a highly specific charity ride, from Lympstone to Arbroath. They turned left before i got to speak to them, but their story is an interesting one. Living in the southwest and near the A38 i used to see End-to-Enders quite often in the summer months when commuting home from work. It’s an arduous undertaking. Maybe one day, when the hills all get too much for my atrophied and old legs.