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Put Me Back On My Bike

26/5/2017

With the Giro d’Italia currently taking place and the eden gym celebrating it with the member’s monthly challenge a blog was called for and there was really only one person who could write it, so here I am.

The last time I wrote a blog was after riding 310 miles from Newcastle to London in 24 hours. I finished by posing the question of would I ever do something similar again? My answer being “Never say Never”.

This year I’ve pushed the bar up higher, in fact, I’ve pushed it quite literally much much higher. I’ve entered La Marmotte – the world’s most famous cyclosportive. A race in the heart of the French Alps, the distance of 110 miles seems nothing compared to my last big adventure but (oh yes, there’s a but) … within those 110 miles there are 4 alpine climbs to attack the spirit of every cyclist.

The first of the 4 on the menu will be the Col du Glandon 22km averaging 5.5%, followed by the Col du Telegraphe 11.5km at 7.3% from where I get a short couple of kilometres downhill before I go up to the high point of the race, the Col du Galibier 17.6km at 7% which reaches 2,645 meters above sea level before finishing on the mythical Alpe d’huez and it’s 21 hairpin bends within 13km at 8%.

In total on the day I’ll be riding for approx. 9-10 hours, climbing 5,000 meters in the process but they say a picture speaks a thousand words so here’s a shark tooth profile of the course.

 

Training

I’m sure it hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention that the route is a bit “hilly” and the midlands isn’t exactly known for hills so how on earth am I going to train for this?

April was about getting used to be being back on the bike and putting in a few tests to see how I compared to previous years, the results being pretty depressing readings. My Strava times around the modest climbs of Belvoir Castle were my slowest on record. I needed to get some more miles under my belt and speaking of belts I had to drastically reduce the notches on that by losing at least a stone by the time the race comes around no need to be carrying any more weight than is necessary around the alps!

Once I had a few weeks of base training under my belt it was time to kick into proper training and as luck would have it, I was off down to the Cotswolds for a week’s holiday, complete with bike.

The Cotswolds is a beautiful part of the world but on several occasions the only thing I saw of it was a few square yards of tarmac in front of me as I chugged slowly up Cleeve Hill. A word to the wise – before attempting any intense sessions, make sure you get a chance to warm up. Cleeve Hill came 2 miles after I got on my bike and half way up I was seriously thinking of climbing off, how on earth was I going to conquer the Galibier if I couldn’t even get myself up some minor road-bumps in comparison.

Thankfully I carried on and made it to the top before taking in several more climbs out into the countryside. I was beginning to enjoy myself on the bike again and after a month of negative thoughts about the event I began to think that it was more than possible.

After a week in the hills of Gloucestershire it was back to the flatlands and having to come up with another idea of how to get my body ready for the test that awaits.

After reading several training guides I’ve decided to go down the Time Trial route. A TT to the uninitiated is also known as the race of truth it’s just you versus the clock. The idea is you ride just about flat out for a set time to post as fast a time possible. Some of these climbs will be taking me upwards for 2 hours or more and I’ll certainly be working to the hardest of my ability, so it seems like a sensible trade off (I haven’t managed to figure out how I can simulate the lack of Oxygen up there though).

As I am well over half way through May TT runs, lots of hill repeats have been added into the training and yes Hill repeats are exactly what they sound like, very boring but very necessary. Soon I’ll be out for a couple of hours before work and the same after work so I can simulate the tired leg feeling in the later ride.

In June it will be time to put it all together with some long rides of up to 120 miles punctuated with some segments where I will be essentially time trialling for an hour in the middle of my long rides (that should be an interesting experience) and then it will be time to head off down to the Alps for a date with destiny on the 2nd July (the same weekend the Tour de France starts this year). The climbs I’ll be taken on are all staples in the Tour with winners of this stage in the Tour De France having a name plaque on each of the hairpins as you go up it so for all the pain I’ll feel there will also be the feeling of following in the pedal strokes of giants as I pass each one.

There is one aspect of my training I have failed to accommodate and it’s a rather important one I may have overlooked.

That old saying what goes up must come down, and I will be coming down at a fair rate of knots. In fact I should be nudging speeds of 50-60 mph coming down on wheels about 2-3cms thick with only a helmet to protect my head and a thin layer of Lycra to protect my body, oh and some of the descents have sheer drops over the edges so I might want to get my brakes tested before I go, but what’s the worst that can happen?…

Neil

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