David cycled a relay sportive from Nancy to Geneva back in September.

I am a 52 year old estate agent, who sits behind a desk most of the day and I haven’t sat on a bike for 10 years.
So with just 8 weeks to prepare, obviously I thought it was a good idea to join a team, cycling
500miles in 3 days through the Swiss alps to Lake Geneva for charity. Here is my story…

500 miles. 160 cyclists. 40 teams. 1 amazing adventure.

Day 1 – 22nd September 2016.

6.30am

I set off with 3 complete strangers in a big yellow minibus, for a 500 mile charity bike ride from Nancy in France through the Alps to Montreux on the banks of Lake Geneva.

Despite the long drive, we arrive in Nancy in high spirits, full of anticipation, a little nervous, but very excited about the next 3 day’s cycling. Dinner and safety briefing that evening, and much encouragement from other riders who have done the route previously, what a friendly bunch.  Long time spent drinking beer and chatting with the friendlies.  Oh dear.

Day 2 – 23rd September 2016

6.30am

My head is pounding.  Up early for breakfast, I am first out for my team at 7.30am.  Too many beers.  Big mistake.  It’s still dark and very cold.   I head out of Nancy, the first several miles are busy main roads with trucks.  Lots of trucks.  Eventually the route takes us off the main roads and into some pretty countryside.  I do the first 20 miles.  Pleased to see big yellow bus up ahead for our first rider change, and feel good to have got some miles under my belt.

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Lunchtime

My first big climb.  I set off on my next leg. 20 miles with 668m climb.  First 10 miles are flat and fast.  The early morning mist has lifted and it is a beautiful day.  Here comes the climb, I can see it up ahead, and I am feeling a little anxious.  I don’t know if my legs can get me to the top or not. So I settle in to a rhythm, just stick it in a low gear, and keep my legs turning.  After a while, I start to enjoy it.  I feel OK.  I pass a few other riders.  Legs feel fine, breathing is steady, heart beat steady.  Still got some low gears left.  Turning, turning, turning.  Team cars by the side of the road shouting encouragement, and then what looks like the top.  So I ask, is this the top?  I am told yes, this is the top. Such an amazing feeling, as a novice, never had the chance to test what I could do physically on a bike, and here I am, I’ve just cycled up a mountain!   There are bigger mountains and steeper climbs I am sure. But this first big climb for me actually bought a tear to my eye!  Such a good feeling.   And the views from the top, just incredible. Happy to see the big yellow bus up ahead for our next changeover.

Incidentally, the big yellow bus is a big hit with the other teams, it becomes like the mascot for the whole trip, everyone greets us with a big smile and a wave, we feel so popular!

Evening

I join two of my team mates for the last fast run into Mulhouse. About 20 miles, and flat.  We do some drafting, which is fun.  Nice to be riding with the others, as we have been riding on our own so far.  Check into the hotel, get changed, and downstairs for dinner.  No beer tonight.

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Day 3 – 24th September 2016

6.30am  Breakfast

Lexie is first up today, we drive on ahead to the 20 mile point , and set Leroy off for his leg, and then wait for Lexie to catch us up. Cold again in the early morning mist.

I set off for my first leg mid morning, which starts with a 7 mile decent. And I am freezing.  No base layer.  No arm warmers.  Bib shorts. The sun hasn’t reached this side of the valley yet, and with the speed of the decent, I am shaking so much I can barely control the bike.  Eventually I reach the bottom, and then a 700m climb.  No longer apprehensive, I just find my rhythm and reach the top feeling good.  I did this yesterday, I can do it again today.  Great views once again.

Lunchtime

We sit outside and have a quick lunch and a beer in the sunshine – nice!  Feeling a bit sleepy for my next leg, but soon shake that off with my second ride of the day. 22 miles, 693m of climb.  The sun is shining and it is hot.  By now I have put a base layer on, and arm warmers.  Far too hot now.  Remove some layers and carry on.  Epic scenery again, and I am really enjoying it now.

Evening

I hook up with Lexie, planning to ride the next 20 miles together, and then hand over to Leroy and Elaine for the home stretch, another 20 miles.  Another team car pulls alongside us as we are riding, with the disturbing news that the brakes have failed on the big yellow bus, and we must finish the route without a further rider change with still another 40 miles or so.   Lexie has already done 50 miles and a lot of climbing, and doesn’t think she can make it so flags down one of the other team cars and manages to get a lift back to the hotel.  The rest of the route is fairly flat so I get my head down, find my biggest gear, and peddle like fury.  A long lonely ride with fading light, but I feel so good when I reach the hotel.   Eighty two miles today and around 1600m of climb, I’m feeling quite pleased with myself.  Fabulous day in the saddle.

Our problem now is that we no longer have a vehicle to get us to Montreux.  A temporary repair has been carried out on the big yellow bus, but we do not feel confident in it to take us further through the Alps to Montreux.  We decide to hire another vehicle for the journey to Montreux and back.  Arrange to collect it from Basel airport first thing tomorrow.  Lexie and Leroy hook up with another team for the morning, while Elaine and I go to pick up the hire car.

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Day 4 – 25th September 2016

6.30am

Leroy and Lexie set off with another team, while Elaine and I get a taxi to Basel airport and collect our hire car, a VW Touran.  We catch up with the teams around lunch time.  Nobody smiles or waves at us anymore, we have become invisible in our hire car!

Lunchtime

I am itching to get back in the saddle now, and it’s gone 1pm by the time we catch up with Leroy and Lexie.  So I hook up with Lexie and Will, from one of the other teams, and we enjoy a short but super-fast 16km ride to our next rider change.  I’ve got fresher legs so I take the lead.  The speed is exhilarating and we make quick progress to our next stop.

Evening

This is our last ride, about 20 miles into Montreux with about 500m of climb, followed by a long descent.   I’m riding with Lexie and Will again.  I love riding with the others.  We are quiet on the climbs with no energy left for banter, we just focus on pedalling and breathing.  As we approach the top Lexie thinks she can beat me to the summit, I’m not having that, so I find those last reserves of energy for a sprint finish to the top.

And then, spread out in front of us is the most amazing view of Lake Geneva and Montreux below us, and it is breath-taking.  I stop for a selfie on the way down.  Wish I was wearing my GoPro.   It is very hard to describe how amazing the scenery is, or the incredible feeling of achievement.  If you have done something similar, you will know how it feels.

We ride into Montreux together as a team.  We are no longer a group of strangers but friends for life.  Applause when we reach the hotel, hugs and high fives, selfies, happy to have made it but sad that it is all over.

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Day 5 – 26th September 2016

5am

Long drive home.  Out before dawn to return the hire car, collect the big yellow bus, and then nurse it home with no breaks. An exhausting 15 hours later and we are home.  Tired but happy.  Already planning our next trip.

This was the most incredible experience.  It put me well outside of my comfort zone – until I got there, and then I discovered that I am capable of more than I realised.  I saw some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet,  I raised some money for charity,  I made some really good friends, I had a lot of fun, I found a new sport which I enjoy, and I got fit in the process.   I also discovered it is best not to borrow a big yellow mini bus!

Thank you for reading.

Last night was a bit of fun at Cycle Right.  On demonstration we had the Wahoo smart trainers (the trainers Team Sky use), we had both the kickr and kickrsnap connected to zwift.  If you missed it it was an enjoyable evening, Wahoo guys supplied pizza and beer and a good presentation of why their responsive trainer is so much more than what we associate with the older passive indoor trainers.   An interesting part of the evening was of course the showdown between Coach D.C. and Laurent.  Laurent had challenged Coach D.C. on facebook when the event was first announced, and a few of us there last night were eager to see who would win the hill climb challenge?

Rowley from Wahoo setting up the kickr.

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Rowley and Neil connecting the kickr and kickrsnap to zwift.  Many of us (me included) tried to convince Neil to have a battle on the trainer last night but his list of excuses included:

1) I don’t have my cycling clothes.

2) I don’t have my cycling shoes with me.

Yep – let’s point out the obvious that we were in a cycling shop!

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Last night was a good opportunity for people to experience the difference between the kickr and kickrsnap.

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If you haven’t read Duncan’s blog post on his cycling trip from Geneva to Nice with Paul read it here, it is a very interesting read.  Duncan describes how his lack of training had an impact.

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Come on Duncan…next time you’ll beat Paul up those hills!

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The Titans, having a pre-battle starring contest.  The tension between them…phew!  No pizza or beer for us thanks, we’re taking this seriously.

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A young budding cyclist from the Hillingdon Slipstreamers.  I don’t think he would appreciate me saying how cute he looked but he did.

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Coach D.C. vs Laurent.  The game face is on.

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Was Coach D.C. taunting Laurent here?

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The warm up starts….heads down…concentration.

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If you’re not familiar with zwift, Coach D.C. graphic of himself will appear on the computer screen in front of him at the start of the course alongside Laurent’s graphic; imagine online gaming on playsation or xbox but for cycling.  When the race starts their online personas will also start cycling, in front of them on the screen they will have power in watts, heart rate, cadence, gradient of the hill, and as they cycle the course they will also pass (or be passed) by other cyclists logged on at the same time.

Here’s a video of the warm up, see how seriously they are taking it.

 

OK, the battle begins, it is about a 3minute hill climb.  To start with Coach D.C. online persona turns the opposite way to the start line for a few seconds but not even this mishap deters him.  Watch out for the ‘pain faces’, quite entertaining.

 

 

Paul and I rode London to Paris 3 years ago, it was the start of our recreational cycling.  Great event that we both really enjoyed. We had done a couple of long events, the London revolution and the Surrey 100 miles.  Time was right for something a bit bigger. Paul took the lead and sent through a few options. We agreed on Geneva to Nice, we would use the same travel group as London to Paris, Discovery Adventure, a format that we both enjoyed, only this trip would be a much smaller group of 20 riders:

  • am – Breakfast
  • 8am – On the road
  • 10am (+20Miles ) – Waterstop for ½ hour, generally wait for all riders to get there before heading off again
  • noon (+20Miles ) – Lunch is an 1 hour, to sit under trees and sort out the world problems. Discovery provided a hot soup, cold meats, pasta, salads, a cup of tea
  • 2pm (+20Miles) – Waterstop for ½ hour, snacks and refill water bottles
  • 4pm – Back at the hotel, a beer or two
  • 8pm – Dinner and then bed

Do it all again tomorrow.

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I had not trained enough which meant I under prepared but had confidence in my bike and my setup. This trip was from Geneva through the French Alps to Nice. We would climb around 6000 feet per day and complete 80-90miles per day. Significantly tougher than anything I had previously done.

After a short flight into Geneva, we had a train trip to the hotel before putting our bikes back together. We were all set for a late lunch and a walk around Geneva.  The hotel was a twenty five minute walk from the Lake, after looking at a few restaurants we found a quaint Italian one overlooking Lake Geneva. I could not get over the price of a bowl of pasta with a few mushrooms, 27 Swiss francs. Paul eventually told me to shut up about the price of a bowl of pasta.

My first experience of a mountain climb started five miles outside Geneva passing a sign, “4 percent for 15km”. Not very easy to explain what happens to your body when it climbs for an hour, your heart rate rises as you tire. You really need to operate in a zone that allows you to keep going. At this gradient of four percent it’s really up to you on how hard you work. Theoretically you should have plenty of gears.

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Paul and I were 45 miles into day one, we had conquered two of the three mountain climbs. The map indicated a nice flat session, one and a half percent for ten miles, then onto Col du Frêne for 950m, the third climb of the day.  We got into the base of the Valley, which was flat enough but a wind tunnel.  Can wind really make that much difference?  I was tucked right behind Paul for about three to four miles, he turned around and asked me when I was going to take my turn?  My answer was he had two choices; he could either cycle alone or he could cycle with me behind him.  I was starting to get tired. That wind. Thirty miles left and another climb.  Tough day.  It was more about survival than enjoying the scenery.  Paul and I ended up in Alvard town square having a beer after day one, he said I had five words to sum up the day and my response was that I only needed one word; relentless. Climbing 6000 feet a day takes some doing.

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As much as this trip is about the climbs, the down hills are spectacular. It can take one hour to ride ten miles to the top and fifteen minutes to ride ten miles down on the other side. You are able to travel at 30 miles per hour without much effort – gravity. Cycling down we were generally surrounded by spectacular scenery with views opening up to what seemed like a hundred miles. The roads were in great condition, the combination of views, gradient and downhill distance allowed for cycling bliss.

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Day two was a bit of a shorter transition day, 70 miles. The first 30 miles were flat.  I had somehow convinced myself it was going to be an easy day. Before lunch we did a big climb 4 % for 12km. I had a good hour of rest forty miles into the seventy mile ride, and I was feeling good. How quickly that changed. We climbed from Chute de Monteynard bridge to Col de Cornillon, which was 5.5km at 6.5% and it was hot, very hot at 40C and I was not able to spin up the hill. I had run out of gears and was having to use power to keep me going. I had a 11-32 cassette on the back which was the best thing I did for this trip. Climbing at over 6 percent is not easy, I went from feeling that I was doing eight out of ten well to three out of ten in five kilometers. You try to concentrate on your breathing, sitting in a good position, make sure the energy you have is being put to the best use. If you have run out of gears – your heart rate is only going one way. Things start going through your head. I was very glad to reach the top of this climb.

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We had another 10km of climbing to the water stop, with a 3km climb at 4%, which shouldn’t have been a problem but it was hot and I was tired, a lone tree no thicker than a broomstick was too much of a temptation, I had to stop for a pretend toilet break. I needed two minutes in that tiny bit of shade to get my heart rate down. At the water stop Paul asked me his favourite question, five words to describe the day, my answer was that I definitely needed two words and the first word was going to be an expletive. Tough, really tough.

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Day three was a different profile, 4000 feet of climbing and 90 miles long. I had found my cycling legs at this point and felt in the comfort zone.  Word of the day; undulating. It felt a bit more like the London to Paris trip, still some great cycling. Two notable down hills, the first was from Col de Manse at 1268m our highest point of the challenge down to the town of Gap. A couple of straights which were 2 miles long, roads were excellent, my top speed was around 40miles per hour. Pretty quick. Another was downhill overlooking a grass airfield, a little bit gravelly and more technical. We also managed a quick break in Sisteron, a French town built into the side of a cliff, where I dunked my head into a water fountain, trying to keep cool for ten minutes.

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Day four was the big one. We started with the biggest climb of the trip, 6% for 7 miles, the middle part of the climb was 9% for 2 miles. Big and brutal. I had taken some advice from our trip leader, if you are on a very steep climb you can reduce the gradient by using the full width of the road. Similar to skiing down a mountain. I had a very measured approach spinning in a low gear, using the full width of the road, a bit like a snake side winding up the mountain. When I got to the 9% section it’s about gritting those teeth. I had learned a lot in the first three days in the mountains. The temperature was cool and I was mentally prepared for this first mountain, 2000ft in about an hour. It’s interesting trying to quantify what that means, a two story house is around eight meters, making it at around eighty houses on top of each other. Not bad for an hour’s work. At the top you reach Col de Corobin, 1230m.

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Two large climbs left but the best part of the trip was yet to come, the thirty miles down into Nice. I can not explain how beautiful the views were. At times the road seemed chiseled into the cliff face and on your right there might be a 200 meter fall. The road down the mountain uses hairpin bends, involving heavy breaking to almost turn back on yourself and away you go again. You can’t really believe you can go downhill for 30 miles. We ended up in Nice, a quick swim in the sea followed by ice cream and champagne.

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I really enjoyed the trip even with the few tough moments. It was ten out of ten and would highly recommend it if you can afford a week in the saddle.

Out of twenty riders who did the event Paul was in the top five, very impressive. He seemed to really enjoy the event in spite of the gash in his legs from a bike crash shortly before the trip. He seemed to cope with all the humps and bumps with no problem. I did try to keep an invisible bit of string between us, there were times when he simply cycled away, all that training paid dividends. He’s a superstar, always a pleasure to be around. I need to up my game for our next adventure. Lets wait and see.

Parting tips:

  • Get a 11/32 cassette on the back
  • If you are flying with a bike, Bikeboxalan is the way to go, do a couple of practice session to take the bike apart and putting it back together (A thank you to Neil for our bike rebuilding session, it made a real difference).
  • Train, those mountains are big.
  • Happy cycling

Paul adds; the only thing to say is to train like there is no tomorrow….no matter what anyone says, you get out what you put in.

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One year ago I was overweight and very unfit. My body weight put me in the “at risk” category for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. I needed to take action to protect my future health, so enlisted the help of a personal trainer Tom ( www.leanonme.pt). He helped me lose weight (15kg) and start my journey to fitness. He encouraged me to set my self a goal to work towards, so I chose a Triathlon. I did my first novice triathlon in earlier this year and enjoyed it so much I wanted take it up as my sport.

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So having caught the triathlon bug, I joined a triathlon squad (www.strive4fitnessuk.com) where the Coach Musty Salih, set me a training schedule to prepare for my first sprint distance traithlon, in September, 750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run.
I needed a better bike and Coach Musty advised that I look at a Cannondale, so I approached Cycle Right Shop, where I was given excellent help, advice and service. I purchased a Cannondale super six, which is a beautiful bike and Neil ensured it was fitted perfectly to me.
With a new bike, a new level of fitness and a race plan, I was all ready for the HSBC Sprint Triathlon.

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I was a little nervous on the day as it was more competitive than my first event and I wanted to do my squad proud. I stuck to my race plan which was a little difficult as I felt I was going too slow, however it paid off, as on the cycle element I started to overtake a lot of those that had overtaken me earlier. I also had enough energy left for the final run. I came 7th in my age group out of 15, so was pleased as it was my first race!

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Now I am preparing for the ” Ball Buster Duathlon” which is run/bike/run 5 x 8 mile circuits of Box hill in Surrey.

 

 

Last Sunday Mr Cycle Right and many of our customers participated in the London 100 event.

Well done to everyone who cycled the 100 miles.  It’s not an easy course as you have to have your wits about you with so many accidents, riders with differing abilities riding the same course at the same time is a recipe for collision.

Mr Cycle Right at the start line

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David and Laurent

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Had to stop because of one of many accidents.

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At the finish line.

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The aerfast was perfect for the course of London 100.

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Photos from our regulars who were also there.  From Iain Betson;

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Well done guys. What are the chances of me bumping into Neil on the course! Here’s one of me and the kids at the finish. Iain Betson.

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Chris Davies

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From Glenn Watson

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Jon Weare and Simon Davenport

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Nigel Presky

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Howard Morgan

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Paul Connelly should have a special mention as he cycled London 100 in an amazing time of 4hrs 15mins.  Impressive!

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Video taken from Glenn’s bike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our regulars, Graham, climbed the Dolomites this month, here’s his account of the experience.

Simon: It’s a nice day’s ride through the mountains in Italy.
Me: Sounds good, count me in.
Simon: It’s called the Maratona.
Me: It’s got a name?!?!

Google told me what Simon didn’t. It wasn’t through the mountains, it was over them, and it was a stage in the Giro d’Italia. The long route was 137 km and 4,000 meters climbing. That’s 4 kilometres up! Simon hadn’t managed the long route last time.

3rd July 2016

5:59am. in a pen with Simon and 2998 other cyclists. There are two other pens, as well.

I’ve been up for an hour and a half, and awake for twenty-four. I know I haven’t slept a wink all night, as the picturesque village church next to the hotel, chimes every 15 minutes. Altitude and excitement. And Simon’s snoring…

THE DAY has dawned. Almost. The day that, for the last nine months, has driven me to the gym at 6:30 am most weekday mornings, and on weekend bike rides to Berkhamstead, Bledlow and Long Bennington. I’ve put in the sunless hours, I’ve put in the windchill miles. I’ve done crunches and sit-ups and positions with swiss balls I didn’t know were possible. I’ve not only worked my lats and glutes, my bi’s, tri’s and obliques but I’ve learnt what they are. I’ve lost over a stone. I’ve cycled 200km in a day. I can put on a race fit jersey without feeling too embarrassed. But despite the training, despite all the training, I’ve never cycled up a proper mountain before. Now I had to do six in a day, and the Dolomites are proper mountains.

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The air is filled with the dank of last night’s incessant downpour, but also with anticipation; and the thump thump thump of a disco beat; and the metallic mechanical roar of the helicopters swooping for the most dramatic view of the jigsaw that was 3,000 cyclists waiting for the off. There is also a steady stream of cyclists making their way to edge of the crowd to deal with the effects of pre-ride hydration and a cold morning. Another steady stream. Then the fun of trying to find your mates where you left them in a crowd of 3000 people and 3000 bikes. But it is a carnival feel, a party atmosphere, with just a slight nagging feeling that the party is about to come to an end.

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The start is relatively easy and gentle, and the greatest challenge is not to bump into the bike in front. Not everyone succeeds. After a couple of kilometres we start climbing a little more seriously and it still seems straightforward. I’m keeping close to Simon as he’s done mountains before, specifically these mountains of course, and I’m hoping his steady pace will help me through the day. It’s a sufficient incline to merit bottom gear and everyone’s keeping together, more or less, but then the road is so choked with bikes that it’s hard to go faster or slower. Eventually the pre-ride hydration has its effect on Simon and me, so we pull over to the side and do what we have to do. Which isn’t so easy in bib shorts and the fascinated stare of the helicopter’s tv cameras. Simon looks over his shoulder to check I’m ok and he’s off. I’m not quite ok, as I can’t get my cleats into the pedals quickly enough and it only takes a few seconds for his helmet to disappear into the bobbing throng ahead. Well, we’d been together for 20 minutes of it anyway.

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As the valley opens up I start to grasp the enormity of it. The longest climbs at home I can remember are Whiteleaf, which felt quite long at 8 minutes, and the infamous Ditchling Beacon which took me 13 minutes of not entirely pure pleasure. Now the low early morning clouds are starting to lift and the road snakes off into infinity, bend after bend, climb after climb, it’s head down, deep breaths and watching the jersey in front. Looking up I’m straining to see where the pass over the top might be, in the hope , the aching hope that it’ll suddenly appear in view around the next bend. My legs are still working though, and after 47 minutes of non-stop climbing, I’m at the top of Campolongo. There’s a feed station, but no Simon. I refill with water, a sausage roll, half a banana and prematurely congratulate myself that it wasn’t so tough. In truth it wasn’t so tough, and if I’d paid attention to the route planning instead of thinking I’d just follow Simon, I’d have known that this was the lowest mountain, one of the shorter climbs, that I’d do this one again with four bigger meaner steeper ones to come. Five more climbs. Perhaps it was better I didn’t know.

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Skip to the good bit. The descent. Wow, yes, what makes it all worthwhile. The rush of wind, the rush of adrenaline, the hairpin after hairpin, leaning into the left, leaning into the right, seeing the road, the trees, the corners flash by…and the cyclist lying prone by the roadside who’d judged it wrong or suffered from someone else getting it wrong. Reality check – take it carefully here. Just as I hadn’t climbed up a mountain before, I hadn’t raced down one either. When I get it right, the angle of approach, the speed and the arc of the curve, it’s like a rollercoaster, whipping me round on rock steady rails…and when I get it wrong, it’s ooh-err, ease on the breaks, stay away from the edge, make sure the next one’s better. Five minutes downhill was all it took and the funfair ride is over, for now.

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As soon as the descent is over, I’m climbing again, this time with a bit more confidence and not noticeably less energy. Without Simon, I’ve got to rely on my power meter: keep it under 200 watts all the way up and I’ll be ok. The clouds are continuing to break a little and I have time for some sideways glances to see the grace, power and beauty of the jagged mountain tops. I’ve seen pictures like this for the last nine months, and now I’m living it. I’m reminded of Kurt Vonnegut: “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is…”

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The cyclists are much more strung out now, some in small groups, some singly enduring or enjoying their own bubble of reality. After an hour and ten minutes in my own bubble I’m there, at the top of Pordoi, 2,200 metres. Another feed station and three traditionally dressed Italian men with alpine horns, the ones that are about twelve feet long, and look like they should have a bag of tobacco stuffed in the end. The men are wearing long scarlett jackets and flat brimmed hats with a sprig of white feathers. It’s only when I move about two hundred yards away I get the true effect of their music, hauntingly echoing down the valley. Astonishing.

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The Maratona is an Italian version of the London Marathon for cyclists. Entries are invited from all over the world. That means we get priority and the Italians have to go into a lottery. They also get a few old stars to join in; in this case, Miguel Indurain. It’s live on TV all through the morning with the cameramen in Helicopters following the action and adding to the excitement. And at the end, there are medals, bands, cycling displays, and lots and lots of food.

I’ve got a text from Simon at last. He’s started climbing the third mountain, Sella. He must be 20 to 30 minutes ahead of me.

Another descent, another climb (Sella). There’s more blue sky than cloud now, and the vistas of the mountains become even more dramatic. And the energy in my legs is slowly sapping away.

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Another descent, another climb (Gardena). It feels absolutely relentless. Simon’s at the top of Campolonga, the one we do twice. After that there’s a cut off point and if we don’t get there by 11.30, we can’t do the long route. I’m hit with the sickening realisation I’m not going to make it. I haven’t paid enough attention to the timings. The split is about an hour away. It’s 11 o’clock now. Shit shit fuck fuck bugger bugger. I’ve been training for the long route since last October, all those early mornings, all those aching muscles…In futile hope I press on and get up Campolonga faster than the first time around, but there’s still a long slog to the split. Somehow I‘ve passed Simon who’s waiting for me, and I get to the split a few minutes before he does. We could do the long route, but we’d have to leave the organised ride. I was up for it but that was a decision based on pure emotion. We’d done 2000m climbing already and the long route was 2000m more. There’d be no more closed roads, no water stops, no feed stations, no support if either my bike or I broke down. The thought of being lost in the wrong valley with no legs and no way home brought me to my senses. And there was still another 1000m to do on the medium route.

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I’m so glad I made that decision. It was great to be riding with Simon again, and the Passo Valparola was monstrous. Over 12 kilometers and a climb of 750 m. That’s 2475 ft in old money. I stop halfway up, ostensibly for a pee, but in truth, I just had to stop. That was it; the last mountain climb. Apart from a sting in the tail, the rather bizarre and sadistic Mur dl Giat, a two kilometre diversion that keeps getting steeper and steeper with probably more cyclists falling by the wayside and walking, than riding, and all the locals lining the road, cheering and clanging their cowbells. There’s nothing left in my legs now, my strength has gone. I get to the top fuelled only by surprising bloody-mindedness.

And then we’re home. Maratona 2016 done. Medium route. 106.5km. 3032m.

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Those of you who frequent Cycle Right will know our Fernando, you’ll know what a helpful good natured person he is.

One might think Fernando spends most of the day eating cake, I have plenty of evidence to prove this;

Evidence #1

fernando eating cake

Evidence #2 – sometimes he has coffee with his cake

fernando eating meringue

Evidence #3 – more cake

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Evidence #4 – do we need to say any more on this point?  I think not.

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When he’s not eating his way through cake, (by the way if want to make him something special make him a Portuguese meringue or gooey brownie bars)

molotofbrownies

the rest of the time you may think that he spends it posing.

Photographs don’t lie.

Posing evidence #1

fernando posing

Posing evidence #2

fernando with ktm

Apart from eating cake and posing, Fernando, as you may very well know leads the “relaxed” group on the Sunday shop rides.  And a good job he does too, making sure no one gets dropped and has an enjoyable ride.

Our monster eating cake helpful assistant Fernando, will for now stop leading the Sunday relaxed rides.  Fernando has entered the London 100 Prudential Race, and with only 6 weeks to go he needs some serious training.  If you have heard the story of his oh-so-painful experience at the Gran Fondo tour of Cambridge two weeks ago, you’ll understand how he needs this time to train.  On Sundays now he will be doing much needed long rides.

Please pass this message on to others who come on the relaxed shop rides, and that we are looking for someone who can take over Fernando, (eating cakes is not obligatory).