So. I have not even completed challenge Number 1 on the bike for 2020. But the plans are already afoot for Challenge Number 2. In (hopefully) sunny June the Pyrenees is my destination. The objective will be the Col du Tourmalet. At this stage, the exact route to the summit is to be established but it will be a climb of between 1,300 and 1,450 metres. A climb with a stupendous amount of history. At least in cycling terms…….
A Little Background
Col du Tourmalet is perhaps not the best known mountain to feature in the Tour de France. But it has great pedigree. Indeed, it has featured in the Tour the more than any other mountain (though not always as a summit finish) and by virtue of its close proximity to Spain, has also formed part of the Tour of Spain..
Tourmalet first featured in the Tour in 1910. Since then, other climbs have perhaps become equally , if not more, iconic. Galibier, A[pes d’Huez……. Mont Ventoux….. Still it has been a hugh part of the Tour and remains one the historic brutes that needs to be captured.
Historic Yes But….. Why Do This to Yourself?
I think I can be honest and say that mountains have become an obsession of mine. A very healthy obsession. To cycle up a mountain requires fitness, good condition. So I will need to get fit for the Amstel Gold Race and stay fit another two months for a trip to the Pyrenees. There will be other mountains to climb besides Tourmalet. Col d’Aubisque, Hautacam (which is a beast). Tourmalet will be the main target, though.
When I climb it I will get that feeling.
The one that comes after two hours of work, two hours of effort. The electric thrill that comes when, after all that climbing, the road suddenly seems gentler and then a sign appears that means that the summit has been reached. Every mountain I have climbed has led to the same immense feeling of achievement, even Stelvio where I finished the ride feeling drained, overpowered. So much for the senses to deal with on a road that was jammed with traffic, something of an overdrive.
Despite that, I eventually felt that same thrill that comes after a long climb. I felt it after that first long, hard climb of Mont Ventoux. How does feel to look down and realise that you have achieved something like that with you own power?
Tired legs, a weary mind, aching back, yes. But such a fantastic, warm feeling of accomplishment. I love that feeling and will pursue it as long as I am able to.
The Next Few Months
April 18th first. The Amstel Gold Race. 150 kilometres and over 2,000 metres of climbing. A hard warm-up. Actually a challenge in itself, of course! Then a holiday where I will not go near a bike before going back among giants in June.
There is not much to do besides stick to the plan I have made and then stay in good shape ready for June.
The Other Reason
Elation, the thrill of finishing a big climb. All good reasons for such personal challenges. There is another reason as well.
That dark angel at my shoulder, my personal MS. I like to keep it away but it’s always there. Nothing dramatic, no faux angst ridden passage about feeling it’s icy breath on my neck. It’s just there.
And I am no fighter. When it comes hard for me I will probably find it difficult to deal with. Some of the symptoms are already enough and make everyday life difficult.
It’s more a case of whilst I can ride I will ride. This is not some bullshit story about fighting heroically against what I have. It’s about living life to the maximum whilst I can. It means setting myself challenges like this, putting myself through the full physical strain that is needed to achieve them. It’s about still feeling everything, every sinew stretching and every muscle screaming. After the pain comes the thrill, the utter satisfaction of achievement.
This is not about conquering what I have. It is about enjoying life in spite of it. Feeling everything that I can, every sensation while it’s still possible.
And, before I get too spiritual, it’s also about adding another big mountain to the list climbed so far. Some things really are that simple.