My Cycling Challenges for 2019

So, last year I was easy on myself with just the one declared personal challenges and two undeclared. If I f*cked them up no-one would ever have known. Pressure off. Luckily I did!

This year it’s back to three challenges for this years cycling with an emphasis on climbing, something I enjoy insanely. Always tough tests crowned with a real feeling of achievement, reaching the top of a mountain and looking down….. Especially when, at around halfway, the invariable thought is ‘why in hell’s name am I doing this!’ Perhaps with a few more expletives.

So, first things first. The challenges.

Challenge Number One – Mont Ventoux – The Easy Route
First up, first week of June, back to Mont Ventoux. The third time and something I look forward to a lot. Besides the cycling, a beautiful area. A little overrun with tourists but where isn’t these days?

2016 was all about Mont Ventoux via the quietly murderous Bedoin route. For 2017, the second of my challenges was to climb via Malaucene, which was much prettier but still quietly murderous. 2019 will see the completion of a climb via Sault, the last of the routes to the summit, excluding a Mountain Bike route. Which I will not do. Stuff that. Sault is also the easiest ascent. Easy climbing until Chalet Reynard when everything becomes…. quietly murderous again. An average gradient of 5%, though, is easy going.

To spice things up, I will take a route from the village where we are staying to Sault involving the Gorges du Nesque. A long, slow climb through spectacular scenes which photographs below do not really do justice to. I took these on a ride two years ago and, believe me, it was was special. The only danger of crashing comes from looking around too much…..

All in all an easy, scenic climb which is only briefly hellish toward the end. Then comes, for me, the real challenge.

Descent.

What goes up must come down. And this time not via car.

I hate descending, have said that enough. Friends who have done all three climbs (in one day, the psychos!) reckon the route via Malaucene is the quieter of the three options and also very scenic. Plenty of excuses to stop and take pictures. In any case, with my new(er) bike disc brakes make descent far safer as long as I stay fairly disciplined. Which I am pretty certain I will. A slow dawdle down as opposed to insane, record breaking speed.

In summary, a long but comfortable day on the bike and a enjoyable holiday to look forward to. A good warm up for Challenge Two….

Challenge Number Two – Stelvio – Bloody Hell……
June will be the month of the mountains. It starts with Ventoux. It ends with Paso del Stelvio.

I have not cycled in Italy so what better place to start than what is apparently the highest finish at any of the Grand Tours? Hairpins galore, tunnels, lots of cars (thanks, Top Gear). The grandest climb of my short cycling life. And with chums this time as well, who I hope will wait patiently whilst I dawdle on the descents.

Effectively, as stated above, Ventoux from Sault will be warm-up for Stelvio. Average 10% Gradient, 1,500 meters worth of climbing. Ventoux from Bedoin is average 7.5% for comparison’s sake, although hidden in that average are some savagely steep sections which apparently make Ventoux more difficult than Stelvio. Not sure that will be much of a comfort when seeing all those hairpins ahead whilst realising just how far behind the hotel is…..

Still, I am looking forward to it! Primarily because I am perhaps a little insane. But the main point is that it will be a long weekend with friends and a lot of cycling, including warm-up routes to help us prepare for the big one. Still some logistics to take care of (not least getting my bike to Bormio) but these will be sorted out. It will be fun. Honestly!

(No pictures of the Stelvio Pass as…… I haven’t been there….. but the Wikipedia entry gives a flavour of how stupid I am to do this)

Number Number Three – Uhmmmmmmm
I have to admit to being a little useless here. The third challenge will be a long-distance ride and one that I can complete from home. But I am not sure yet. Rondje Ijselmeer (a 300km route around two of the great lakes in Holland)? Straight distance target, somewhere different and back as per last year?

OK, a little thought is needed and probably no decision until June is completed. The month of the mountains must come first. Getting in to condition for that is a priority one. The long distance ride, whatever it is, will be something to round off the cycling year.

Why?
It would be forgivable to think that everything is linked to MS in this blog and in my life. To an extent it is. Certainly my annual personal challenges are. The first, the 2016 climb of Mont Ventoux, was to raise funds for MS Research. Last year, Liege-Bastogne-Liege was also to raise funds for the same cause.

Underlying the challenges was a need to constantly show that MS had not stopped me and that I could ride faster and harder than someone who was….. ‘normal’…. Although not sure why I used that word…. But there was a need to prove to myself that those two letters, MS, were not going to ruin everything. What better way than to push myself doing something I enjoy?

And that is the most important thing. Enjoying these challenges. Revelling in them. There will be pain and tiredness and they are great to feel. This can sound like so much bullsh*t but, damn it, it’s true! Once upon a time I felt a little guilty that I am ill but so active. Now? The bad days are there. Try to move on from them. Embrace in the good days. That’s what it’s all about.

That’s the main point. This is all fun! Honestly…..

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