So the training has closed. Tomorrow we fly to Marseilles and then a short piece of logistics before the big climb. Right now slightly nervous, but also happy, looking forward. Perhaps a little over-concerned about the weather but looking forward…..
After all, it is eight months of training and preparation for this. Nearly five-thousand kilometres ridden since October last year, indoor and outdoor. I cannot help but reflect on this.
Oddly enough the first thing that comes to mind is indoor training, something of a necessary bore. It is difficult to ride when it is snowing, icy or within the limitations of the short winter day matched with work. The indoor trainer makes sure that training is still possible. But it is also, frankly, dull, not as much to see as when out on the road. Still, it did its job and gave me a taste of gradients ready for the real thing.
Indeed, riding so much can get a little boring if you take the wrong route. It doesn’t happen often and normally there are some saving sights or bursts of colour to keep you awake. But, occasionally, in the empty stretches of Flevoland, for example, when the horizon just seems to stretch forever you get a little bored, a little fed up. It never lasts forever but, with forty kilometres down and another seventy to go, it feels like it could.
Punctures are a risk, always. Only one but it was in the middle of nowhere and on a wet day and, when it stopped raining, all of the mosquitoes in Holland suddenly appeared and decided that my blood was pretty good that day. No fun!
It was windy as well that day. Holland does not have many slopes and those locally simply cannot be compared to what will be faced in France. No chance. But it is apparently good preparation to ride in to the wind. So I have done that a lot. Again, difficult to compare to something with the mystique of ‘Le Mistral’ (said in a breathy French accent) but, stuff that, enough wind! My first ride after this is done will be undertaken with the wind very much behind me.
On every one of these ‘wind’ rides I seemed to pass a lot of cyclists going the opposite direction. All I could think was ‘you lucky sh*ts’, although some have probably done more climbing than I ever will! Still, a mixed bag, the racing bike community. Some cyclists on racers do not do the image of their fellows much good. Unnecessary aggression (‘Scary Monsters and Super Creeps’), slipstreaming without actually saying anything (I find that a bit creepy, to be honest, especially if they get too close), impoliteness toward just about everyone else on the path, large groups who do not seem to notice there is someone coming the opposite way. Moan, moan, moan. Important that the negative few do not outweigh positive majority. Plenty of positive folks on bikes out there. Those who are polite and respectful to others, the slipstreamer who then overtakes and gives you a break from the wind and those who are just plain friendly. Like every group, there are good and bad examples and the negatives should not steal the limelight.
Indeed, there is so much that has been great in the last eight months that make me realise why, if I am not on a bike for a week, I start to get a little restless.
It has been great to go and explore Holland, pushing out toward new areas through my once-a-week ‘century’ rides. those over one-hundred kilometres. A lot of pleasant surprises. A ride to Amerongen stands out, especially as there was something like a hill there so I even managed 500 metres of climbing in one ride! But also a lovely area to see. With these rides I revived a little tradition of just blundering off in one direction (with guidance from my Garmin navigation, thankfully) and seeing where I ended up. As I noted above it could sometimes be quite dull but, still, even those rides usually led to somewhere where I had to stop, look, and take it in. A lot of great things to see.
As for my first real hit of climbing in Belgium? Well, a huge highlight because I could do it, albeit painfully slowly, and also because it was in such a stunning area. I will admit that at points I found myself swearing randomly at this stunning landscape as, with gradients of twenty-four percent and higher, it was difficult to appreciate! But eventually I could.
The best thing about these eight months has, indeed, been seeing so many new things and realising that I am lucky that I can still pursue an active hobby and see so much of this small part of the world. I have mentioned my hunger to live in a previous post where I tried to summarise the reasons why I am taking part in the climb of Ventoux on June 11th and also how lucky I am. The main positive of this whole experience is realising just how much I have enjoyed it so far. Climbing the mountain will provide a perfect epilogue.
Or, rather, it marks the end of this chapter and the start of the next adventure, wherever that may lead
(cheeky note – sponsor me here – thanks!)