Spent most of last week in The Hague – not ideal preparation – plenty of bikes, but no hills. I also discovered Thuisbezorgd.nl, and that the local corner shop has started stocking Hertog Jan by the can.
However back in the UK office on Friday I manage to find some time to get to the gym. Suffered on the Watt Bike and was disappointed that my average for the all out 5 minute test was down to 323. Once I’d got my breath back the other gym instructor, Liam (the ying to Lieutenant Dan’s yang) asked me how long to go? It dawns on me FOUR weeks. He then queried when I was going to start to “taper off” my training. Taper off! It doesn’t feel as if I’ve started.
When the Saturday morning showers have cleared I head out to the Ashdown Forest; first up, The Wall. Feeling good, it takes 8.09, and at 1.5km long Mont Ventoux will just be like doing it another 13 times; without the rest of any descents.
Recording my progress via the Endomondo app on my iPhone – I’ve set it to pause should I stop moving. So if I encounter a red light or stationary traffic– it doesn’t affect my stats. I head back via Groombridge Hill and am still feeling ok; so I go out to Yorks Hill and arrive at the base with 35 miles in my legs. As I enter the canopy of trees, and begin the satanic 20% gradient the robotic voice from the phone announces “Auto pause on” – I’m going so slowly it thinks I’ve ground to a halt… Assuming this must be a glitch with the iPhone or the GPS, once over the summit I head down to Sundridge and attempt Toys Hill from the Brasted side. But again, on one of the steeper sections, the phone barks out “Auto pause on”. By the time I get to the top I’m absolutely knackered, the phone is accurate; and I’ve got over 15 miles before I’m home.
I’m on the granny ring for the series of the little “hills” from Wellers Town to The Rock, and I start to lose the mental battle with – the all of a sudden very ominous – Fordcombe Hill. I desperately try to think of alternative, flatter routes home, but can’t find any. If I feel like this on Mont Ventoux there is no way I’ll make it to the top. I promise myself a slice of Rocky Road washed down with pint of Belgium beer at the Velo House – if I don’t get off and walk. At least the phone remains silent as I slowly toil up to Fordcombe – I’m still moving. The other motivation to keep going is that it was less than a month ago that I was sIagging off other MAMILs pushing their bikes.
In the end I do get off. But only once I’m on the home stretch and I reach the Texaco garage on the Langton Road. Feeling like I’m going to faint, I half expect the attendant to call an ambulance as I pay for my Mars, Snickers and Coke. That’s just enough fuel to get me to the Velo House. I collapse into the café, they’re out of Rocky Road – but fortunately the beer is on draft – and after 57 miles averaging 15mph it’s well deserved.