Monday, July 14, 2008

my Tour - what Mountains - Part 1

Many, many months ago, when we decided we were definitely coming over to London – I had a dream, well I had many, mostly involving travelling throughout Europe. But, there was one passion which I had to quench – the Tour de France. Well we were going to be over here – may as well pop on over the channel and spend some time watching very fit, smoothed legged, lycra clad dudes riding, conveyances which these days have more technology packed into them than the space shuttle – yippee, this was going to be way cool. And then, in a moment of inspiration, I remembered something about being able to ride a stage of the Tour – OMG – I could actually being riding my pushie, hairy legs and all over the same pieces of terrain and tarmac as some of the biggest drug addicts in the world!

So after I bit of internet research – I found what I was looking for and signed up – well, I was fit and can ride a bit, how hard can 165km over 2 of the largest mountains in the Pyrenees be? Ok, they maybe the natural divide between France and Espana – but surely it can’t be that hard. To add to be burgeoning confidence was the fact, that when it comes to hills, I might not be super quick, but can generally keep going and going and going – I had driven my trusty stead up Mt Coot-tha hundreds of times – pushing big gears to get some strength in these skinny little Aussie legs, grinded my up the range from Landsborough to Maleny, whilst road workers stood on, watching, shaking their heads and eventually plucking up the wit to comment ‘don’t you have a car mate’, as I was on my third climb of the morning. So Pyrenees – show me what you got – bring it on!

With my entry to the race accepted and all the details in train – I examined the route map. Hmmmmm we will be riding over Stage 10 of the Tour …… I jumped on the website, downloaded the stage information and profile. 165km, ok not too bad, I hadn’t ever managed (or be bothered) to ride that far, but have done a number of 100km rides and didn’t find these too taxing … so distance – no worries. Then I had a look at the elevation profile …. Hmmmm 2 mountains, a couple of nice decents (my mind drifted back to my previous conquests, Coot-tha, Maleny). This shouldn’t be too bad ….ok, I looked a bit more closely – got myself into detail mode. The first thing which struck me, was the Col de Tourmalet. I do remember watching this stage last year and being in awe of the pros grinding their way up this mountain. So I checked out the height – OMG it is 2115m with an average grade of 7.5%. This is a bit higher than I have ever ridden before, by a factor of 10! Then I scanned my way to the end of the stage – a nice hilltop finish in Hautacam, this one only 1500m. Phew, well after conquering Tourmalet, this should be as piece of cake! Then reality really kicked in…. Tourmalet, 2115m, the climb commences 100km into the stage and the summit is 20 kms further on – it is straight uphill for 20kms! Similar story with Hautacam, this time the climb starts 155km into the stage and we ride uphill for 10kms. Of course, this is all after 3 other climbs of 400 – 500m along the way. Ok, I can do this – I just need to get some (ok a lot) of hill training in.

Check out the stage profile ...!!!!

So off to London we go. No problems – I love hills! This is where my confidence started to deflate somewhat ……

Problem 1 – I have no bike, it is February, winter and NO bike …….

Problem 2 – after a quick browse on google earth, London and surrounds is flatter than the surface of the moon – there just aren’t any decent hills!
Problem 1 – ok, got this one solved, after many sleepless nights, trying to work out how I could get my bike over here quickly and for less than what I paid for it, my Knight in shining armour delivered to me a sweetest message I have ever heard ‘Hey, I’m in Brisbane next week, flying business class, how bout I pick your bike up and bring it back?’ I almost choked on my own excitement. Sir Brett, the chivalrous knight was going to deliver my trusty red steed to me – Yipppeeeeee!

Now for Problem 2 – no hills, winter, cold, snow, rain – typical London really. With bike positioned firmly under my lycra clad bot, I headed out to the renouned Box Hill. Many a cyclist I had struck up conversations with whilst cruising around Richmond Park, frantically avoiding squirrels, deer and the usual spaced out pedestrian, had told me about Box Hill – it was the Holy Grail of hills in south England and the best bit, was that it was a short 40kms from our place. So on a bright, but cold March morn, all kitted up – I head for head Box Hill. It was a lovely ride down there, few a few little villages, loads and loads of greenery. Then there it was, Box Hill – well the sign to it anyway. Luckily there was a café at the bottom of the hill, so I decided it was time for a latte break and then off I went, slight nervous – a hill with such a fearsome reputation had me more than a little bit worried. So I rode….. and rode …. The hill gently rose in front of me …. A few twists and turns … a bit more of a rise. Oh this is rather pleasant I thought ….. hmmm, I wonder when it really starts to kick. So as I came to each hairpin corner, my anticipation rose .. and then ebbed … and then rose … and yet again ebbed. I had been ‘climbing’ (ok, it was more like the rise from the Queen St Mall to Central Station) for about a mile ……. And still was looking to get that usual lactic acid burn in the legs. So I came to the next blend, the road was covered by a canopy of trees, with sunlight dappling through, it really was so English, I rounded the bend ready to start the massive kick to the summit – and instead, came to the carpark, café and the top of Box Hill! I felt cheated – how can you call this a hill? I was of my mind to ride back down to the Box Hill sign, pull out my spray can (which I carry for any random acts of vandalism required) and spray over the word Hill and replace it with Bump!

So with the weeks ticking by, I got out and rode and rode – albeit flat, but pretty countryside, and the madness of the suburbs of London. It was now only 2 weeks before the big ride. I was starting to feel my confidence grow.

Phew, I’m worn out just thinking about it! Well, am off to watch the highlights of Stage 10 – the stage I rode and the one that has just seen Cadel snatch the maillot juane .

1 comment:

Lee said...

This is like a season finale cliffhanger. I don't know if I can wait until next year!