Valverde Ride out - July 2011
The day got off to a good start, it was 8:30am, slightly cloudy and approx 20deg! A beautiful day for a ride.
I rode down to meet the others at the usual start point and eventually there were 60+ riders all ready for the off, the ride normally starts with the fast group going off first followed by the slower one. While waiting for the start a local told me that Valverde would be riding today and then asked me what group I was going in? My answer of the “fast group” gave us both a smile.
Finally the off........we strolled out of town and hit the coastal road,26 miles later and an average speed of 23.5mph a group of 5 including myself got dropped by the main peloton which was now only 8 men strong. The fast pace on the climb from the coast towards Cartagena had definitely taken its toll on a lot of riders. This was more like a race I thought to myself, everybody was pushing as hard as they could and desperate to not drop off the back of the group.
My group carried on at a fast but slightly slower pace than previously. Soon we reached the eastern section of the Vuelta de Cartagena circuit and started climbing properly. I knew I was in trouble when I noticed the other 5 guys in my group were all about 25 kilo lighter than me! I gritted my teeth and did my best to hang in there. Yes 4 of them dropped me when the slope hit 8%, but not by as much as I expected, I crested the summit very happy with myself and proceeded to catch them on the descent to the cemetery.
Upon reaching the main road my group and another caught up with the faster one, they had eased off a bit. This didn’t last long thou, the pace again went up and up and up, the riding was frantic, I saw water bottles ejected from cages flying down the road, then a mobile phone and lastly somebody’s glasses! We headed home on the coastal road with a strong breeze coming off the Mar Menor, this resulted in an echelon forming across ¾ of the road, occasionally pulling in when a car was coming the other way. The peloton was cruising at around 27 mph when an irate local lorry driver annoyed at being stuck behind us decided to overtake whilst sounding his horn and shouting out of his window. He was swiftly followed by a police car with its siren on. Oh no, we thought, he’s gonna stop us, we slowed down and stayed in the correct lane when instead of stopping us the police car pulled over the lorry. We rode past and cheered. With about 10 miles to go the speed went up again but I couldn’t match it, I found myself at the front of a chasing group and realising how hard it was to catch a peloton in full flight. I buried myself trying to get back on, only to have guys jump off my back wheel and leave me in no-man’s land. A lesson learnt I thought. I eased off, waited for the next group to catch up with me and jump on their back wheel. 53 miles later and with an average speed of 20.8mph I was sitting in a beach bar downing a well earned cold lager.
These rides go out every day of the week but the larger groups go on the weekend.
Mont Ventoux – June 2011
It was a beautiful day for the climb, temperature around 85deg and a slight breeze in Bedoin. I had warmed up nicely on the ride from my hotel to Bedoin and after stopping to replenish water I set off to climb Mont Ventoux. The first part of climb lulls you into a false sense of security with its friendly gradient. but this preamble leads straight into the forest where for the next 10km you will be climbing on a 10% gradient! I kept setting myself targets along the road, a sign or tree, anything to keep my mind focused. Unlike Alpe d’Huez there are no hairpins here to break up the climb it just goes up and up! I found myself cycling with a French guy, we were overtaking each other at regular intervals, luckily for me this guys family had come along with a car and motorcycle to cheer him on, overtake, then stop to cheer some more. His family quickly realised what the two of us were doing and started cheering me as well, it was a more than welcome encouragement that really helped. We carried on like this until 2km from the summit at which point whilst I was behind him his motorcycle support pulled alongside. I decided to give a bit of a push and went passed both of them to the cries of “Attack! Attack!” being shouted at me by the French guy. I stayed ahead until 1km from the summit, here I had to jump off the bike and stretch out my cramp. I looked back down the climb to see my climbing mate doing exactly the same. I never got to speak to him but I hope he benefited from my company as much as I did from his and his families. I stretch as quickly as possible and carried on to the summit, the sun was still shining, the temp had dropped and there was a strong wind but the applause at the top from people I had never met before was a great experience.
It had taken me 2hrs 1min 10sec to reach the summit. If only I had not had cramp I thought, I would have gone under 2hrs! Oh well, there is always next time.
Alpe d'Huez June 2011After the success of the Dragon Ride I decided to test my newly found climbing prowess with a couple of climbs I had always dreamed of – Alpe d'Huez and Mont Ventoux!
I had intended to drive to Alpe d'Huez over two days and find a hotel en route. This all change as I became mesmerised by the journey and focused on just getting there. I finally arrived at the top of Alpe d'Huez at 1am and settled down for a night spent in the car, which turned outto not be as uncomfortable as I thought it was going to be. I woke early to the sound off cow bells a spectacular view and a desperate need for coffee!
The hotel I booked into very kindly allowed me to check in early and I started to prepare for my assault of Alpe d'Huez.
With thoughts of climbing in what I hoped was going to be a time that would compare to Pantani I started with a slow descent into Bourg D'Oisans, followed with a warm-up of around 20 miles taking in the wonderful scenery and then hit the start of the climb. The first section was a short sharp shock, at over 10% for the first kilometre leading up to the first bend(number 21). The gradient is unrelenting, except for the welcome hairpins, until you reach bend 17. Here you can get your breath back on the kinder gradient up to bend 15, but make the most of it because it now ramps up again to bend 7, the gradient constantly changing but never getting any easier. Reading the encouragement painted on the road was a welcome distraction from the thoughts of "I must be mad doing this". Pretty soon you have sight of the village of Alpe d'Huez, but watch out for a kick in the gradient that only last for about 70m and is the last thing you need at this point. I finally completed the climb with a time of 1hr 05mins which I was happy with but still left me shaking my head at the sub 40min time some of the pros have achieved!
Can't wait to try it again.
Dragon Conquered - 5th June 2011
This years 'Dragon Ride Sportive' was probably the toughest yet, 125 miles and a total of 8871ft of climbing.
We set off as a group of 5 out of 4,500 riders and were very soon riding with a large bunch zipping along at 25mph (once again the plan of taking it easy at the start went out of the window). We covered the first 40 miles in 2 hours which was pleasing, however the three big climbs were looming in the distance.We tackled the first ascent of the Bwlch mountain fairly comfortably grabbed some bananas at the summit feed station and carried on. After a thrilling descent and some fun with a motorcycle camera crew we soon approached the second of the large climbs 'The Rhigos', it was at this point that Jack decided to sing while he was climbing(it takes all sorts). We took this one a lot easier grinding our way up to the top before a fast descent down to the cut off point for the Grand and Medio Fondo. With no doubt in our minds we turned left onto the Grand Fondo route and following a fast section were once again ascending on the unknown climb which proved to be a long drag that sapped most of the strength we had left. This completed we headed for the Cimla climb followed by the final climb 'Bwlch 2'. With approximately 95 miles in our legs and the rain falling this became far more of challenge, which was reinforced when we slowly passed a rider who shouted out to Jack ''you’re not singing any more are you?''. We eventually made it to the top and carefully descended down the Ogmore Valley on wet slippery roads eventually finishing in around 7hr 6 mins with a sense of accomplishment. Job done.
Once again the 'Dragon Ride' proved to be a fantastic and well organised event. Roll on next year.
Written by Jack