And I thought the Cheddar climb was hard! Not since those first few months last year, after I’d just been bought my road bike, when the slightest upward gradient would throw me into turmoil, have I had found cycling so damn hard! What is the quote? – “it doesn’t get easier, you just get faster” – well, on this climb I was definitely not any faster so I think there should be the alternative; “it doesn’t get easier, the hills just get steeper“.
My partner is really pushing me now, with our rides regularly involving a good amount of “hill training”. We live in a great location for it; on the doorstep of a cycle track, it’s just a couple of minutes ride out into a playground of rolling countryside. Constant undulations and a scattering of steeper hills, mean that some good hill practice can easily feature on every ride. My improvement on these local hills over the last year has been really noticeable, gradually over the months I’ve built up a lot more strength and endurance and as a result we can now cycle routes that I wouldn’t have been physically (or mentally!) equipped for last year . . . something my partner is taking full advantage of!
Our Cheddar Gorge ride last week was quite the milestone – it felt very satisfying to have ridden an official climb, and so to follow on from this, we prepared for another Sunday of hill-packed cycling. Just before leaving, I was told it’d be tough . . . But I was not ready in the slightest for what awaited me. . .
It was another in the Official Top 100 list. . . a climb that I was aware of, and one that I had been adamant I wasn’t ready for; a winding road that gets steeper as it climbs; it’s toughest section curving round the hill at a gradient of 18%. We had a (very necessary) rest stop about halfway up, just ahead of the steepest section, and as I looked on I tried to mentally prepare myself for what I could see was going to be a challenging few minutes of cycling!
The steepness hit me quickly, with the legs screaming out from pretty much the get-go. Being a main road, and without the opportunity to overtake, the cars began to stack up behind me. Constant bends and now queuing cars, took away any potentially safe opportunity for me to give up – I had to keep pedalling. Out of the saddle, I took it slow and repeatedly counted my 20’s, all the while praying that this bend would be the last!
Finally we reached the top. . . and thankfully a lay-by! We pulled in and I literally clambered off my bike, sat on the gravel and panted out the pain. The dying-bear-like breathing was back with avengence, much to my partners slight amusement. I had made it though, and despite the agony I felt great! My second official climb conquered, and my steepest gradient to date!
Taking me out of my comfort zone and challenging my fitness on rides, has really improved my confidence on the bike. It was only a week ago, when discussing this particular hill, after the Cheddar ride, that I was saying that I was nowhere near ready for anything this tough. And low and behold just a week later, thanks partly to my partners sneaky coaching methods, I’ve done it!
A great sense of achievement. . . but I’m not sure I’ll be rushing back to do it again too soon!