Ups and downs of training on two wheels

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By popular request from all my friends (yes, both of them), I have put pen to paper, again.

Well, not so much a pen and even less, paper, such are modern times.

After a quiet and miserable winter, training started in earnest with just over 400 miles in January and just over 500 miles in February.

Then a slight hiatus in March due to another cold and some inclement weather which led to a poor showing of just over 300 miles.

Having signed up for a couple of training camps and sportives, I felt that, perhaps, I should apply myself a little more, so upped the mileage in April to just over 600 miles, with a longest ride of 83 miles.

Avoiding the Tour de Yorkshire as best I could, by judicious re-routing of my training rides, and despite a mechanical problem affecting a planned long hilly ride, I felt that the start of May was looking good, when I took myself off to the South of France for the two training camps.

Arriving in Callians a day before everyone else, I went for a loosener to the Col de Valferrière, a mere 18 miles though the mountain top village of Mons, almost all of it uphill.

It might have been hard work going up, but the largely downhill return was most enjoyable, particularly as only three vehicles passed me in 18 miles – not the busiest road I’ve ever ridden on.

It brought back a lot of memories, as it was seven years since I last rode up there and 17 years before that when I rode it previously. The only change was that there had been substantial resurfacing, so it was billiard table smooth for substantial stretches – just like back home – not.

Six days of hilly rides were offset by six evenings of excellent dinners, with wine included, taking the mind off the aching legs.

It was good to have as one of our coaches, Gérald Granger, the world track fixed gear 24-hour time trial record holder. Interesting that he could climb hills with the best of them.

We spent many an hour debating the relative merits of his 24 hour time trial on a velodrome track as opposed to mine on the open road. If anyone is the least interested, I plump for the fixed gear as being the more difficult, even though I managed more miles than he did.

Suitably leg weary, I then decamped to Sault at the foot of le Mont Ventoux for a weekend training camp with the same organisers.

The Saturday dawned bright and sunny, but with a strong wind, which did not auger very well for the higher reaches, above Chalet Reynard.

So it proved, with 50mph winds deterring some riders (the sensible ones) and causing mayhem among those brave enough to tackle the exposed final 6kms.

It’s not often I’m reduced to 3mph on a gentle stretch of hill, but that was somewhat better than those who resorted to walking.

At the Col des Tempêtes, just one kilometre from the summit, I could see cyclists being blown across the road, so managed to take a line which just enabled me to get past before I was blown off the road altogether. Not a pleasant experience.

Some 50 metres from the summit, at the last bend, the rider 20 metres in front of me was blown off his bike which, fortunately (for me, not for him), forewarned me sufficiently to change my angle of approach and achieve my 26th ascent.

The descent was interesting, to say the least, but otherwise uneventful, apart from one steep stretch into Chalet Reynard where I ended up pedalling hard downhill just to achieve 7mph into the wind.

All in all, the most difficult conditions of all my visits to the Ventoux

On Sunday, we had a most enjoyable fast thrash through the vallée du Toulourenc for elevenses in the small village of Entrechaux, en route to Malaucène for my 27th ascent, although, despite a favourable, but still very strong wind, I struggled badly up to Chalet Liotard, recovering slightly for much better last 6k, the hardest part of that particular climb.

It was apparent that I had, once again, overdone the training so decided to forego the third day and make an earlier start home - a wise decision as it turned out, since it was a national holiday and traffic was horrendous.