Nine months preparation and training. 400km ridden with over 10,000m of climbing. Many thousands of calories burnt. Last week was a big week.
After my big cycling goal of last year, riding the GF Ventoux, I knew I had to focus my mind and subsequent training on another goal. It's certainly not for everyone, but I'm the type of person who needs structured exercise towards a clear goal. When I'm putting in hours and hours on an exercise bike in the depths of winter, it helps with the pain. This year, the goal is – was my coach, Tim, put it - 'A biggie'. La Marmotte is an organised ride in France where you ride over three mountains and finish atop one of the most famous climbs in the region, Alpe d-Huez. To get me in tip-top shape for that goal, a few friends and I organised a trip to Gran Canaria to find our mountain climbing legs.
Gran Canaria is a rock. A massive, ancient stratovolcano, that collapsed millions of years ago leaving a tortured maze of canyons and steep mountains. It rises from sea level to just short of 2000m in 40km. It also turns out it has some of the best, and worse, road surfaces I've ridden on.
We'd planned for a day on/day off programme where we'd be taking in four of the island's most popular climbs: Serenity, Soria, Pico de las Nieves, and the wonderfully titled Valley Of The Tears. The latter climb is reputed to be one of the hardest climbs in Europe.
The week before I headed out there was busy with work and training and I manage to niggle an injury to my left quad from last year. I was apprehensive that this would need careful management throughout the week, but with a couple of days rest the inflammation settled. As the week in Gran Canaria progressed, the riding got harder but I'm pleased to say I felt better and stronger too. On the last day we climbed Pico de las Nieves and despite cramp up the first climb of the day, I felt stronger the closer to the summit I got. The last 20 minutes of the climb I recorded my best sustained power at the lowest effort of the whole week.
A few days before that ride, we did the Big One; the Valley of The Tears. A 28km climb from sea level to 1500m with the last 11km section averaging 11% with some brutal sustained ramps of between 15 and 20%. I swore. A lot. It was a hot day – 41C in the sun – and we all drank at least 5 litres of fluid throughout the day. But the views in the isolated valley were worth the effort. Almost entirely uninhabited, the road snakes its way past dams and up valley walls. Hairpin after hairpin of unceasing gradients the silence is only interrupted by the odd cry of a circling eagle. That's when I could hear them over the noisy battle in head between pushing hard up the climb or getting off for a nice snooze under a tree.
It was hard. So hard, in fact, I've forgotten most of it. The human brain is clever like that. But was it worth it? In three weeks time I'll know. La Marmotte will probably take me between 8 and 10 hours at a steady pace. I'm not planning on riding to time, but to just get round the thing and make space in the noisy battle in my head to try and look around and enjoy the views over the iconic mountain passes. Until then, it's back to the hard training and the last push.
Some things caught my eye over the last week:
Mary Meeker has been at it again. The thing that did catch my eye in this report was the bit about customer acquisition. It's costing more to get them, and they are not staying long enough to pay that cost off. Indicative of a crowded market? Fussy customers? Either way it leads to unsustainable growth.
Facebook announced its currency plans. This article was a good overview as to how this affects cryptocurrencies more generally.
How to section your HTML is a fantastic article on the fundamental structures of HTML. I learnt loads.