Monday, 23 May 2011

King of the Downs: hell on a hill

I looked in the mirror of the lift on the way up to the office this morning and the lines around my eyes made me look like I've aged ten years overnight. This could have had something to do with the lighting in the lift, and probably had a lot to do with it being 7am.

But in my intense training for the Etape du Tour I have noticed that an unfortunate side effect seems to be premature ageing.

Yesterday wouldn't have helped. Hamish and myself embarked on the 113-mile King of the Downs Super Sportive, over the North Downs, the Surrey Hills, Ashdown Forest and the hills through East Surrey and Kent. Rolling wasn't the word. I'm not sure there was actually a flat part.

The gradients in Essex are mere pimples in comparison to these climbs, of which there were so many that only the most punishing were even categorised.

I thought The Wall was bad enough, but then that was trounced by what seemed like a vertical, never ending York Hill, which I thought would get the better of me when I looked up, at the point of exhaustion, to see it disappearing off into the distance. By this time it had beaten many a good rider who had dismounted to push to the top with their heads hanging low. Where that last bit of power came from to push me to the summit I'll never know, but I guess when the fuel guage says empty there's always a bit left in the tank.

The finale Titsey Hill was a monster but thankfully lacked the bite of York. It almost finished me, but at least I knew the worst was over when I crested. And while the 20-odd miles back to the finish still took in a good distance of what would be described a sizeable hill in Essex, the fact that I had beaten ten of the toughest climbs in the Downs gave me as much energy as those GO bars I had been munching all the way round.

Today my legs feel detached from my body and I am still reflecting on York hill with terror. I'm sure I've spouted a few extra grey hairs.

Give it a few days and I'll probably be signing up for the next ride.

PS: I realise that King of the Downs is far from the toughest sportive out there. But it is the toughest I have done so far, by a large measure.

PPS: In the absence of any pictures I've attached the Evans preview video. 

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