It’s 3.30 pm on Sunday 24th August 2014, or in other words, ‘T minus seven days’. A little girl has just applauded me from the back seat of a BMW, which has passed me at about 15mph, accompanied by the sound of a very strained engine/gear box. I meanwhile am hunched over the bars of my bike, breathing hard and struggling to do more than 6mph. I’m battling Lynmouth Hill, or in other words, turning myself inside out on yet another Exmoor climb with a gradient of 25%+. This is my final hard training ride before I taper and I’m determined to make sure it’s a good one. As in good and nasty! And I succeed, riding just 100km, but climbing almost 2,500m! That’s the equivalent of half a Cent Cols Challenge stage, which is sobering, because that’s exactly where I’ll be, seven days from now: on Stage One of the Cent Cols Challenge.
My adventure starts on Sunday 31st August in San Pellegrino Terme, on the southern edge of the Dolomites. There’s no charity angle, nor sponsorship required – this is pure, self-inflicted torture, for no good reason other than a love of bikes, coupled with an irrational need to explore the boundaries of my physical and mental reserves.
If my Tour de France ride in 2012 was my ‘Everest’, this one is undoubtedly my ‘K2’: less well known, but much harder. The Cent Cols Challenge involves climbing 100 cols (mountain passes or summits), in ten days. The distance covered (2,000km) is pretty irrelevant, because this ride is all about climbing (c.52,000m). All day, every day, averaging 200km and 5,000m of ascent. Any one of these days would be the ride of a lifetime. It’s a semi-timed event, just to add a little more pressure, although my strategy is simply to complete the entire course and if possible, avoid coming last! There are 30 riders from all over the world (I know their names, but have yet to meet any of them), and this version takes place in the Italian Dolomites, where the roads are steeper, narrower and less well surfaced and where the weather tends to be harsher.
I’ll blog daily (nightly actually) and you can read about my progress right here – there’s a tab for each day and I’ll add as many photos as possible, to bring things to life.