Training for Celtman 2021 – November (Andrew)

This month I have climbed:

  • Col de Soudet
  • Cote De Revel
  • Port De Bois
  • Grand Colombier

And I’ve not left my house.

November is normally a wet month with few opportunities to ride outside so it was good to have a challenge to keep myself interested in spending 60 – 90 minutes sitting on a bike and not moving.

What was even better is that by not moving I don’t have to experience how tough it is to climb an actual Grand Tour mountain or “Col”, particularly when I don’t have 35 degrees of a baking sun one my back or – the biggest problem of all when climbing: no training!

Back in 2013 we climbed the Tourmalet. One of the Tour’s most famous climbs. I say climb but the best we managed about a kilometre before getting picked up in the sweeper’s van during that year’s Etape Du Tour race – a one day recreation of a Tour de France stage. We’d already climbed one mountain, albeit very slowly, and this was to be the second. But it was a failure. However I don’t look at it as failure. Failure suggests there was a chance of success. We were never going to be successful because we had no idea what we were trying to do. You might as well as your pet cat to round up sheep or ask Gerard Butler to use any accent other than his own. While technically possible, neither are ever going to work without considerable work and a whole lot more thought and planning. 

We didn’t plan and we certainly didn’t think – my sole thought was “Dougie, did this so we can do it too”.

Don’t worry if you don’t know Dougie, I didn’t really either. He was a guy I worked with on a university project when I was studied for an MBA in 2009 and 2010. He spotted me cycling into the university one day and told me that he was also a cyclist. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was the equivalent of me driving into the university in Ford Fiesta and bumping into Lewis Hamilton who said “Do you like driving? I like to drive too”.

Dougie, I found out later, used to take one way train trips to England just to jump out in the Lake District so he could cycle round the Lakes – and then cycle home. Wow.

He would cycle 50 miles or more on a mid-week night and I would think I was on the same level because I cycled 15 minutes to get home from work. 

During one class he told me that he’d taken part in a race which allowed you to ride the route as the professionals in the Tour de France. I thought it sounded brilliant and immediately checked out how to apply. What I didn’t do was check out the route or work out how high an actual Alp was. I thought it was a hill, not a mountain, and no higher than some of the hills around Glasgow. And even when I checked the elevation and saw that we would be climbing higher than Ben Nevis, I still had no idea how high that would be because I’d never climbed Ben Nevis. 

Ignorance is bliss – until you find yourself climbing an Alp for 10 minutes and expecting it to take half an hour, only to find you’ve still got two hours of climbing and you’re half a day behind everyone else. Ignorance, then, is stupidity. And the end couldn’t come fast enough on the slopes of the Tourmalet.

So, this month in preparation for the undulating roads around Applecross, I’ve been training for height by taking on various virtual climbs. I’m not keen on spending 2 – 3 hours on an indoor bike to try and get the distance needed to train for Celtman, instead, I’m swapping distance for metres climbed. Longer rides can wait for Spring.

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