If anyone ever tells me Brittany is flat, I shall make them eat my bike. With no knife and fork. Or napkin.
I’ve looked at my training schedule and I reckon I need to be covering 200kms a week for the last few weeks before the event, with as much hillwork as possible. The big problem is that Brittany is, at best, undulating. I’ve lived in my little corner of paradise for nine years now and was convinced I knew every road in my area. Today was going to be around a 35km route, I knew roughly where I was going but rode past a little track that I’d never ridden, so turned left.
Down a gentle slope for a few hundred yards, I can vaguely see an incline ahead through the trees, nothing to worry about, probably wont even need to change gear. Across a small wooden bridge and then a right turn. I see the incline, it goes up. And up. Bother. I ride the first 300 metres without too much trouble, but I feel it getting steeper. I reach the top of what I can see and the road bends round on itself to the left. And is still going up. I can see about 200 metres ahead of me, and its steep. Christ its steep.
Think back to The Pirate in his pomp, tip tapping his way up the legendary climbs of the Tour, or come forwards to today, Alberto Contador out of the saddle, lightly peddling his way to the top of yet another peak ….. well, I looked nothing like that. Imagine a sweaty hippo on a unicycle, in lycra. Thats much more the image I presented.
Jeeeezussss, there’s still more to come. Legs now screaming, thighs burning, I’m out of the saddle, not because I’m seeking to attack, but purely to give myself another place to breathe from. I’m peddling squares, massive cuboids. I look down …. and see salvation. Aaaahhh yes, I’m still on the big ring. Straight back into the saddle, click, onto the little ring. Relief. For about 15 metres. Back out of the saddle, for a short while I’m actually peddling in circles, but then, as low as I can possibly go with the gearage, I’m back on squares.
I can see the summit, its levelling out and I can see that the road is flat to the left, or a further climb to the right. The decision is made the instant I see my options. Left wins out for today.
From henceforth she shall be known as Gilbert, after Gilbert Gutbuster, a gruesome piece of physical training known to some British soldiers. And she, because its in France, and hill is feminine, although I wasn’t using many feminine words to describe her during the ascent.