One from the vaults: Down and almost out

Here’s a real oldie from March 2011 detailing my training on the roads near where I live and my main training hill, Col de Vence. I’ve since managed to reduce the time it takes me to ascend this challenge but I’m never going to get anywhere near the time of an average pro (20-22 mins).

If anything the ascent of Col de Vence was worse than I feared. We assembled at 09:00 in nearby Gattiéres. Club WTS generally comprises those of my cycling coach’s clients who are retired, or have their own businesses. I was the only female present. Among the group was one of the guys who had generously sampled my baked goodies on Sunday at the Gentlemen (a time-trial race). Despite my helmet and glasses, he had no problem recognising me and loudly proclaimed to the rest that I made the most delicious cakes and pissaladière. Buy that man a drink!

My coach ascertained beforehand everyone’s average ascent time. This varied from 32 to 50 minutes, excluding moi. When we reached the base of the Col, he urged those of us who needed more time to set off ahead of the rest. I needed no such encouragement? I was already heading upwards.

In any event, everyone had overhauled me well before hotel Chateau St Martin (within 3 km!). As my coach cycled past, he promised to wait at the top for me. I suggested that he should continue with the group, as I intended descending straight away in view of my Audax ride on Saturday.

The first part of the Col is the steepest and my middle finger, right hand kept searching for a nonexistent lower gear (I was riding my BMC with Campgnolo 53 x 39 gearing). I was asking myself why, oh why, had I not turned up on the BMC with the compact gearing? I slowed down to admire the progress of a rather magnificent modern house under construction and took a (much needed) short rest at the hotel to blow my running nose and have a good drink.  Galvanised, I continued to churn away.

I always divide ascents into manageable blocks, that way the task never seems so bad. Col de Vence is split into 2km chunks. 4km from the top, some of the group were already descending, including the marathon runner who’s only an occasional cyclist! Undeterred, I continued ticking down the kilometers.

The views down to the coast were fantastic and it’s too early in the year for any insects (thank goodness). There’s generally a flock of either sheep or goats towards the top of the Col, but not today. As the riding school hove into view, I gave a huge sigh of relief;  just 500 meters more. I got out of the seat and sprinted. To no avail, I had taken a whopping 60 minutes to get to the top: truly humiliating. I’m going to have to come clean when my coach calls me later today. I might be aerobically compromised, thanks to the lingering effects of my cold, but that was a shocking time. Fortunately, I’ll be back up there on Sunday’s club ride aiming to improve.  The descent, the most enjoyable bit, was achieved in a fraction of the time of the ascent.