Mel vs Hills. Mel Wins.

Anyone who knows me will know I like a good hill. I train on hills, I try and race on hilly courses, I’m all about the hills! I also have a fear of going fast and using aero-bars  so hills are helpful here as I don’t need to do either.

I’m not sure exactly where it comes from but I remember that when I first bought a road bike and started cycling properly even the little inclines around Richmond Park struck fear into my heart and most of the time I would be found taking the anti-clockwise loop around there! However with a bit of persistence, hard work and consistent training the impossible became possible and I was soon able to take on the baby ascents of Richmond Park at a respectable speed and HR! After a year of training only in Richmond Park I started to get brave and headed out to the country lanes of Surrey and their selection of hills put in some consistent training. Half the time I think it’s as much about controlling your mind and the little voices as it is about strength!

This is why when I read about the Rapha Rising Challenge on Strava it looked perfect for me! Having got my A race out of the way for the year I liked the idea of a different kind of challenge.

Taking inspiration from the Tour de France the challenge set was to accumulate over 7,235m  of climbing in 8 days. This total is apparently the same amount of climbing as elevations of the Peyresourde, Ventoux, Sarenne and Alpe d’Huez combined.

Given the challenge began on a Sunday and ended the following Sunday it made most sense to break it up into 3 weekend rides and one mid-week ride….

Chiltern 108 miles of hot hilly hell

Chiltern 108m Hilly Hell

For my first ride I hit the Chilterns. It is up and down the whole way round (as you can see from the profile) but scenery is gorgeous and the roads are generally small country lanes, although you do have to watch out for potholes which are sometimes more like craters than holes.

It was one of the hottest days of the year so getting nutrition right was key to having a good ride. Unfortunately, I was so intent on not getting lost I spent the first 50 miles staring at the route on my Garmin and not getting enough food and drink in. Not a nice feeling! I had a spent 20 mins sitting under a tree eating a sandwich and drinking a coke before setting off again. Unfortunately the damage was done and the next 58 miles passed at a snail’s pace, a very sweaty snail! But, I knew that if I wanted to complete the challenge I had to the get the climbing in so I plodded on round. While it was painful at the time I think rides like that are great to have in the bank. When things get tough in a race or training you can look back and remind yourself just how bad it could be!!

Total climbed: 2,439 mtrs

Midweek Top-up

Midweek Top Up

By the time it got to Wednesday I’d just about recovered from Sunday’s fun so I took advantage of the glorious weather and flexible working hours and headed out for my usual Surrey hills loop which gave me another 750 mtrs to add to the pile!

Total climbed so far: 3,189

 

Legs of Steel

Legs of Steel

 

For Saturday’s ride I talked fellow BLL’r Paul D into a circuit of the Legs of Steel route. It definitely helped to have some company to distract from all the climbing. Unfortunately, the Garmin lost a few 100 mtrs climbing so I finished the day slightly down on where I should have been. I also had to admit defeat and take the train home.

Total climbed so far: 5,085

 

16 Ascents of Box Hill 

Box Hill

 

 

The final day I still needed 2,150mtrs of climbing and really couldn’t face another long ride around Surrey to get the final metres. I had discussed the idea of doing hill repeats of Box Hill on the previous days ride with Paul.  At the time it seemed like a crazy idea, but now faced with the prospect of another loop of the Chilterns or Legs of Steel route it looked like quite a good option… I started out early. Funnily enough I found the first 4 or 5 laps the hardest but once I’d got into a rhythm it was actually quite relaxing. It’s also great people watching, I hadn’t realised quite how popular Box Hill was until I’d done this. Every descent down I passed a constant stream of people making their way up on all sorts of bikes at all sorts of speeds. A great people watching and bike spotting opportunity!

Finishing the 16th lap was a great feeling, not least because I could finally stop at the cafe for a well deserved slice of cake! It was a great challenge to do, so satisfying that I’m thinking of making it a regular event (when I say regular I mean once a year regular ) So let me know if you fancy joining me in 2014….!

And if you’re interested the overall winner managed to accumulate over 41,000 mtrs of climbing over 7 rides during the 8 days. Now that’s impressive!

Total climbing at the end: 7,293

 

My top challenging hilly routes:

Chiltern 100 169km and 2,400 mtrs of climbing

The sportive is held once a year and offers 3 different distances. I use these routes as training rides when I fancy something different to the Surrey or Kent hills. The routes are mainly on country lanes and all your efforts on the climbs are rewarded with stunning views across the Chilterns and some fantastic descents. You are also treated to some fantastic place names, I challenge you not smile as you whizz down Pishill! But my favourite place name is Speen, probably because it is a sign you’re on the home straight!

Legs of Steel (long) 81km and 1,600 mtrs of climbing

This is probably a staple hilly route for anyone who cycles in Surrey. Again it is a route used for an annual sportive, but is a well trodden circuit for Surrey cyclists all year round. It takes in all the classic Surrey hills starting with Leith hill and finishing off (finishing you off) with Box hill. It’s a course that keeps your interest by combining long grinding hills with some short-sharp-take-your-breath-away-hills!

 King of the Downs – 185km and 2,700 mtrs of climbing

I first did this route a couple of years ago with two friends. It seemed like our day was doomed before it even started.  It was pouring with rain, a man was sick on our bikes in the train (one of the many hazard of the first train on a Sunday morning), one friend fell off his bike before we’d even started and then realised he’d only bought one booty and no waterproof.  We then proceeded to start the race by cycling in the wrong direction. However once we got over these issues and got on the road it turned out to be one of the most challenging and fulfilling days climbing I’ve had. The route takes you around Surrey, North Downs, Ashdown Forest and Kent and takes you through a “greatest hits” of climbs in these areas.

 

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