Wednesday, 6 April 2016


Gran C Cycling

I've posted a few photos on Facebook recently, of me smiling stupidly on top of various (small) mountains in Gran Canaria, next to or near the bike that was largely responsible for me making it to the top.

Of course had the snaps had been taken just minutes before, as I slogged my way up to the top, it would have been a very different look. 

So what about the family? Well, the plan is normally to set off before they're up, and make it back in time for a late breakfast. None of the rides have been very long, the longest being two and a half hours (but with between 700 and 1400 metres of climbing).

Even so, all of these rides have had one thing in common: shortly after hitting the first serious gradient, anything over about 5%, I've found myself wondering what the hell it is that I think I'm doing. 
It hurts. And I know it's going to hurt a lot more as I keep going up. 
Within a few yards the temptation to stop pedalling, or make a u-turn and head home, is almost overwhelming. 

Obviously (as you can tell with a glance at the photo) I'm not a professional. I'm not even a decent amateur, I'm just someone who six years ago caught the cycling bug for no apparent reason, despite being physiologically totally unsuited to it. I'm too tall (heavy), with skinny legs (not enough power). Power to weight ratio? About as far from Laura Trott's as it's possible to go.  And as I hadn't played football for more than two decades I was, pre cycling, aerobically a disaster zone, despite the
occasional jog around Clapham Common. We're talking about a classic Middle Aged Man In Lycra. 

So why do I keep pedalling up the mountain, despite logic and good sense dictating I shouldn't? 
Well I asked myself that very question today, and here's what I came up with:

Firstly, if I keep going it will easier next time. And the time after that, it might be easier still. If I stop, it'll be harder next time, probably much harder.

Secondly, there's always a remote chance that I'll be faster this time than the last time I did it, or better still, faster than one of my friends I follow on Strava, the App that records and measures your rides in hideous detail.

Thirdly, there's always the hope that maybe I'll receive an encouraging nod from someone speeding down the mountain as I pant and sweat my way up - perhaps Fabian Cancellara, out for a training ride. He might even invite me for a mid-ride cappuccino while we discuss his chances at this year's Paris-Roubaix; or perhaps he'll want to help me sort out my riding position, or sort me out with a tailor-made training plan to take back to London. 
This is what goes through your mind when it's starved of oxygen, and hope. 

But one of the appeals of cycling is that with the right kit, and the right bike, it's possible for most cyclists to at least look 'pro', something it's less easy to do for a Formula One, or WWF fan.

This year I've suffered like a dog because I've not put the miles in since my mum died in October; and somehow three Kgs of fat have mysteriously attached themselves to my waist without me noticing.

After nine straight days of getting out on the bike, if only briefly, some of that fat has returned from whence it came, and the hills, while not exactly getting easy, have become a little less gruelling.

There are other reasons why I've kept the pedals turning over; 
The post-ride chemically induced euphoria. 
The desire to keep active with retirement being not too far off (with two young boys to watch growing up, and a daughter's achievements to enjoy for as long as possible). 
Then of course there's the belief that if I somehow get faster I'll deserve a better (more expensive), lighter, more aerodynamic bike. After all, the bikes used by the professionals are much more within the reach of the amateur cyclist than a Formula One car would be to a petrol head. 

But lastly, I'll be 60 in September, and that's a bit scary. But I'm not planning to slow down. And I know, because many of them regularly overtake me when I'm spinning round Richmond Park, that there are plenty of fast, fit cyclists out there who are way older than me. 
But to get to be like them, I've gotta keep the pedals turning over when I'm struggling up that hill or mountain, even when surrender seems a better option. 
And also, if I packed it in, Fabian would never forgive me!

For anyone interested, my main rides in Gran Canaria are from Maspalomas up Montaña La Data, or Monte Léon, both of which are the same geographical feature, just different ascents. My other ride is supposed to take me to Fataga and back. But I haven't quite made it yet.  But I will next year!

The bike was a very nice carbon Canondale Synapse Ultegra, rented from the Free Motion hire shop (recommended) at about 22per day.
I liked it so much it's on my list of bikes to buy.

And here are some shots of the roads and views. 
You'll see from the map that the roads around the Monte Leon don't lead anywhere, so they're only used by local traffic, meaning you'll hardly see a car all day:

And here's the missus, half way up...


A couple of Strava segments in case you're visiting Gran Canaria...

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