I have just returned from a week spent riding the Alps in preparation for the Trans Wales in August. I thought ‘perfect… 7 consecutive days of big mountain riding’. Should be spot on. Well, on the first morning when we saw the hundreds of downhillers with there eleventy-million inch travel forks and their full-everything padding I suddenly felt strangely apprehensive; what with my 22lb carbon-forked Kona Hei Hei and light-as-a-gnat’s-handbag helmet. And indeed, as we hurtled flat out down our first run (a ‘blue’ so easy…), narrowly missing two 4ft gap jumps, I was a little concerned I had bitten off more than I could chew. I didn’t read any trail guides before I went, but imagined meadows and cows and rolling rocky trails and lots of climbing.
There were cows complete with bells, and meadows, but the climbing seemed to all be done sat on your arse on a ski lift and the descending battered your body and your bike to the point we considered roasting marshmallows on our rotors. So at the end of day 1, over a beer, a plate of stinky French cheese and the Tour highlights, we scoured the map for some more ‘us’ trails. And the first 100km up and down day was devised, taking us over to the Col de Cou.
As the week proceeded our confidence grew and we tackled a lot of the descents (even a black, with an amusing ‘don’t make me’ interlude on a vertical mud slope half way down) and managed to find some serious Wales-style climbs – all big rocks, gushing streams and grunty granny-ring efforts. Perfect. More 6hr days followed and that feeling of earning the descent came back. (Mind you, our lift passes got some serious use…)
Thankfully the last day it rained so hard that we packed the bikes up into our slightly-too-small-to-take-a-bike boxes and headed for the pub to watch Wiggo rule the Tour and laugh at the new arrivals (too keen to say no) returning from the mountains with the cold look of sheer terror written on their mud spattered faces. Ha!
Having had a few days off to recover from the trip I’m back on the bike, picking up the mileage each day and creeping towards 16-18hour weeks in preparation for Trans Mudfest. I feel fit but disappointingly EVERYTHING still hurts, probably thanks to the 6 crashes I had out in the Alps. I currently can’t raise my left arm above chest height, have a broken-bone feeling in my already damaged ankle; I have skin on my calves like a scoured leather writing desk and a strange feeling that my pelvis isn’t quite where it should be.
I love our sport.