Only Girl In The Club

My cycling life

I’m riding the Chiltern 100 sportive at the end May, Human Race the organiser has invited me to join Team Sky pro rider Luke Rowe for a training session. After the ride I’ll have the opportunity to ask him a few questions. If you have a question you’d like me to ask for you please post them here and I’ll include as many as I can. Write them below in the comments so I can collect them tonight. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Nicole

I did my first century of the year today. A fairly epic ride, over to the Chilterns and we took on Whiteleaf a top 100 climb. Being the first really big ride of the year it was also my first day consuming a load of gels and bars.  I find the bars really hard to chew, gels are a bit better but on a long ride they’re a bit limiting as I can’t stomach too many. I’d love to know what you’re all eating on the bike, is there anything easy to eat that also tastes good and gives you the required energy? With my L’Etape Du Tour coming up soon I’d love to find better ride food. You can comment below and let me know.

  

I made a big cycling purchase a few months ago, after my bike it was the most money I’ve spent on a single item related to cycling. I thought I was in the market for a new turbo trainer, something that would give me feedback, show me how I was progressing and get me motivated to stay on there longer, that was my goal. I already owned a turbo, it was a very basic one and to be honest it was just gathering dust, I love spinning classes but I found turbo training really boring.

I’m really time poor, work is busier than ever and Savannah has become a little person with a voice and with her own view on how we should spend our weekends together. I’ve entered some really big events this year so I’ve had to up my training, last year I was riding before work at 06:00 (after the clocks changed) but they were fairly gentle rides 10-20 miles with one bigger ride at the weekend. I knew that wouldn’t be enough this year but I couldn’t commit the time to real road miles in the week with work and a 2year old.

I went all out and purchased a Wahoo Kickr. I did all the homework, I read review after review and compared it to all the others on the market but I decided nothing else really compared to the Kickr. It was a huge outlay of money but it really has been money well spent. I’ve already clocked up some great mileage on there and simulated some big climbs but what attracted me to the Kickr was it’s open source, it allows software developers to create programs and training aids for it and I’ve used quite a few of them already.

It was easy to set up and it connects to my iphone, ipad and laptop. The Kickr does come with a 10 speed cassette so my Dad and his mechanical skills were required to change the cassette to a 9 speed but he did this with no problem. If you haven’t got the skills your local bike shop could always help with this too, there’s really clear instructions on You Tube.

I started off using the Sufferfest videos, I’d used them before on my old manual trainer. I have to be honest and say I got about 10 minutes in to it and I couldn’t turn the pedals, I gave up. The Kickr controls the resistance, it sets the gradient / resistance you should be riding and I really struggled. When I used these videos in the past I clearly didn’t have the resistance up high enough.

I logged on to Trainer Road, an app that connects you to a variety of training programs and through this I found the 3LC videos. I’m not usually drawn to ladies specific cycling products but on this day I downloaded their Ladies Road Race, I had no idea what to expect. The 3LC workout is a studio based fitness session, in this particular session there’s a group of ladies on turbo trainers and 2 coaches taking them through the stages of the ride offering guidance and motivation. It’s designed to make you, the person at home feel like part of the class and it works. I was immediately immersed in to the session and I enjoyed having the coaches there, giving me the instructions. You ride and train with cadence so ideally you need to have the ability to measure this as you’re riding. I really enjoy group exercise so this 3LC session was a great way to ride for an hour at home and never feel bored. The session had everything, we warmed up and we did some intervals, threshold, hills, sprints and cool down. I’ve never had any coaching or professional instruction on how to ride a bike, I just jumped on and worked it out so having this professional support and guidance through the session was quite a revelation. I’ve worked with PT’s in the gym and seen huge benefits from this, having professional cycling coaches guiding you through the stages on the ride was a similar experience, I gained so much from that hour on the bike.

I repeated this video over a period of 3 weeks, it was a really busy work time and I didn’t get to ride on the road at all. The next time I did get out on the road I was a little bit taken back by my own progress. I came to the first hill and kept my cadence up, like the coaches in the video trained me to and I got a PB on the hill (in January on my heavy, winter bike). It wasn’t just the fact that I got a PB but it was the way I rode that hill, I felt strong, I went in to it with different confidence and more power because I knew I’d been riding hills with a high cadence and at high speed in the video session so I knew I could do this on the open road, I just had to commit to it in the same way I’d been riding in the 3LC session. My ride that day, out on the open road felt like one of the best so far this year. That was completely unexpected with no road miles over a 3 week period.

I live a really busy life, I’m a single Mum and I commute to London every day for a job that isn’t 9-5. I’m often traveling abroad and I’m usually in the office late at night. I obviously understand the benefits of a structured training plan but I’ve always dismissed them in the past. My life isn’t structured and I didn’t think a plan would suit me but after seeing such quick development, such rapid improvement I’m keen to try and make this work. The 3LC endurance plan is 10 weeks, there’s 11 weeks until L’Etape Du Tour. I have some big events between now and then so I can’t stick to it completely but I could try and structure my weekday training within the 10-week plan. Could this be the difference, could this get me over the Alps this summer.

Savannah was caught putting my shoes on and climbing on to the turbo trainer

Savannah was caught putting my shoes on and climbing on to the turbo trainer

Savannah always like to help, changing the cassette from 10 speed to 9

Savannah always likes to help, changing the cassette from 10 speed to 9

Savannah loves to spend the weekend running around Rushmere Country Park (and so do I)

Savannah loves to spend the weekend running around Rushmere Country Park (and so do I)

Savannah always asks when will she be big enough for pedals. She got to try some out at the London Bike Show but she still pedals backwards, her cognitive skills haven't quite developed yet

Savannah always asks when will she be big enough for pedals. She got to try some out at the London Bike Show but she still pedals backwards, her cognitive skills haven’t quite developed yet

Trying out chopsticks for the first time on one of our weekend adventures

Trying out chopsticks for the first time on one of our weekend adventures

My alarm goes off at 05:30 for my morning, before work, spin. I put my turbo next to my bed so I had no excuses.

My alarm goes off at 05:30 for my morning, before work, spin. I put my turbo next to my bed so I had no excuses.

Savannah loves riding her balance bike, she's very confident on it

I love seeing Savannah riding her bike. she’s got no fear

Apart from an occasional guest I’ve been the only girl in my cycling club for 2 years. Hoping to change this I decided to start a monthly, ladies social ride, an opportunity for ladies to ride together and be part of Ampthill Velo Club. In my advertising I let the ladies know basic mechanical support would be available on the ride, if required and no one would be left behind. This ride is inclusive; all ages and abilities are welcome. I planned a route, staying local, 20 miles in distance with a stop off halfway at a local cyclist café, the Bike Bus in Cranfield. It’s a converted double decker bus, on a farm. They serve excellent coffee, delicious homemade cakes, cyclists flock there every weekend and the banter is always lively.

I advertised the ride on Facebook and via word of mouth. As the days passed, in the lead up to the date 7 ladies signed up to ride. I was a little overwhelmed by the response as the first ride coincided with the Easter Bank holiday weekend. On the actual day, the weather was a bit bleak, cold and windy and we even felt some rain so I was really happy to see 5 of the registered ladies show up but also another 2 join the ride.

I work as an Event Producer so I applied some of my job skills to the planning of this ‘event’. Before the ride started I did a short briefing, I was aware one of the ladies had experience of club riding but all of the others were new. Learning the skills of club riding would give everyone a better ride and help keep all participants safe. I explained the basics of group riding going through the signals, calling for cars, pointing at pot holes and other obstructions in the road, signaling when moving out and passing a parked vehicle or walker/runner in the road, how we slow for horses and signal we’re passing by calling out ‘good morning’ as this can prevent the horse from becoming frightened. I talked through formation riding and explained the route that included 2 significant hills. We have some decent hills in Bedfordshire, unfortunately nothing very long but they get your lungs and legs pumping. We took on Cranfield before our stop and Ridgmont on our route home. We also had the descent of Cranfield after our stop and it was interesting to learn, as many ladies didn’t enjoy descending as ascending.

The range of abilities through the group varied but we all managed to stay together and there was some great formation riding through the session. The ladies worked well together and most importantly everyone had a great time. The feedback and response has been really positive and we’re all set to ride again next month, ongoing we’ll meet the first Saturday of every month. I’m no longer the only girl in the club and I’m really proud of what we’ve started.

Riding up Ridgmont in sweet formation

Riding up Ridgmont in sweet formation


No one gets left behind, we always stop and regroup

No one gets left behind, we always stop and regroup


Destroying the hills

Destroying the hills


We ride all the hills, together we made all of them to the top

We ride all the hills, together we made all of them to the top


Another 2 ladies joined our ride at the Bike Bus so 8 became 10 for the ride home

Another 2 ladies joined our ride at the Bike Bus so 8 became 10 for the ride home


The only boy in the club, along for the ride and the cake my ride buddy Darren joined us to help out on the day

The only boy in the club, along for the ride and the cake my ride buddy Darren joined us to help out on the day


My smile says it all, so happy to be out with these ladies and enjoying the ride

My smile says it all, so happy to be out with these ladies and enjoying the ride


Post ride lunch and happiness

Post ride lunch and happiness

When I finished the Prudential Ride London event last August I wasn’t sure I could do it again. The event clashed with the tail end of hurricane Bertha, heavy rain and strong winds were forecast but it wasn’t the weather that put me off.

I’ve taken part in the event in 2013 and 2014 and I thought I should give everyone a rest for 2015. The event means quite a lot to me, I got back on my bike to train for the inaugural event in 2013 when Savannah was just a few weeks old. I’d gone from fearing the broom wagon to confidence that got me across the finish line in 5hrs 27mins. I hadn’t ridden a century before this day, my longest distance ever on my bike before this was 74 miles. Last year I chose to ride again for Bliss, the official event charity for 2014. Bliss cares for babies born too soon, too sick and too small. My Mum lost a baby, my sister was still born so I wanted to support this amazing charity and help them continue their great work. After my daughter Savannah was born and I was ready to get back on my bike my Mum drove me around the local roads, helped me plot out routes and showed me where the good hills were. I grew up in the area but I’d lived away for 20 years so I needed a refresher. My Mum actively encouraged me to start riding again and has been my biggest supporter and helper to keep riding and even more so now I’m a single parent.

The summer of 2014 had been busy at work but somehow I’d managed to squeeze in my training time and I was enjoying increased fitness with my new bike. I get up before work and ride in the early morning, it’s a really special time to be out and I think seeing the sunrise is a great way to start the day. I was away for an extended period in Glasgow working at the Commonwealth Games so I hired a bike and managed to get some miles in there too but when I crossed the finish line in 2014 I was empty.

In April as my training was building up and my fundraising for Bliss started to grow my friend and Savannah’s godmother also lost her baby, she was 38 weeks pregnant, in touching distance of holding her baby for the first time. Fiona was at her final midwife check and they couldn’t find a heartbeat, Fiona and Oli’s baby had died. After receiving the terrible news Fiona had to spend the next few days carrying her baby inside her, knowing he wasn’t alive, she was advised it was safer to give birth naturally.

I was in Malta, working when I heard the news, I was boarding a plane to come home and I cried all the way home. I cried for Fiona and Oli and I cried for Sienna their daughter. I remember being that little girl, losing a sibling and not understanding or knowing what was happening around me.

Some weeks after Fiona and Oli announced their tragic news they announced their plans for Sebastian’s Hero’s. They’d selected 99 people, chosen people that had reached out to offer comfort and support in their time of need. Those 99 people were asked to each raise £99 for a charity and also do a good deed. I’d been selected as one of Sebastian’s Hero’s so I chose to add Sebastian’s name to my Ride 100 jersey and ride in his honor.

As I rode through the torrential rain last August all I could think about was Fiona and her amazing strength and bravery. The weather that day was horrendous, it was so bad the organisers took the hills out of the course and shortened the distance to 86 miles from 100 miles. I’ve ridden in bad weather, my ride in Yorkshire just a couple months previous was quite a similar day but I’d never ridden in bad weather at the speed I rode that day, my average at the end of the event was just over 20mph. What kept me going (when it felt like someone was throwing a bucket of water in my face for 4hrs) was Fiona. She has experienced something so devastating it’s beyond my own words to even try and describe. As the rain came down there were  sections where I added to it with my own tears. Everyone had such high hopes for me; they had expectations that I would ride a good time but all I could think about was Fiona and the pain she’s been through. They’ve had all the checks done, a postmortem and nothing could be found it was simply one of life’s mysteries.

So a few weeks ago one of those Congratulations you’re in magazines dropped through my letterbox. The event is brilliant, it’s so well organised, raises millions for charities and offers cyclists a magical experience of riding on closed roads with thousands of spectators cheering you along. I filled out that ballot form again and I’ve been lucky enough to be selected. Fiona and Oli have built a wonderful legacy for their little boy and it was an honor to be part of that. Sebastian never managed to breath life on this earth but he has left a very long, lasting impression thanks to his amazing parents and their incredible courage. In 2015 I will carry his spirit with me once again as I set off on this cycling adventure.

This video was created to commemorate the activities of Sebastian’s Hero’s

Fiona was brave enough to share her story with a national newspaper to help raise awareness of still births. Every bit of money raised for Sebastian’s Heroes has gone to supporting families having to endure similar tragedies and to the research into stillbirth and the prevention of it happening to others families.  You can read her story here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2776740/I-nine-months-pregnant-baby-lost-heartbeat-Brave-mother-opens-late-stage-stillbirth-dealt-traumatic-aftermath.html

Fiona, Sienna and Savannah chilling by the river

Fiona, Sienna and Savannah chilling by the river

Checking out the start line for the 2014 Ride 100

Checking out the start line for the 2014 Ride 100

With a 04:00 alarm call I didn't get much sleep, can you tell? Prudential Ride 100 2014

With a 04:00 alarm call I didn’t get much sleep, can you tell? Prudential Ride 100 2014

At the start - Prudential Ride 100 2014 - meeting up with another Bliss rider

At the start – Prudential Ride 100 2014 – meeting up with another Bliss rider

At the start - Prudential Ride 100 2014 - before the rain came

At the start – Prudential Ride 100 2014 – before the rain came

Prudential Ride 100 2014 in the crazy weather

Prudential Ride 100 2014 in the crazy weather

Going for it - Prudential Ride 100 2014

Going for it – Prudential Ride 100 2014

I'd hit 1 pot hole too many, with just 9 miles to go I got a front puncture and this photographer captured the moment

I’d hit 1 pot hole too many, with just 9 miles to go I got a front puncture and this photographer captured the moment

Pulling off to the side with a sad face, my sub 4hrs mission is over

Pulling off to the side with a sad face, my sub 4hrs mission is over

We really did ride through rivers - Prudential Ride 100 2014

We really did ride through rivers – Prudential Ride 100 2014

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

My iPhone didn't recover but I did

My iPhone didn’t recover but I did

Celebrating Mummy's success Prudential Ride 100 2014

Celebrating Mummy’s success Prudential Ride 100 2014

My Mum and sisters very proud of me

My Mum and sisters very proud of me

The finisher certificate - Prudential Ride 100 2014

The finisher certificate – Prudential Ride 100 2014

Last summer I took part in the Rapha #womens100 event. The 100km route was from Richmond Park to Boxhill but it seems one of life’s journeys had other plans that day and this was just the beginning of something very exciting. 

Unbeknown to me, my cycling adventures have been inspiring a few people and Rapha got in touch with me a few weeks ago and invited me to apply to become one of their ambassadors for women’s cycling in the UK. I’m so happy and proud to share my news, I’ve been selected. 

Join the ride this year on the 26th July and see where the journey takes you http://pages.rapha.cc/womens100





It’s Shrove Tuesday next week so I’m sharing my protein pancake recipe. Pancakes spark fond memories for me. We did a lot of traveling in our childhood, we spent many hours on the UK roads, traveling to different race tracks with my Dad. We often stopped at the Little Chef and I see the Jubilee Pancake is still on the menu, I’m a 1970’s kid so that makes me very happy.

Pancake Day for the last few years has had quite a big meaning for me as I’ve actively taken part in lent which follows Shrove Tuesday. It’s been the time where I’ve stopped feeling comfortable through winter, stopped eating big meals and pudding. I’ve decided to get back on it, get my summer focus on track and think about my cycling goals for the year ahead. The one thing that really works for me is giving up all things sweet for lent. I have a real sweet tooth, I love cake, chocolate, cookies especially homemade ones from a really nice coffee shop so it’s really tough on the club run. Pancake Day is the last outing before I go in to battle for 40 days and 40 nights.

This year I’ll be having these protein pancakes. I try and add as much protein in to my diet as possible and these can make a really nice change from the morning shake or porridge (although I do love porridge).

For 1 serving, this makes about 4 pancakes you need:

  • 1 scoop of vanilla whey protein (you can use other flavours, chocolate is also OK but I think vanilla works best)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 TBSP of Quark/creamy cheese (I use low fat mascarpone)
  • 1/2 cup of oats
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 1 TBSP of coconut flour

Blend all of the ingredients together, until it’s smooth. I do this in a nutribullet.  On a hot non stick pan fry the batter up as pancakes, pouring out the mixture to the size you prefer. Flip them after a couple of minutes to cook and brown off the 2nd side. I served mine with 0% greek yogurt but you can top them with fruit, honey, maple syrup, bacon, nut butter, ice cream or whatever you like best on your pancakes. If you prefer your pancake batter thinner just add more milk.

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It’s really easy, just put all the ingredients in the blender together. It’s a 1 pot recipe

I use the nutribullet to blend the ingredients but you can use any blender

I use the nutribullet to blend the ingredients but you can use any blender

I always put a little oil on the pan then wipe it away with kitchen towel before adding the batter

I always put a little oil on the pan then wipe it away with kitchen towel before adding the batter

Let the batter cook for approximatley 2 minutes on one side then give it a good flip

Let the batter cook for approximatley 2 minutes on one side then give it a good flip

If it's not stuck to your ceiling it should look like this. Let is cook for another 1-2 minutes then pour out the next one.

If it’s not stuck to your ceiling it should look like this. Let it cook for another 1-2 minutes then pour out the next one

Da da served with 0% fat greek yogurt yummy

Da da served with 0% fat greek yogurt yummy

Jubilee-Pancakes

The famous Jubilee Pancake

I’ve been riding with the club, midweek at night over the last months. It was an initiative of one of the club members, to keep our miles up in the winter. If we all got together and rode in a group it would be safer and we’d be more motivated to keep it up. One of the things that surprised me, that I found most difficult about riding in the dark is returning my bidon to the cage when riding at speed.

I was adding an extra light to the front of my bike tonight because only 2 of us were going out. However with my Garmin on one side of my handlebar and my other light on the other side I didn’t have any space for another light. Just as I was about to put the light away, I had an idea. I tried it for size around the stem and it fitted perfectly with the light pointing down. This gave a nice glow of light towards my bidon. Voila an illuminated bidon and safer night riding for me.

Illuminated bidon

Illuminated bidon

There’s something I’ve wanted to do on my bike for a few years now. The time hasn’t been right in previous years, I was pregnant, on maternity leave or just not in the right place. I’ve been thinking about this challenge a lot recently and after my Grandad passed away this June it felt like this would be my year to enter L’Étape du Tour. My Grandad, Jules Tur was born in Casablanca, Morocco and raced with great success on his bike in the 1940’s. As a Frenchman, Le Tour de France was something he spoke of with such enthusiasm and high regard.

So I’ve got my registration confirmed and I’ve booked my accommodation in La Toussuire. My Mum, Dad, Savannah and I will set off on a road trip next July 2015. I will follow in the iconic wheel tracks of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome with a summit finish in memory of my Grandad.

It’s going to be a long, hard winter of tough training but that’s the bit I love the most. My cycling club has started a weekly night ride, we ride with lights and high viz. I hope to get out on that as much as possible and we still ride every Sunday whatever the weather. If I can keep up a few miles a week then all my hard work this year will set me up well for this challenge but I’ve never climbed a real mountain. I climbed to 902m recently on a club holiday in Portugal, Mt Foia but this is going to the next level and beyond. 142km and 3 mountains.

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A copy of my Grandad’s cycling club membership card from 1940 – 1941

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My Grandad lined up with his cycling team mates in Casablanca

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Cycling through the streets of Casablanca in 1941. I might be the only girl happy to inherit her Grandad’s legs.

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AVC nightriders winter training

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Sunday club ride to the Hub in Redbourne, Herts with AVC

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Getting ready to climb Mt Foia in the Algarve

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The 14% steep cobbles back to our villa in the Algarve

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Cooking up porridge for the boys (and me) each morning in the Algarve

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It was very cold on the way down from Mt Foia

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Climbing all day long in the Algarve

November 18, 2014

I was out riding with my club a few days ago, it was a beautiful Sunday morning. The sun was up in the sky, the temperature was about 16’. We were rolling through some beautiful country lanes at an average speed of 18mph. It was classic Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire countryside and just perfect for cycling. I felt an amazing feeling that day, it’s really good to ride with a club. I was riding roads close to home that I hadn’t ridden before and they took me to a lovely stop off for tea and cake Church Farm Ardeley

 

My club, Ampthill Velo Club meets up every Sunday at 08:00 in our town square, when the clocks change this moves back to 08:30 to allow for the darker mornings. AVC is unaffiliated, it’s a Sunday social ride. The group is all male except me and we ride 60 miles at an average speed of 17/18mph sometimes a bit faster depending on who’s on the front. Our group has some really strong riders and I credit my ability, my strength, power and endurance to riding with this group.

 

Sadly I haven’t been able to make as many Sunday rides this year as last. My work took me abroad a lot in the early winter months so I lost fitness and I wasn’t fast enough to ride with them through spring. However I have been able to keep involved with the club via a club challenge, the AVC Grand Tour (GT). The GT uses a well known app that’s free to download but also has a premium service Strava. If you haven’t discovered it yet I would encourage you to give it a try. If you have a competitive streak (like me) be warned you may find it addictive.
 
One of the club members conceived the GT, Martin and it’s all credit to him that we go out whatever the weather and ride as hard as we can to compete against each other for points. Being the only girl I compete against the boys, there’s no ladies competition, there wouldn’t be much point. The AVC GT is a competition of stages and bonuses. Each stage is a segment on Strava, a segment is a section of road that’s been mapped out by Martin that we must learn and ride. As we pass through the segment GPS tracks us, records our time, and puts us in to a leader board based on who’s ridden the segment the fastest. When we upload our ride (either using a Garmin or via the phone app) it lets Martin know we’ve riden the segment and the time we rode it in. On paper it’s a simple yet genius idea, it’s using modern technology in an brilliant way. It allows a very small, social club like AVC to have a timed, competition, riders can go out and ride the stages at their own convenience. Not knowing who is going to go out and ride next just adds to the dynamic of it all. Segments are live for approximately 2 – 3 weeks, sometimes more, sometimes less and they range from short sprints to long, lung busters of up to 9 miles with a bit of everything thrown in hills, fast flats etc. AVC has it’s own club on Strava so Martin can sort the leader by AVC so if another cyclist passes through the segment they can be excluded from the competition. However as with all Strava segments there’s always the hope that you’ll grab the King of the Mountain (KOM) or Queen of the Mountain (QOM) which is the No1 position overall on the leaderboard for that segment.

 

Martin has spent hours going out riding and creating segments, discovering, reccing, and building the competition for us all to have something to focus on when we ride solo. The GT takes us to local places we might not normally venture out to and some of the segments are quite complicated, riders have been known to go out and recce routes in their car or on their bike beforehand to learn the route. It’s become fairly serious.

 

As well as the weekly stages Martin releases opportunities to win bonus points. It was my quest for some bonus points that was a real moment in my cycling year. It was late on Saturday night and I realised that no one had done the Stelvio challenge. The Stelvio was part of the Monster hill climbing bonus challenge. The idea for this challenge was born out of Everesting. This challenge aimed to honour the highest mountain passes in the 3 Grand Tours. The first Grand Tour of the season was the Giro d’Italia so we had to equal the height gain of the Passo dello Stelvio 1808m/5931ft. We had to confirm in advance, with Martin what hill we planned to tackle, where we’d do our reps and agree the number of reps then it was up to us to go for it. I sent Martin an email hoping he’d get it in time. I was completely set in my mind I was going to do a stealth manoeuvre the next morning and go for the Stelvio. I picked Hexton, it was a hill I’d climbed many times before. It was steep enough maxing out at 8% and almost a mile long. The elevation gain required 25 reps from me but I had to keep a check on my Garmin elevation too as I didn’t want to do all that work and get disqualified for falling short of elevation gain. Luckily Martin replied, we agreed 25 reps of Hexton, he wished me luck and I tried to get some sleep with a head filled of nerves about what I’d taken on.
 
I set off the next day on my bike from home, it’s a few miles ride there and I figured I could do with the warm up. The weather was almost perfect, it was warm and the sun looked like it would make an appearance with a light wind. I let my family know my plans for the day and they said they would come later and cheer me on. After I’d completed 8 reps I got in to a good rhythm and knew I could do this, it was merely a matter of keeping my head straight as my legs were feeling strong but my brain was becoming completely twisted with each rep. I lost count on several occasions and had to start a tally chart with pen and paper. The repetition was surprisingly confusing, I started to think about what it would be like to attempt an everest, the number of reps would be over 100. Hexton is a busy hill with cyclists on mosts days, we don’t have many big hills in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire so anyone that likes hills will ride here as it’s one of our longer ones. It was a real boost meeting and talking to other cyclists and letting them know what I was doing. They all thought I was completely mad but they all gave me so much support and encouragement. They would ride a rep with me and really cheer me on then say their farewells at the top as I would turn around for another descent. I preferred the climbs as the challenge went on, the descents became quite unsettling, my brain was so fragile from the repetitions and hammering down the hill.

 

My family arrived as I was about half way through. My daughter was all big smiles and was only speaking a few words at this time but she was able to say “come on Mummy” and it spurred me on so much. I started taking a couple of minutes break between reps at this point, fuelling up regularly and taking on board a lot of fluids. The temperature was well in to the mid 20’s by now and my mind was completely scrambled but I was totally focused on completing the task. My family stayed for around an hour and after they left I felt quite low but I had 6 or 7 reps to go so I had to keep my motivation up and keep going. The passing cyclists were few and far between now as the day was almost over but every so often one would come along and I’d share my story and it would lift my spirits so high and get me to the top of that hill and keep me going for at least another rep.

 

What spurred me on to keep going that day was knowing that I would surprise the other club riders, the only person that knew I was doing the challenge was Martin. I’d tried to send him a couple of updates but Hexton is quite remote so the lack of signal stopped the texts and emails getting through. The rest of the club had no idea what I was doing. As I rode that last rep the excitement lifted my body up that hill like it was the first rep, I’d done it. I’d pushed myself up and down that hill 25 times. Every time I ride up Hexton now it surprises me that I rode up and down there 25 times but on that day I was in the zone, I was completely focused and I was fixed on completing that challenge.

 

The GT has pushed my cycling efforts on a number of occasions this summer. For 5 bonus points I pinned on a number and took part in my first TT. For 6 bonus points I rode across 5 counties Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Buckinghamshire totalling an epic 106 miles and on the last day of the GT I completed the yummy 4 cake challenge on a wet and wild day. Riding 66.9 miles and stopping at 4 nominated cafes for a slice of cake in each for another 5 points.

 

The route profile from Strava

The route profile from Strava

Setting off on the ascent of Hexton

Setting off on the ascent of Hexton

One of many descents

One of many descents

Counting reps

Counting reps

My rep tally chart

My rep tally chart

Off for another rep

Off for another rep

Almost there

Almost there

Monster Hill Climb rules

Monster Hill Climb rules

The introduction to the GT road book, written by Martin

The introduction to the GT road book, written by Martin

The GT stages, conceptualised by Martin and designed to get us out riding whatever the weather

The GT stages, conceptualised by Martin and designed to get us out riding whatever the weather

Some of the segments, all using Strava that is free for riders to use and gives our small club the opportunity to run this competition

Some of the segments, all using Strava. It’s free for riders to use and gives our small club the opportunity to run this competition

Essex! The GT 5 counties challenge

Essex! The GT 5 counties challenge

 

Lunch stop on the GT 5 Counties challenge

Lunch stop on the GT 5 Counties challenge

Buckinghamshire....the end of our GT 5 Counties challenge

Buckinghamshire….the end of our GT 5 Counties challenge

 

Cake 1 at Emily's in Whitwell on the GT 4 cake challenge

Cake 1 at Emily’s in Whitwell on the GT 4 cake challenge

 

Cake stop 2 - The Hub in Redborne

Cake stop 2 – The Hub in Redborne

 

 

Cake stop 3 - Dunstable Downs visitors centre

Cake stop 3 – Dunstable Downs visitors centre

 

The 4th and final cake and a pint to toast the end of the GT

The 4th and final cake and a pint to toast the end of the GT

Link to my My Strava ride