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Lilac to Ventoux

Five weeks to go!

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Five weeks to go!

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Five weeks from today, I will be riding up Mt Ventoux. It's 9:45 here as I'm writing this, so it's a fair bet I will already be underway (I'm hoping to leave early to avoid the worst of the heat in the exposed moonscape on the top of the mountain).

I am filled with a mixture of excitement and terror - the excitement for obvious reasons, and the terror because I did my first hill training on Saturday when Arnout and I went to Valkenburg and cycled the last part of the Amstel Gold Race route. We did a total of 42km, with six climbs, including (not necessarily in order) the Gulperberg, Kruisberg, Eyserweg, Fromberg, Eyserbosweg and the infamous Keutenberg (the steepest hill in the Netherlands, with a section at a gradient of 22%).


I made it up three out of the six climbs. I had to step off on the Gulperberg (the first climb) because I didn't realise I still had two gears over, and I was riding up on one that was far too heavy. I might have made it to the top otherwise, but I'm not sure, because my mind wasn't yet in climbing mode. This was something I learned from the first ride: that it's not only that you have to have strong legs, you also have to have a strong mind to climb hills (and mountains). I remember last year saying that Alpe d'Huez was one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I'd ever done, and although I'm a lot more physically fit now, somehow I'd forgotten about the mind part in the meantime. I have a lot of work to do on this. Arni helped a lot though, by pointing out that it's all about pacing yourself, about riding hard enough to keep moving, but not so hard that you blow yourself out before you reach the top. On some hills, that's an extremely fine balance, and it's clear that I didn't quite manage to find it on Saturday - or not on all of them anyway. I was really proud of myself for making it up the hills I did though (especially the one that took me by surprise by being hidden round a corner. That was hilarious - I rounded the corner swearing and crashing down through all my gears, and there was a woman sitting on a rug on the grass by the side of the road, wearing a Nanny Ogg-ish grin and enjoying the spectacle :P ).

The Keutenberg was quite simply terrifying. We approached the base of the hill along a nice flat piece of road, with the hill rising up and to our right. At a particular point, the trees on the hill obligingly parted to reveal what appeared to be a wall with multicoloured ants crawling up it. Many of the cyclists were on foot, and those who were still embikened were apparently cycling in defiance of the laws of physics. I do not know how they were doing it. Once again, I changed down through all my gears, and got started. I don't know how far I got in the end. Maybe one third of the way up? One quarter? I do know that the people on the side of the road were incredibly encouraging though. I came around the corner to the steepest part, and blurted out, "Dat kan ik niet halen" (er ... "I'm not going to make that" or similar), and they all immediately came out with cheers and encouragement. I stood on the pedals and made it another 30m or so, and then I had to get off or fall off, and I heard cries of disappointment behind me. It was so sweet of them to cheer me on like that, I just wish I could have made it!

I staggered to the top of the hill and climbed back onto my bike, ready to go in search of Arni, who *had* made it to the top (he got six out of six on the climbs, an awesome achievement :D ). A few metres along the road there was a photographer taking pictures of all the cyclists (you see this a lot on the climbs - they take your photo then give you a card with a number on it as you go past, and you can look up your photo later on the internet). I told the guy I hadn't earned the photo, but he gave me the card anyway. :P

Camilla Keutenberg

Next time I *will* make it all the way up! I am determined.

The Keutenberg was the last climb of the day. We headed home after that, to a well-earned plate of yummy Chinese food with Arni's parents and sister, who had been looking after Emrys while we gadded about on bikes. I was quite pleased with how I felt after the ride - I was barely tired at all, which really surprised me seeing as I'd been off the bike for three weeks beforehand.

The next day I went for a ride with the Powerbikers (57km), and that *did* wear me out, because I was cycling at the speed determined by the group, and without any rest stops (except for a stop at a traffic light, and a stop for a puncture). When we got back to the club headquarters, my hands and legs were shaking. :P

I am SO THRILLED to be back on the bike again. I have missed it so much. I didn't realise how much until Saturday night, when I was lying in bed, almost asleep, and I realised I was pedalling in the bed. I haven't had that since I was writing up my Honours thesis nearly 20 years ago, and found myself typing in my half-sleep! Obviously my muscles missed it too.

Now with Mt Ventoux firmly in my sights, I'm even more determined to get to the top of the mountain. The other 'mountain' in my sights is my fundraising goal of £2000. Thank you very much to Judy M and Rachel K who donated at my JustGiving page this week, and to Linda H, Arni and Stacie Y who donated there earlier, and also to madfilkentist who donated to the Fisher Centre for Alzheimer's Research in honour of Lilac to Ventoux. I really appreciate your support.

With the Glorious 25th of May so close now, I'd be very grateful for some extra help in spreading the word about what I'm going. Please feel free to re-post, retweet and reFacebook to your hearts' content! And of course, if you can manage it, your donations to help Alzheimer's research would also be much appreciated.

Thanks for listening!



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