Massive day of hill climbing in Portugal

I was wondering how my legs would feel after yesterday’s ride (4hours). My coach Gary said today was going to be real cycling and we would take on big mountains.

I woke up and could feel my calves a little tight. I used his massage machine on my calves and soles of my feet and they  felt much better.  I took my Mannatech sports products, multivit., Udo’s oil and Salt solution. I have to admit the mannatech products make my legs feel strong and I am more alert. In the past if I hill climb a lot and push hard I get hamstring cramping. My quads fatigue and I slow down because they are painful to push on the ride.

We started the ride and took it easy until 50mins in when we started the assents. These were hour long assents where I had to get out of my seat and max my heart rate. Gary pushed me to see when I almost started to hyperventilate and then asked me what my heart rate was. It sat around 172-173. Even though I was gasping for air my legs felt strong. I did not cramp and I recovered very quickly.

There was a time in the ride where I was at breaking point. Gary taught me to get out of the saddle, pedal slowly and quiet my breathing down. I was climbing a steep hill but at the same time reduced my heart rate by 10 beats. This enabled me to recover and still be climbing. This is a skill I will definitely use in the Etape.

On the final hill home, which still required 45 mins of steep climbing with destructive gradients, we went up a new part of the hill. I was the first of his riders to climb it and he has rightly called it Mount Rhysey. I leave my mark after 5 hours of mountain climbing in absolutely stunning scenery and weather.

I learnt a lot on this ride. Garys chain came off while riding and he was able to put it back on without touching the chain and still riding. He gently feathered the gear changer which shifts the chain from the small cog to big cog on the front chainset. He gently pedaled and the chain relocated itself back onto the cogs. I have never seen this before and logged this as a valuable skill to master.

I am getting better on the descents. He taught me to keep weight down on the handle bars and lean with the bike. My line going into the corners is improving and at times I did not have to brake and could feel the bike accelerate out of the bends. I was keeping up with my coach much better than the first day.

I am beginning to know how to pace myself up steep hills. I combine getting out of the seat and seated riding and can push hard or control my heartrate. I could feel my upper body being used in the assents when riding out of the seat.

Gary noticed I wobble on my bike when taking one hand off the handle bars or looking around. I put too much weight on the handle bar with one hand and where I look the handle bars turn. He taught me to always look forward where I am going and don’t look back. Keep even balance on the handle bars. If I wobble in the Etape I could hit other cyclists and I would fall and cause a crash. I would be on the bottom of the pile and the handle bars of other riders would hit me. This is very dangerous. Gary recommended I look out for other dangerous riders and stay wide and away from them in the race. Another great tip is to never ride with my front wheel overlapping the cyclist back wheel ahead. If our wheels touch I am the who will fall as my front wheel will twist.

Gary thinks I have got good strength and good potential to climb well. When I get back to London I must maintain my riding so he is going to introduce me to riders who will show me more hills to climb in Surrey.

In two days I have learnt very valuable skills. I have two days left to condition myself and continue to hone my cycling technique. Tomorrow is a 7 hour hilly ride. I am not looking forward to the final hill climb home as this is really steep but how else do we get home.

I want to further progress my hill climbing and descent skills. I want to pace myself and know the strategies I can pull on for the Etape. Gary explained that in the race my strategy will be determined by how I feel at certain stages in the race and where the hills are placed in the course. The steepest hill is in the middle of the race so he recommended I pace myself slowly up this to conserve enery for the final hill and end of the race.

I sit here after today’s training impressed how strong my legs feel. I have never been able to do this before and not feel pain in my quads. The training and nutrition is working.

Tomorrows riding awaits. Speak to you all then.


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