Days 31 and 37: Miles and miles

With L’Etape du Tour event rapidly approaching it really was time I started to get in some proper training.

While we were staying in Haro, in between visiting vineyards and dancing at wine fiestas, we accidentally discovered another significant hill to climb. Not entirely dissimilar to the one from the Picos de Europa mountains, the climb up to Balcon De La Rioja is nearly 500 metres in 3.5miles, at an average gradient of around 8%, reaching double figures in places. This is still no-where near the sheer scale of what I need to do in a couple of weeks’ time…but at least I did it twice! And enjoyed the fun of the descent twice as well, which went some way to compensate for not being able to find anywhere to watch the NZ v Lions second test on this particular Saturday morning.

After reaching the bottom for the second time I actually felt quietly confident I could have done it a third time. The second time up strangely didn’t feel as much of a slog as the first, and I thought I may have even got up there quicker, though it turned out I was actually slower second time around, but only by around 30 seconds. I opted against the third climb in the end, but I at least gained a little more confidence for the big day on 16 July.

But on reflection, although I had conquered the small mountain twice, it niggled me that I had only covered 38 miles, around a third of L’Etape du Tour’s distance, and hadn’t done any ‘big’ miles for several months.

I didn’t manage to take the bike out in San Sebastian, an area which is famous for its cycling, because we were there for only three nights, and the beautiful town and food justifiably took up most of our time (plus our campsite was on a very busy road which would have made for interesting navigating on a bike), so when we arrived at our first campsite in France, about 50kms from Toulouse, I seized the opportunity for a long ride. The area was what you may typically think of when you imagine central France. Flat and flat, with long straight roads through acres of fields, and flat.

I headed out into the farm lands early on a misty morning which quickly cleared into a beautiful day, which in turned quickly changed into a scorcher. Nearly four and a half hours later the temperature was pushing the mid-30s. It meant for tough last hour or so of my 76 miles which I had spun out at a decent pace, despite coming across three roads closed for maintenance, but fortunately managing to get through courtesy of some rather rudimentary French (“á pied?”).

So with some more hills conquered and a significantly increased mileage accounted for in my recent training, I’m now starting to feel more comfortable about the main event. Having said that, the day in the Alps will still be a big step up from all of this so I could probably do with one last significant training ride before then. What can I find between here and the Alps on 16 July?

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