So about this time last year a pod of Junior elite tri-athletes (plus Steve their Coach) came to stay at the 44South Chalet. Having bravely ‘volunteered’ to take them all out on their first ride I peered out of the office window as carbon frames were unpacked, quick releases were tightened on expensive wheels and slowly but surely some mean looking race bikes were assembled. Beginning to regret my earlier bravado my tiny brain was now anxiously searching for excuses why I couldn’t now ride today and had decided that smashing my bike into several small pieces was the safest bet. While frantically attempting to locate a suitable hammer for the job I was grabbed by the scruff of the neck plonked on my bike and pushed out of the garage, finger nails scratching at the closing door as it slammed shut in my face. And so I was left feeling slightly insignificant stood in front of 7 teenage athletes who were looking at the mountains in the same way that a pack of hungry Lions eye up a fat limping Gazelle.
Now let me take a moment and get my excuses out the way early, first of all my brakes were rubbing, my tyre pressure was too low, I didn’t have ceramic bearings, I was on a recovery day, I’m not a big power guy, I’m not really a climber I’m more of a sprinter, I need to lose another kilo to maximise my power to weight ratio, I’m not really a sprinter.
So I led them out of Morzine trying to keep the pace high. First mistake. Looking back I’m not sure why I felt compelled to do this, I think I was testing the water so to speak, however testing the water by guzzling several litres of the stuff is not a method can recommend.
We arrived at the junction for La Vernaz and the start of the first short climb. Jimmy pulled up along side me and asked how far it was to the top. Before I could finish answering most of them had accelerated up the road while all I could do is watch helplessly. It was clear to me that between me dying and beating any of these young athletes to the top of this climb the thing that was going to happen first was me dying.
I tried to keep up anyway. Second mistake. By now my heart rate was topping 400bpm and I had to keep popping my eyes back into my head while hoping no one had noticed. Steve started to make polite conversation, unfortunately I was trying so hard not to die all I could manage was a disturbing gargling sound, followed by dribbling a little bit on my top tube concluded by blowing a couple of bubbles out of my nose. The pace continued, I was now chewing on the stem and my knees were close to exploding. I could feel myself slowly slipping back from the bunch. I started to examine my bike for non-essential parts, anything that wasn’t contributing to getting me to the top of this climb was now considered surplus to requirement, seat, seat post, big ring, middle ring, bar tape, bar ends, brakes, bike tools, spare tubes were all soon to be ejected over the side of the road. I’d just got as far as loosening the bolts of my seat post when the summit of the climb came into view, a sight for very sore eyes (both of which were out on stalks and dangling down the side of my cheeks).
I shoved my lungs back down my throat, zipped up my jersey, popped my eyes back in, tightened my seat post clamp and cancelled the paramedics. Summiting the climb I tried to look as fresh as I could. ‘Thanks for waiting…this way’ I chirped as I cycled around the corner. We continued on with the rest of the ride, safe in the knowledge that I now had the emergency services on speed dial.
They’re coming back in a week. I can’t wait. I think I might go running with them this year!