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Ian’s Journey – Part 2:  Grinding it out

Cycling Blog

Ian’s Journey – Part 2: Grinding it out

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June 6th, 2014

Ian Wallis, novice cyclist and editor of and Growing Business, has been charting his personal ‘journey’ for us whilst he prepares himself for his big Ride25 adventure – cycling from Geneva to Milan in the middle of June.  This is the second installment of Ian’s journey, if you’d like to read Part 1 please click here.

Grind it out. That’s one of the many things my good friend and CEO of PledgeMusic Dave Hackett said to me upon learning that I’d signed up for the Ride25 trip from Geneva to Milan.

Stay in the green, don’t go into the red, was another morsel of advice. As was “eat meat”, which for a vegetarian of 16 years isn’t precisely what I had in mind.

The reason why Dave is worth listening to is because he’s ridden L’Etape du Tour, a genuine stage of a given year’s Tour de France. And insanely, he’s done this more than once.

But Dave’s a bit like that. He’s got an incredible determination about him. Measuring 6”4 in height and built like a lock forward with crushed nose to match, Dave isn’t the most obvious grimpeur, a very appropriate sounding French term for climber.

Through grim dedication Dave has conquered some of the most testing peaks, including the legendary Mont Ventoux in 2009 – which more than 40 years earlier claimed the life of British cyclist and one-time World Champion Tom Simpson – while completing the 172km route.

The following year on a 181km route he ascended the Col du Tourmalet, which boasts the highest road in the central Pyrenees and is the mountain pass that has featured more than any other in the Tour de France.

So there’s a healthy quantity of respect for my friend, who by day sits as I do behind a desk. And when he tells me not to sprint into hills, find the easiest gear, and that it’s about surviving, I listen.
Another French term I’ve come to like is cadence. Prior to my instruction from Dave I’d led myself to believe I was a better cyclist if I could find sufficient power in my girthsome thighs to keep the pedals revolving without switching gears. So, out of the seat – la danseuse – I’d go and would no doubt wreak havoc with the internal workings of my knees.

Now, I’m going for the highest cadence – or pedalling rhythm – possible. Dave tells me this could be as much as 100 revolutions per minute, but as I spin like a hamster on speed, tongue lolling, sweat pouring, and eyes determinedly fixed on the next corner, I don’t imagine I’ll be counting.

I’ve experienced nothing like an Alp in training on my brand new Specialized Secteur Triple while wending my way through the stunning Kent countryside (a word pairing you don’t want to spoonerise). So, mountains remain somewhat mythical beasts until I encounter one.

As well as climbing – for which, at 6”2 and 13 stone, I realise I’ll never be King of the Mountains – it’s the descents that put the fear of God into me. While I love dipping my head and feeling the effect of aerodynamics on teeny little hills in England, I’ve grown up watching and loving the Tour de France and have seen a fair few riders fly off a bend – and a mountain – into thick gorse.

Dave tells me there’s a technique I need to learn to avoid such an outcome – and I’m not sure it involves squeezing the brakes until the whites of my knuckles suggest the bones will burst through the skin. Nevertheless, it’s the tactic I have in mind.

After all, while I can’t wait and plan to embrace the insanity, majestic vistas and shared experience of it all, Dave’s words will ring in my ears: It’s about surviving!



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