Training. The Fear of the L’etape.

We joked that a lot of the training we did was inspired by “the fear of the L’etape”.  For months now many of us have ridden 200km plus per week. This was broken down into several weekday short but intense training sessions and longer weekend rides. It became a frequent occurrence to bump into one of the ‘buddies’ at that London torture location known as Swains Lane. This is a mid-town exceptionally steep street in the heart of Highgate, London. Some did 16 reps in a row as training…sigh

We augmented the on-bike training sessions with 2-3 weekly gym sessions to strengthen the legs, core and back. You need a lot of strength to complete such a ride.

The Diet.

This was by far the hardest part of the preparations for me. To lessen the suffering during the ride, you need to shed as much weight as possible. On such a mountainous course, the lighter you are, the easier you will climb the mountains. You cannot defeat the laws of physics. I managed to shed about 5kgs (10kgs since I started cycling seriously) by being far more strict with my diet. Burgers, sweets and chocolates, sugars and excess carbohydrates were all drastically reduced or eliminated entirely. I even had to reduce the frequency with which I had my favourite meal of rice, goat meat stew and fried plantains, to once a week (insert ‘sad face’ emoticon here).

I have just made a very good case why all this may be too crazy and I have not yet explained why? There is a bond that is formed in collectively tackling incredible challenges. Bonds that are not easily broken and transcend the pettiness and  drudgery of day-to-day life. WW2 soldiers describe the bond forged in life and death situations and often these bonds are so strong, surviving soldiers never forget their fallen comrades. We cyclists often say “what cycling has joined together, let no man etc etc”. You get it.

Secondly, why not? why should I not climb these mountains? How do you know your limits if you do not test those limits? This is part of human endeavor, borne of the same spirit that made the early explorers wonder just what was beyond the horizon.

George Mallory, who perished trying to scale Mount Everest was asked: “”Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” his response was simple and succinct: “Because it’s there”.

This is my own personal Everest.

The ascent begins at 8:30 AM, Sunday the 16th of July in Briancon, France.