Preparing for the climb

At the time of writing, I may or may not be shaving my legs… here’s the donation link!

Plan for the day

  • Get up at 4.30am
  • Have a light breakfast
  • Drive packed car to pub car park
  • Ride down to bottom of the hill
  • Restart GPS, aiming to start at 5:30am
  • Do about five climb/descents per hour
  • Every two or three hours, rest, snack and refill drink for about ten mins
  • At 12.30 stop for lunch for about 30 or 40 mins
  • Aim to finish around 9pm

Training

Over the past two months I’ve climbed Bowden hill more than 60 times and done some long hilly rides in Wales, clocking up about 25000m of climbing. I’ve learnt what seems to work for me in terms of how fast to go, what to eat and when to rest. The plan above might not be right for everyone, but it seems sensible, based on my experience. That said, I won’t hesitate to tear it up on the day if I feel I need more rest or more food or whatever. The total distance is about 280km, so I’m hoping it will feel like an especially tough 300km ride – something I’ve done several times in the last couple of years, although never with more than 5000m of climbing. I think I’ll need to be careful to limit my peak effort of the short, steep part of the climb to avoid tiring my legs more than necessary. I mostly climb seated and in my lowest gear, but it seems to help to occasionally get out of the saddle if only to use some different muscles for a while.

The bike

I’ll be using my only real road bike, a custom titanium “audax” designed by Justin Burls. Stripped down to the essentials it weighs under 9kg, not super light, but probably lighter than average. I’ve removed the saddle bag rack, mudguards, one bottle cage and swapped to a slightly lighter and more waterproof saddle. All that probably saves about 1.5kg. I’m not normally a weight weanie, favouring comfort and reliability, but in this case the climbing is extreme and this is where weight makes the difference.

Cleaned the chain and chainrings

Cleaned the chain and chainrings

I also won’t be carrying any tools, clothes or spares, and only the minimum amount of water. Spares and refills will be available in my car, parked on the hill and never more than a mile away. In total, I’ll be some 5kg lighter than on a typical audax ride. However, as a percentage of all-up weight (me + bike + kit), 5kg isn’t much, so I won’t be expecting much difference, just for it to be a fraction easier on the steep part.

On the day

I’ll have a lot of snacks and extra water in the car. I’ll stop to pick up the minimum half or third of a bottle of water and maybe a banana. Hopefully this will only take a minute and I can nibble and sip on the flatter parts of the climb. Until I take a proper break I’d rather ride slowly for a bit than stop entirely.

If friends and family could pass me bananas and fresh water bottles (no more than half filled), that would be much appreciated. The round trip of climb/descent should take about ten minutes and I’ll only stop at the pub on the climbs. So if I’ve just passed going uphill, I’ll probably be climbing past again in another ten minutes.

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