The Sufferfest, A Very Dark Place: ‘Jump!’ is just the warm-up. It’s all downhill from here.
Whatever I did, I’m sorry. We all make mistakes, right? We’ve all done deeds we regret. I’ve done bad things, just like anyone else. But do I deserve this cruel punishment? To be wrung out, shouted at, abused, ridiculed? To be laughed at while I bury myself deeper and deeper? Do I really deserve to suffer so much?
The turbo trainer is a device designed for torture, I know that. But in the past I’ve been lucky, and by avoiding the worst of its cruelties I’ve escaped with experiences merely of boredom and monotony. Sure, I’d occasionally go ‘hard’ but it would only be brief, and I’d never stray too far beyond my comfort zone. But then The Sufferfest videos came along, and suddenly that contraption of pain revealed its true potential for sadism.
I started with Fight Club, disappearing into dark worlds of max heart rate agony. But I started to want more. Downward Spiral made me wince. With Angels I stared at the stars while lying in the gutter. Revolver made me cry. Maybe it was time to see a therapist, or maybe it was just time to visit A Very Dark Place?
Style cues from the hill climbing cyclist: backwards pointing cap, pained expression, the hollow stare. Photo by Nick Hussey of www.vulpine.cc
So it’s the end of the racing season. But don’t breath a sigh of relief just yet. There’s more agony and suffering to get through before you can finally hang up the racing wheels for the year. That’s right, it’s now, unfortunately, hill climb season.
Perhaps you’ve never done one before and have entered through ignorance. A year is a long time, so maybe you’ve forgotten the misery you suffered through last autumn. Whatever the reason, you have my sympathies. Below is a guide to surviving a hill climb time trial – with luck and planning we can all emerge from this experience with our dignities remaining, relatively, intact.
1. Find an excuse
Are you ill? Are you sure? Because that slight itch at the back of the throat could mean the lurgy is lurking. Keep your fingers crossed, go out drinking into the small hours, avoid foods with high vitamin content, lick the handrails on the tube. If that fails it’s never too late to break a collarbone – even the final pre-race warm-up can conceal hidden dangers. Wet leaves on the road, a descent taken too fast, a nasty little spill and your problems are solved.
Ok, so you’ve remained fit and healthy, and the collarbone solution seems a bit drastic. Plus you might even have done a bit of training and don’t want to see that go to waste. So what next? Do your homework – check out the course, especially if you’ve not ridden the hill before. Ride it a few times if possible, both at an all-out effort, and also at a speed where you can familiarise yourself with the gradient, road surface, and any markers along the way that will help you visualise the course. For me, time is the most important pacing tool, if you know how long it’s likely to take you to finish then you can gauge your effort accordingly. Plus your training can be focussed on this time frame (you are going to do some training, right?). But remember, no matter how hard you think you’ve pushed in the dry run, you’ll likely go much faster in the actual event.
“How flat is it?”. Or in other words, “will Cav win?”. The question on everyone’s lips. Some say it’s flat. Others say not so flat. David Millar reckons it ‘looks good for a sprint’ after riding the course. But most say it’s flattish, and not hilly, but definitely not flat-flat.
So will Cav win? Well, if it comes down to a bunch sprint then you wouldn’t bet against him. The gradients of the Copenhagen course may decide whether this will be Britain’s most successful Worlds ever.
The Rainbow Jersey flies past the fans on Whitehall in the final stage of 2011′s Tour of Britain
From my vantage point at the 200m to go point I only saw the blur of a NetApp rider fly past. It wasn’t until watching the highlights later that evening that I actually saw Cavendish’s incredible sprint. Gapped by as much as 20 metres at the final corner in slippery wet conditions, and separated from his lead out man Renshaw, a home win looked unlikely; but the burst of speed that took Cav past everyone and across the line first was phenomenal.
With just a week to go until the World’s in Copenhagen, if Cav gets to the finish with the leading bunch, it’s hard to see who could possibly stop him from taking the Rainbow jersey.
Laurens ten Dam soldiers on after crashing and landing on his face during Stage 14 of this year’s Tour de France. Photo by Koen Van Weel/AFP – Getty Images
The commissaire was twitchy. His pre-race briefing stressed a disapproval of straying across the central road lines; we were to remain squeezed onto the left hand side only. Eighty riders trying to race on just a few metres of tarmac.
Unfortunately this enthusiastic interpretation of the rules didn’t bring about safer racing, it only made us more uneasy. Chances were still being taken, on blind bends, and on the climbs when the bunch naturally fans across the road as the pace slows. Of course, some riders were clearly intent on taking more risks than others.
The circuit we were racing includes one main descent – it’s fast and the road is twisty, but it can be taken at speed without requiring the brakes. Approaching it for the first time in the race I had worked my way into the first five or so in the bunch, supposedly the safest place to be. Unfortunately that doesn’t account for the leading rider misjudging a corner at high speed.
At 55kph I saw his back wheel lock up, his bike fishtail as he fought to make it around the right hand bend. The bushes lining the left of the road appeared to offer a soft landing, but carrying such speed it only rebuffed him back across the road, and sent him sprawling across our paths.
Soigneur legend Shelley Verses hands up a musette to Andy Hampsten during the 1988 Giro d’Italia.
You can fit a lot in your jersey pockets. With careful cramming it’s possible to carry all the essentials for a day’s ride. But at times a little extra porterage wouldn’t go amiss. Perhaps it’s on your way to a mid-week crit when you need to stash keys-wallet-mobile phone at the start line while you race. Or perhaps you just need something stylish to take with you down the shops. And nothing shouts ‘racing cyclists’ chic’ like a musette slung over your shoulder. Cheap (well, mostly), handy and easy to roll up and carry when not in use – these are my picks of the best musettes…