Posted by: Emily | April 14, 2010

Going down

I looked at the route profiles for the Tour of Wessex (ToW) today for the first time. I immediately wished I hadn’t. Ignorance was most certainly bliss. I’m not sure whether it was the actual profiles as such or the warnings within the event information pack that made my stomach turn the most. As I read through the 19 pages of information and instructions, I was filled with a sense of dread as I came across sentences such as “Please be careful on descents…” and “We have also added extra warning signs for sharp bends and steep descents”. The climax of my fear came on page 13 when I saw the first of the three course profiles in stark black and white. The max gradient being helpfully included for each major hill, just in case the sharp peaks and troughs weren’t evidence enough of the horror lying ahead.
The reason for my fear isn’t the ascents, but the descents. If I could find a sportive that had only uphills and flats I’d be happy. I’d even welcome a nice gentle downhill stretch thrown in for good measure here and there. Sadly, for every up there is a down and if I want to continue doing sportives, I’d better get over my fears. Having spent most of the afternoon talking about how scared I am, I made the promise that I would try to stop and instead try to embrace a more Positive Mental Attitude approach to the whole thing. This post is therefore my last opportunity to get it all out of my system and have one final fear-fest before the ToW. Not only that, but I think if I talk about how scared I am any more, Stu and Shaun will no doubt call up the ToW organisers and have my name removed from the entry list simply to put me, and them, out of my/their misery.
There are two things that I’m not good at when it comes to cycling: downhills and balance. Actually, there’s a third – navigating sharp bends. I’d better stop trying to think of other things before I decide to give up cycling for good. In my experience, when it comes to balance, cyclists fall into one of three categories. The first, and most common, is the cyclist who is very happy to multi-task whilst riding and do things such as drink from a bottle, indicate and comfortably ride single-handed. Most people I know fall into this category. Then there’s the cyclist that can not only do the above, but can do it completely hands-free. Not just for a few seconds on a flat road, but for extended periods and on all kinds of terrains and weather conditions. I know just one cyclist that falls into this group: Ian. Then there’s the other extreme. The cyclist who is unable to remove either hand from the bars at any time, paralysed by fear at the thought. The cyclist who indicates using psychic powers, unless cycling at a speed of less than 10 MPH when minimal hand movements are possible. That would be me. I’m sure you’ll agree that not being able to even indicate properly is a bit of a problem for someone who spends almost two hours a day on a bike. That’s without the added complications of not being able to take a drink, which when regularly doing rides of 20+ miles is even more of a liability. Earlier today, Shaun told me that he also has some issues when it comes to indicating and other single-handed manoeuvres, but I think he was just trying to make me feel better about my cycling inadequacies.
I had been intending to do some endurance training for the ToW this weekend and was planning a 100 mile ride on Friday followed by 60 miles on Saturday. Given my bike skills, or lack of, I’ve since decided it might make more sense for me to get back to basics and do some work on my balance and downhill technique instead. I therefore think I’ll find a nice quiet road and work on comfortably riding single-handed whilst indicating and drinking – although not doing both activities at the same time I hasten to add (I’ll leave that kind of nonsense to Ian). I’ll then find some nice hills, I have a few in mind, that I’ll keep going up and down until I feel more comfortable. If that all fails, at least I know the ToW has an 18 mile family ride which looks just great.


  1. […] I’m now supposed to be at a peak of training intensity for the Tour of Wessex. Right now, like Emily, I feel far from fully prepared. While I managed the circuit I did today, for example, easily […]

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