One of the High Alps Challenge team members, Sarah Nichols, has written this fantastic blog post about why she's taking part and what it means for her.
I signed up for the High Alps Challenge in February, naively after a winter misspent off the bike and in the pub. But I wanted to do something big as a mark of respect to a friend of mine who pushed himself to his limit in his successful fight against Burkitt's lymphoma last year. But the day after signing up, I was knocked of my bike into rush hour traffic... not the ideal start to training I had in mind!
Finally started training at Easter, with some short rides, and have been steadily building up fitness. The distance each day is now not too much of a concern for me, but having never cycled up even one mountain, the climbing has always been my main concern. So there's only one way to face the fear...
After a couple of decent rolling sportives (albeit pretty slow), I found myself on a family holiday in Pollensa, Majorca a couple of weeks back. I knew I wouldn't get a better opportunity to train, so I headed off in hunt of a bike shop... if it's good enough for Team Sky, its good enough for me!
I headed off in the direction of Soller, another Port further down the coast, having done very little research into the route. After 15k I hit the first climb, a gentle 8k, average gradient of 5.5%, not too bad I thought, I can do this! Then I realised it was nothing in comparison to what I would be faced with in July. It's amazing how fast the miles can pass when the scenery is so beautiful, and we were soon climbing again to a higher summit of about 1000m I'm told.
Then the fun bit, a 15k descent down to sea level for lunch, that is of course, until I remember that the only way home is back up the 1000m high, 15k climb with just one small bottle of water for company... well I'm pleased to say I managed it without stopping, albeit temporarily crumbling in a heap at the top! All in all, it was a 130k ride with circa 2400m of climbing, so that felt like a massive step forward in training.
But before I get ahead of myself, I have to realise that the gradients were not as steep as what awaits us in the Alps, and my legs were very tired the next day, so the last thing I felt like was doing it all again! So with 6 weeks to go, and back in London, it's off to Surrey in search of some good hills this weekend. Over the next few weeks I will be combining my training with spin classes, cycling to work, and gym sessions to keep previous injuries at bay.
I still feel like a long way off being Alps ready, but I certainly feel like I am making progress. I am learning fast, that it is quite amazing what you can achieve when you push yourself to the limit.