I want to make something absolutely clear: I’m no randonneur (I’m no superhero, fan of the right of politics, lover of mushrooms or tightrope walker either, but that’s not really relevant). The idea of long, adventurous journey’s on two wheels certainly interests me, but things like the TCR and timed challenges tire me out just reading about them. I also think the romance of sleeping at the side of a main road, squatting in bushes when the gels have gotten too much for my stomach to handle and pushing on to the next checkpoint through pouring rain and howling winds might dissipate rather quickly. An A-to-B cycling holiday is probably where I sit in this respect; showers, a proper bed, and all that stuff, now you’re talking.
This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy planning though. Whether it’s just a route for a solo ride or with mates, I always find it exciting planning a route – especially when there are new roads involved. And it’s this latter part that I’m in the midst of currently. Next month I’m going back to Spain and am keen to investigate new parts of the country I haven’t yet been. I did this last time I went to España and the roads and scenery were spectacular, although I hadn’t thought that two of the cols I ascended were the cat 1’s they turned out to be, there was certainly no clue to that on the website I used to find them. Lesson learnt. Another thing that hit home hard was to plan my stops and know where the petrol stations were prior to setting off – bonking massively during siesta will do that.
This time I’m consulting a range of websites, from region specific cycling sites, to maps, to weather sites, to petrol station companies. I will not make the same mistake again. I’ll also make sure my jersey pockets are bursting with energy bars. I’ve got an idea of a route, with some proper elevation and some winding roads, it looks like it could be a great route. Time will tell.
But planning isn’t simply about researching the area, the climbs, et al, – although this is the best part- it’s also about the planning you do on the bike, that is to say, the planning of actually being ready physically. So I’m doing my best (when the unhelpful British climate allows) to push myself harder on “proper rides”, to work at my cardio and crucially, do more climbs so my legs don’t explode when I’m going up an ascent a tad longer than Whiteways or Mill Hill. This involves repeats. I loathe repeats. Yet, it is a necessary evil so I suck it up and head out for the hills. It’s also about now that I start to get a bit antsy about my weight and watch what I eat more than normal. I’m not what you’d call a natural climber, my height and build are more suited to getting a heavy bag of pasta from atop the kitchen cupboard than they are to scaling a mountain road, so planning what food and drink I put in my gob is important (obviously coffee is a constant), but not to the extent that I have a daily plan or list, more that I stop eating pizzas and start eating more fruit and drink even more water than I usually do.
It’s all part of the overall plan, the topography, the route, the prep, they all come together to form that pre-trip/ride buzz. The closer the date comes the more exciting it is. Then again, perhaps it’s not the planning after all, perhaps the buzz just comes from knowing that soon I’ll be riding my bike in stunning scenery. Or even that it’s just a bike ride, and that is something well worth getting excited about.