Not quite King of the Mountains…


Wednesday, 17th September

Chesham – Berkhamsted – Piccotts End – Bovingdon – Chesham. 20.31 miles

Once again, as happens with far more regularity than should be allowed, Monday and Tuesday were days off the bike, so I was determined to put some more miles in the legs. Today, I was in search of something resembling a hill.

The Home Counties are notoriously flat, so I had my work cut out. Fortunately, living at the bottom of the Chess valley, I have a few hills to climb before I can really go all that far. Unfortunately, that choice is limited to choosing which one I climb to leave the valley, rather than the opportunity for a Tour de Chess and once out of the valley, I’m still far from being spoilt. It’s a far cry from the Alps or the Pyrenees, or even the Yorkshire Dales or North Yorkshire Moors. I’d love some decent altitude training.

I should be so lucky...lucky lucky lucky!

I should be so lucky...lucky lucky lucky!

The route took me on roads that had come into discussion with a colleague during the course of Monday and Tuesday, when she was telling me of how her husband would like to cycle to and from work more, and the route he would have to take. I didn’t want to say anything, but the route she was relating sounded neither all that far, nor all that tough. I thought I’d take in my own version of the route, with as many additional hills as I could reasonably find thrown in, for good measure.

Once out of the Chess valley, the roads through Berkhamsted posed little problem, even at the steepest points. I was a little disappointed, as I was sure I’d thought up a route that would, in some small way, recreate the roads of the North. In the Yorkshire Dales, you’re either climbing or descending. There’s very little by way of flat roads, and even those aren’t truly flat. The ride today was supposed to be just that – up and down, followed by a bit more up then a little down. Fat chance.

As I rode through Hemel Hempstead, which is about as pretty a town as it’s name would suggest, I had the ascent of Box Lane to look forward to. Box Lane climbs for around two miles. None of it is particularly steep but, like many of the roads around this part of the country, the surface isn’t much to write home about. It’s more of the evil surface that sucks the life out of your legs, much as weird space-conquering aliens might suck your brain though a straw. I was to be pleasantly surprised.

I was about half of the way up Box Lane, rapidly chasing down a trio of mountain bikers, when something dawned on me. I wasn’t pushing, but I wasn’t spinning either. I was doing both. Here I was, a fat bloke, riding a bicycle up a climb like Box Lane at, as I discovered when I looked at the computer on my handlebars, about 18mph. I had more speed in legs too, should I have wanted it. I was all but ready to look over my shoulder and give Ullrich The Eye, but I’m no Armstrong, and while they might have had a comparable waistline, none of the mountain bikers had the legs of Ullrich. I would have to wait for a fair challenge before making an attack.

Alpe d'Huez - Tour de France 2001.  Not.

Alpe d'Huez - Tour de France 2001. Not.

Todays bike: Pinarello Paris with full 9-speed Ultegra and Mavic Open Pros


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