Everesting is in. It seems every weekend someone I know is doing it – well, at least trying to do it. But not me.
Despite the occasional fantasy of summiting my local Col de Chiswick 258 times in the one ride, I’m nothing if not a two-wheeled realist. The simple fact is 8,848m is more than I climb in most months. A lot more. So the odds are rather high that long before any triumphant arm-raised ending my legs will cramp, my knees will seize up, my arse will be obliterated by saddle sores and, in all likelihood, my ITB will explode into an oozy mess. Woe is me.
No, at this stage of my vertically-challenged riding life Everesting is not on my radar. However…I’m always up for a challenge, so I got Googling to see what other mountains are more in my figurative price bracket. The first bit of great news, of course, is I’m already a seasoned Kosciuszko-er. At a reasonably benign 2,228m I’ve nailed that one many times over the years including three times in a week just recently. But let’s be frank, its little more than a D-Grade doddle. Not many bragging rights to be had here.
The challenges rise steeply from this point with the next major continental peak checking in at more than double the ascending of Australia’s loftiest spot. If you’re keen to go ‘Blanc-ing’ this weekend you’ll need to find yourself 4,810m of elevation. But my advice would be to keep riding when you do, because by adding another measly 82m you’ll also be able to scoop up an Antarctic-inspired ‘Vinson-ing’ for your invisible trophy cabinet.
Africa’s most epic peak Mt Kilamanjaro is next at 5,895m, still roughly 3,000m lower than Mt Everest but sure to deliver plenty of pain to your pins. At 6,168m the USA’s Mt McKinley is worth considering after your Kilamanjaro, and if you’re really feeling good Argentina’s mighty Acancagua may even be within reach at 6,961m.
For the purists of course, only one peak ever matters, Everest itself. I bet Sherpa Tenzing Norgay was a great lead out man for Sir Edmund Hilary…
The Seven Summits
Mt Everest – 8,848m (Elite)
Acaoncagua – 6,961m (A-Grade)
Mt McKinely – 6,168m (B-Grade)
Mt Kilamanjaro – 5,895m (B-Grade)
Mt Vinson – 4,892m (C-Grade)
Mont Blanc – 4,810m* (C-Grade)
Mt Kosciuszko – 2,228m (D-Grade)
* There is some dispute about Mont Blanc’s place as Europe’s highest peak. Mt Elbrus in the Caucasus is significantly higher (5,642m). But depending on who you ask it’s actually in Asia.
Crazy enough to make an Everesting attempt?
This website may come in handy. http://everesting.io/
So, that’s it then. The big cobbled classics are done for another year and the peloton now rolls on to the Ardennes, starting with Amstel Gold on Sunday. Before we forget about the stones for 2015 how good is this passage from Tim Krabbe’s classic, The Rider:
“On the cobbles a man finds out what it is to be a jackhammer. Your arms grow three times as thick, your jaws clatter like castanets, your chain starts chattering and would like nothing more than to go flying off.”
As a Belgian, winning Flanders for the first time is far more important than wearing the maillot jaune in the Tour.”
Funny conversation over breakfast in Strahan last week, half-way through a 500km ride across Tasmania. When asked by an elderly lady why on earth he was riding from Devonport to Hobart, one of our bunch, Pete G, replied:
“I’m doing it for my wife’s charity.”
Hugely impressed by his generosity and commitment to his wife, she then asks what the charity is. Pete replies completely straight faced:
“Giving her a break from me.”
“My cycling career was beautiful, ugly, intense and edifying. I’m ready for a new step. Without my bike.”
Thomas Dekker, 30, announcing his retirement from pro cycling this week after failing to find a team for 2015.
There’s much to love about Autumn cycling in Australia. The heat and humidity of summer is beginning to ease and while the mornings are noticeably cooler, they’re still a far cry from the icy chill of mid-winter. Riding conditions are pretty much perfect, and when you throw in the feast of the (European) Spring Classics on TV to inspire us, well, it’s almost two-wheeled heaven.
But one thing that never ceases to amaze – or annoy – is the proliferation of the early morning ninjas in the current no-man’s land immediately preceding the end of daylight savings. I’ve written about it before and no doubt will do so again. Every morning it’s a pre-dawn obstacle course, first simply trying to see and then avoid walkers and joggers who clearly must think they glow in the dark. No lights. No hi-vis clothing. No brains.
Occasionally you pass one who does have a light and/or hi-vis top. I make a point of always thanking these people, for sadly their commonsense appears to be in short supply. Just another example of grown adults not taking responsibility for their own personal safety.
You can just imagine the shit storm if you hit one of these power-walking ninjas, leaving bodies and bikes flying in all directions. “Cyclists are supposed to give way to pedestrians you dickhead – you’ll be hearing from my lawyer!”
Personally, I’d be horrified if I ever did slam into a walker, causing injury to them or me. But even at low speeds, and even with a decent bike light, it can be hard to avoid something you can’t see until the very last moment around that next corner or bike path junction – especially when it’s typically wearing headphones and oblivious to anything happening around it and maybe even walking a dog via a metre-long bicycle snare.
Thankfully the early morning mercury will soon dip into single figures and the majority will stay tucked up under the doonas. Until then, stay safe out there people. You can’t see them. But the ninjas are everywhere. And they’re dangerous.
(Oh, and don’t get me started on garbos leaving wheelie bins in the middle of the road…)
One of our all-time favourite quote machines was back to his very best before the start of Tirreno-Adriatico this week, this time taking to Facebook. Ladies and gentlemen, the incomparably eloquent Mark Cavendish:
“After 4 days of having my entire body fall out of my arse, I think the first few days of Tirreno Adriatico are going to be hard going!”
He dropped his chain overnight in stage 2, so it appears things are still falling off him.
I guess I’m an okay climber. Certainly nowhere (remotely) near great. But not terrible, either. Barring very rare days when the moons enigmatically align, you’ll find me inconspicuously tucked somewhere in the middle of the bunch and Strava leader boards. It’s a similar story with my sprinting, descending and general bike handling.
So, it was with full acceptance of my two-wheeled averageness that I found myself tapping up a moderately challenging 4km climb earlier this week, wondering what type of handicap would be necessary to make a run-of-the-mill amateur like me competitive with the world’s best riders on this type of terrain?
Clearly a head start could help. But only if it was an almighty one. What about technology, then? For example, what if a pro was forced to ride a fixie? Perhaps that would slow them down enough to make a game of it, mano a mano? Then again, maybe it would simply deepen the embarrassment. How about putting them on a BMX in sneakers? That may well do the trick, especially if it’s a rickety old rust bucket.
It’s fun to think about just how much better the top guys really are than the average recreational lycra warrior; and would make a pretty interesting experiment to find out, don’t you think?
Now if I could just convince a pro to do it ;-)
If, like me, you’re interested in these kind of hypothetical but largely useless comparisons, it’s well worth reading the following piece by Ken Taylor, a Research Scientist with the CSIRO, published after the 2013 Tour Down Under.
In the closing kilometres of last night’s final stage at the Vuelta a Andalucia, Top Sport Vlaanderen rider Edward Theuns makes a ballsy solo attempt to steal the win. Clearly impressed with the power on display from the 24-year old Belgian, the irrepressible Eurosport commentator Carlton Kirby does what he does best (4:02 on the video):
“Look at those calves, he looks like he’s smuggling frozen chickens…”
Shame Kirby doesn’t work on free-to-air. He’d be an even bigger cult figure around the world.
In recent days the conversation amongst many of my riding mates has shifted to the issue of supplements. Or, more specifically, whether they actually make much difference for hack riders like the majority of us? Of course EPO has received a mention as it always does, as has colostrum and creatine. But without doubt some of the most interesting discussion has surrounded HGH, or human growth hormone.
I’m no sports scientist and have zero intention of getting into the specifics here (plenty of websites and blogs do that already, often directly contradicting each other!). But I did want to mention one thing that ‘arose’ while I was out riding this morning.
One chap I know who has a science background explained the human body naturally produces HGH during high intensity exercise and also sleep, especially in adolescent males, which is one of the reasons why men of all ages often experience ‘morning glory’. As he continued, now with more than a slight blush and noticeably lowered voice, it became clear this was not to be our usual bunch ride conversation.
“It can also a good way to determine if you’ve had a good training session or not,” he says with a schoolboy grin. Huh? “Well, I’m not saying it’s happened to me or anything (translation: “It’s happened to me”) but there are plenty of reports of cyclists having erections towards the end of hard rides or work-outs.”
After a moment of contemplation, one wag pipes up: “So you know you’ve been training hard if you start busting out of your bike pants?”
“Yep, pretty much.”