No More Hills

In April 2010 I picked up cycling again for the first time in a long time. This is where I'll describe where I've come from, where I'm going and along the way try to communicate why I've discovered a passion for cycling I haven't had since I was a kid.
~ Tuesday, March 15 ~
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Mallorca - Ride 1

Today was promised to be an easy ride, a leg loosener on the flat but with the added spice of being guided by a pro-rider - Toni Colom.

The morning started out cloudy, threatening rain but still fairly warm. A tricky day to dress for. Fortunately, our organisers Wheels in Wheels provide the perfect solution. A car follows the group, in which we can place extra clothing and also carries nutrition and drinks. This little detail made the ride feel quite professional and meant we carried the very minimum of equipment. Very nice.

Off we set with Toni in the lead along with another young rider, Sergio, he had brought along. The remaining group of 8 fell in, two abreast along the side of the road in the demarcated zone which is present on many of the roads in Mallorca. The day was reasonably windy but the only times this was noticeable was during crosswinds or when the speed raised due to a tailwind. The power of riding in a close group, led by two willing pros, was dramatically illustrated by my heart rate being incredibly low for the speed we maintained over the first half of the course.

The ride so far had been fun. The group exchanged positions regularly, meaning that I got to talk to each of the group at some stage or other and the time, and miles, passed quickly. Toni was an entertaining guide. It was particularly amusing to observe his non-verbal communications with the occasionally careless drivers. A very different gesture to the standard UK one was in use.

As we rounded another corner, Toni dropped back alongside the group and called out '2km to the cafe'. I found myself at the front of the group alongside a much stronger rider and initially I just continued to ride on up the slight incline chatting away. Soon though I realised that the 2km may well be up the hill on our left and if that was to be the case then I’d soon not be able to hold a conversation at all. I took the pragmatic option, shifted down and braced myself for the upcoming climb.

Peaking at around 270m the climb wasn’t that high, higher than I’d climbed since the end of January though and I wasn’t sure how I’d do. Not having my Garmin to hand I couldn’t accurately assess my heart-rate and had to rely on my own senses. As I twisted up the hairpins I tried to maintain a rhythm that kept my heart-rate and breathing under control. I made it to the top without embarrassing myself too much, the help from the Van Nicholas’ stiff titanium frame and compact chainset not to be underestimated. Meanwhile Toni was moving forward and backward through the now

The sun had come out strongly fairly soon into the morning’s ride and I used the opportunity to change into a lighter jersey and refill my bottle from the car. I could get used to this! After the obligatory group photo…

…and refilling bottles from the car we headed back down the hill.

Fast descents are always my favourite part of any ride and although fairly quick, the constant hairpins made it much more of a technical decent than I’ve experienced before and it took a while to work out how to drive the VN through the corners. Watching Toni and Sergio was amazing though, they were just incredibly fluid and controlled. I need much more practice at this and Mallorca certainly promises to be the place to get it.

As we reached the end of the end of the hairpin section I had a chance to see just how well the VN could roll. I got into a more aerodynamic position, these things are relative for me at least, and descended as fast as possible without pedalling. This turned into a pleasingly even mini-race with Toni. My weight advantage (downhill) providing a nice counter to his better technique :-)

A short while after stopping for coffee and cake we said goodbye to Toni and Sergio, thanking them for a great outing so far.

The remainder of the ride was much like the first in tempo but took advantage of smaller lanes. Riding along the lanes with the sun shining, and mountains rising to the left and right was a great feeling, really for me what cycling is all about. I take great pleasure in moving swiftly over relatively large distances, powered only by my own strength, and having time to look around and take in the sights, sounds and scents of the passing environment.

Summary

  • 57.74 miles in 3hrs 39min, 15.9mph, 1885kcal
  • Van Nicholas Mistral first ride verdict:
    • +tive - really smooth and comfortable on the road, climbs brilliantly. Silent freewheel was nice.
    • -tive I felt it was not as easily flicked round corners as my carbon Scott CR1 but it still seemed competent in the hairpins and it might well be my problem. *More of an emotional thing than anything serious is that I’ve apparently become addicted to the humming sound you get with a carbon frame when moving fast. Titanium doesn’t have that but it does look stunning and as I’ve mentioned is seriously comfortable while remaining stiff.
  • Support Car == Bloody marvellous. Having drinks, nutrition, and clothing changes on order would be enough to sell it to me but we also had 2 punctures on the ride back. Not a problem - as the car was carrying spare wheels it was the work of mere moments to switch out the punctured wheel and replace it with a new one. Genius.
Tags: climb cycling fitness mallorca toni colom van nicholas