Sorry about the break in service on the website over Christmas — I’ve settled into a new job and spent some time coming up with a game plan for 2014 to occupy me when I’m not riding my bike! Now that all that’s taken care of, my focus is firmly back on the Trans-Am Bike Race. Here’s the first in a series of posts to update you on what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks.
Ever since reading about Wiggins’ ‘secret island training camp’ in the build up to the 2012 Tour De France, I’d wanted to visit Tenerife. The idea of being able to climb more than 2000m from sea level on one road was intriguing. It was made an even better proposition by the fact that the temperature hovers at a balmy 20-30 degrees year round. But, like most far-flung places touted in magazines as being great places to ride a bike, Tenerife seemed to be out of reach — too far away to make it a cheap or easy trip.
So when my Mum told me that she’d been offered the use of a friend’s Tenerife holiday home over Christmas, I jumped at the chance to tag along. The opportunity to get a break from the UK’s winter storms, while spending a week cycling in 30-degree weather, was too good to miss. So, on the 22nd December I packed my bike and jetted off to the Canary Islands.
It was a fitting departure from the UK: the howling wind and torrential rain that had been smashing the country for a few weeks buffeted the plane as it struggled away from London Gatwick. Landing in Tenerife couldn’t have been more different — Teide appeared through the cloud as the island drew nearer, a picture reminiscent of children’s cartoon drawings of a mythical paradise. As soon as the landing gear touched the runway I was itching to get out and ride — the weather was as good as I’d anticipated and the roads looked immaculate.
It was too late to go out on the bike by the time we landed, but I was out the door early the following morning; climbing away from Puerto de la Cruz and heading towards some winding roads I’d noticed along the coast. Compared to the UK it was paradise — I could wear summer gear, I didn’t have to worry about short daylight hours, and best of all there was more climbing than I could possibly handle.
I had a brilliant first ride — the small coast roads were incredibly challenging, with short, sharp climbs frequently hitting 25%. But they were just a preview to the day’s main attraction. After around an hour and a half I took a right turn and began to climb Mt. Teide along the famous Cumbre Dorsal: the approach to the mountain touted as offering the best views. I wasn’t disappointed.
The climb took me beyond the costal villages, through a thick forest of evergreen trees, and into an arid moonscape where Teide would come into view at the end of every switchback. I sunk into a rhythm, reminded why I love climbing mountains on a bike. All I could hear was my heart beating — holding myself on the limit, pushing as hard as I could without collapsing. Just under two hours later I hit the summit, drenched in sweat and grinning from ear to ear — this was proper cycling, everything I had missed when slogging it out in the rain along dismal English lanes. With 60 miles and more than 10,000ft of climbing in the legs, I turned the bike back towards Puerto de la Cruz and savored ever second of the hair-raising descent to the coast.
Qoroz Road Won
Some of you might remember me mentioning that I’d picked up a Road Won from my sponsor, Qoroz, in mid December. Well, this was my weapon of choice for tackling Tenerife. While it’s primarily designed as comfort road bike and more suited to long haul efforts, I didn’t feel that it held me back as I pushed it up long draggy climbs. The long wheelbase and relaxed geometry combine to make it the most comfortable road bike I’ve ever ridden, and although this leads to a slight lack of precision when attacking particularly tight turns, it invites you to push harder for longer.
Rough pavement seems to be smoothed and it was confidence inspiring on really rough terrain. I can safely say that I’ve never felt fresher at the end of a tough century as I have when riding the Road Won.
A split second
My appetite for Tenerife kindled by my first foray onto its roads, I was keen to head back out for a second round. The weather was crystal clear as I began to climb Teide directly from Puerto de la Cruz — a twisting 40km 6-7% slog. This second ascent of the mountain was slightly longer, but not quite as steep as the approach I had taken the day before, and again I summited in just under 2 hours — meeting my family at the top for a mid-ride bowl of Canarian soup to celebrate Christmas Eve.
The scenery at the top of Teide has to be seen to be believed: the mountain is a volcano and responsible for the incredible jutting rock formations and scree fields that dominate the higher reaches of the island. Smaller snowcapped peaks ring Teide itself, defining the edges of a volcanic cauldron formed by an ancient eruption — truly an epic backdrop that is worthy of the climb. After 20 minutes traversing this unbelievable landscape I began to descend toward the western end of the island, savoring every sweeping bend in the road.
I’d just decided to head home, tired after 85 miles and 13,000ft climbing, when disaster struck. I was rapidly descending a smaller costal climb, along one of the few straight and true roads on the island, when a car turned across my lane of traffic without looking. One second I was enjoying the evening breeze and savoring the ache of hard work in my legs, the next I was sprawled on the tarmac, missing a good amount of the skin on my left side.
After a moment of shock I assessed the situation — I had been seriously lucky. The speed of the impact had thrown me into some green plastic bollards that arrested my fall and spared me more serious injury, but I’d missed a metal post by inches.
The driver who hit me spoke no English, but was quick to accept responsibility — he loaded into me and the bike into the back of his car and drove me to the hospital in Puerto de la Cruz. After several hours, in which I was kept in the same hospital room as a urinating and abusive drunkard, I was discharged. Remarkably I emerged from the incident relatively unscathed — I’d escaped with some bad cuts and a lot of bruising and swelling, but not a lot else.
The incident reminded me how one split second of inattention by a driver has the potential to change lives. I could easily have been badly hurt, if not killed, in that kind of high-speed collision. Suffice to say that I enjoyed Christmas day with my family all the more — despite the fact that I had to spend Christmas morning in the police station giving a statement!
Although both the bike and me were out of action, I had a great time exploring the island with my family — able to appreciate the scenery without the effort required to explore it by bike. I won’t pretend that I didn’t get a massive pang of jealousy every time I saw a cyclist go by, but on each occasion I reminded myself that I was lucky to be intact, lucky not to be hurt, and lucky that I could still pursue my goals for 2014.
In the end the holiday didn’t go as planned, but I returned to the UK tanned and ready to get back on the bike — there’s nothing like a crash to make you realize that riding in bad weather isn’t that bad!
Stay tuned for an update on riding through the flooding that has stricken the UK over the last few weeks.