The climbing lesson

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In 2013 was doing an epic with two mates. As we were approaching the base of Mount Buffalo.  After 80km of riding we had been smashing it.  Averaging close to 35kmph. Approaching the toll booth, I through my pain filled haze I noticed a large group of cyclists.  My mates flew off on me.  I tried to match their pace for a whole millisecond  before the lights went out. It was a horrible feeling.  My body went into shock, and I struggled to breath.  It was hot and I struggled to regulate my temperature and had no power.   I found myself in a position where I had to grind my way painfully up the slopes of Mount Buffalo. Every pedal stroke was an effort.  Much of the climb would be spent staring down at my front wheel.  Completely dejected.

Chasing a carrot

I do have a talent for bonking.  Then being able to ride through the bonk, and then out of it. Not today. 1km became 10km & the further I climbed the worse I felt. Turning around or walking are never options for me and I kept at it. With about 5km left to climb a couple of riders that we passed at the toll booth passed me. I was really grateful as they were offering me some sympathetic encouragement.  This really helped to lift my spirits. I still had a long way to climb, but as long as I kept the wheels turning I would make it.

About 17km into the climb.  A third rider passed me. I was hoping for some more of that positive encouragement to fuel me to the top. The guy said “g’day”. Then told me my positioning was poor.  He told me that I could climb better if I changed my technique.  He then went on to offer me suggestions on how I could improve my climbing technique.

That really hurt!

The first thought that came to mind was “f*k off!”. Thankfully I stopped myself and told myself to say the third thing that came to mind. “I know how to climb, I’ve just bonked!”. He went “oh”.  I could tell that he realized that he had probably said the wrong thing and rode off on me. There was fire in my belly and I wanted to strike back. I wanted to fly on by him.  After two pedal strokes my body told me to get stuffed.  I had that Whitney Houston song singing in my head “I have, nothing, nothing, nothing if I don’t….”. I had no hope of catching him.  To add insult to my misery I watched him fly around the corner and off into the distance.

So much went through my mind. Every pedal stroke I was dying more and more and completely dejected. I rounded the corner and the master climber was a couple of hundred meters up the road.  It was depressing as I had to watch sail off into the distance. I had to endure seeing the master climber for an eternity before I realized that he was matching my pace. WTF. I was still riding at a snail’s pace and guess the master climber must have cracked himself.

Game on!

Upper slopes of Mount Buffalo

The climbing lesson

I mustered what little reserve I had left to lift my pace. It was probably only a fraction of a km faster.  It was enough to keep him in my sights. Over the next 3 km I slowly reeled him in.  Before I knew it we were at the end of the climb. There was only 300 meters of climbing to which ramps up to over 7%. I dug deep, and to this day don’t know where I got the strength. When I passed him, I was doing over 30 kmph up a 7% pinch. It was one of the greatest feelings I had ever felt on a bike to pass the master climber. I crested the hill and there was a descent to the turn-off and I cranking out 55 kmph down this section and absolutely flying.

I met my mates at the junction and given the speed I was travelling at their jaws were dropped. My mate pointed at my headphones, and asked me what I was listening to? The master climber was approaching and I pointed to him and yelled.  “This guy tried to give me a climbing lesson, so I just gave him one instead…….”

Here is a link to my Strava segment here

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