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October 21, 2009
Photo by Veeral Patel
A couple weeks ago a gentleman who runs the blog TheClimbingCyclist asked me for my perspective on why we love to climb. Personally, I used to hate climbing. However, the more I hit the hills the better I got and I eventually learned to love it. It’s different from the love that you’d enjoy with something like chocolate or beer though. It’s a bitter-sweet kind of love. It it’s slow, it hurts, it’s exhausting and it exposes your weaknesses like few other disciplines do. So why would so many cyclists love something like this then?
Here’s the questions that were asked and my response to each.
ClimbingCyclist: With so many flat roads around, what is it that inspires cyclists to “head for the hills”, as it were?
CT: There’s something deeply satisfying about climbing. Climbs are where the boys are separated from the men. Anyone can ride on a flat road and sit behind a wheel, but not on the climbs. There’s nowhere to hide and your real character starts to shine when things get tough. And they will get tough. Nothing worth achieving is ever easy. Getting to the top of some of these mountains is not easy. Getting to the top in front of your mates is the best feeling (and worst) feeling in the world!
ClimbingCyclist: What advice would you give to recreational cyclists who are keen to have a go at climbing the major mountains?
CT: Know how to pace yourself and stay out of the red zone until the time when it counts. Some of these climbs can last over an hour. There’s no sense hitting the climb at full pace only to die in the middle. Start moderately and finish with all you got. Know when you are pushing above your limits and try to moderate your efforts. Once you blow, you’ll lose several minutes in order to recover.
ClimbingCyclist: Victorian cyclists are in the privileged position of having a multitude of fantastic climbs available to them. What is your favourite climb in the world and in Victoria?
CT: My favorite climb in the world that I’ve done is Mt Ventoux. The best one in Australia that I’ve experienced is is Mt Hotham. It’s not may favorite because I’m good at it. It’s my favorite because it’s my nemesis. It cracks me at the end and it makes me a better cyclists because of it.
I’m much better at a Mt Buffalo type of climb. Nice steady gradient and my strengths tend to shine more on this type of hill.
Mt Baw Baw I’ve never tried and I’m quite certain it’ll make me squeal. I’m afraid of this mountain!
ClimbingCyclist: What effect, if any, do major cycling events like Le Tour de France, the Giro and the Vuelta have on cyclists’ desire to climb?
These climbs are where races are won and loss. There’s some intense history left on these climbs and they’re on every cyclist’s bucket list. Most of us can only dream to ride on these mountains and quite often I find myself pretending I’m on Mt Ventoux when on Mt Hotham (they’re very similar). I imagine Phil Liggett and Matt Keenan’s voices as I’m climbing up at a snail’s pace!