How far can you climb under lockdown? The one hour, one km Shoddy challenge

Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.

I’ll give you the good news from here in French France. I’ve found a store that sells my favourite digestive biscuits from back home.

Now for the bad news. I can’t get to the damn shop as we’ve been plunged into lockdown again.

And it’s not just digestive problems that this four-week stay at home for sourdough baking/zoom calls/sitting in our underwear/full-time toddler entertainer duty causes. It also means that big old bike rides have been put on hold. All for the greater good, but it’s still a touch upsetting.

There’s nothing better than getting out in the real world on two wheels even if it’s for a short spin.

Luckily that’s exactly what the French government allows, a very short spin. Very, very short spin!

So here’s what I set out to do: Figure out how to slam the most climbing into the one-hour, one-kilometre limits.

The 1k/1 hour challenge

Last Wednesday while my family and I travelled south from Annecy to Cassis, a small town 15km east of Marseille, the news leaked that France would be going into lockdown the following night. Not great timing, at least for the family mini-break. It was a “do we continue or return” moment.

We hoped for the best.

To cut a relatively long story short-ish, the French government announced we’d be going into lockdown only hours after we arrived at our Airbnb. Pas bon! The big plans of bike rides and hikes in the hillsides went out the window and a “normal persons” break involving having your feet up, reading and relax by moving as little as possible was now on the cards.

But like any dedicated cyclist, the legs wanted turning. So, with the government’s new rules in mind, that being that we’re only allowed an hour of exercise and within 1km of home per day, my brain started concocting an idea.

Cassis, it would turn out is the ideal location to be confined with such strict exercise rules in place. The town is a small tourist hotspot (usually). Its fishing port, chateau high on the cliffside and rocky coastline is the usual draw, not just for the tourists but the organisers of major bike races.

If you’ve ever caught the Tour de La Provence, you may have seen Cassis crop up on the route as a stage finish. The town is ideal for a killer finish; yep it has that picture-postcard backdrop, but its steep short streets are an ideal battleground for a firecracker of a finish. And it would just happen that the exact road I had rented an Airbnb on was the finish line for the 2016 Tour de la Provence,

At 14% and 270m long, the Avenue Alphonse Daudet, better known amongst the local cyclists as Mur de Cassis, is a mini-amphitheatre of a climb. Short, sharp and savage. The climb mixed in with a few side streets made for what would be a leg sapping circuit. And at 1.4km in total didn’t take me outside of the government’s new guideline. So the question was, how many times could I struggle up this little kicker in an hour and would it beat doing intervals on a home trainer in a garage?

Clearly, you don’t need to watch the video to find the answer out to the second question. But to see how I got on and to see how my colleague Matt de Neef here at CyclingTips coped with lockdown cycling life all the while avoiding home trainers check the video out.

Editors' Picks