Member Adam Parle has some long rides planned for 2021 and what better way to start training than the challenge of The 7 Cols. Adam here relates a slight error along the way on his first attempt
The 7 Cols is a notable route devised by Mr Timekeeper himself – Keri Williams. It has been on my “to do” list for a little while now, and having committed to a series of events in 2021, which builds to riding Land’s End to John O’Groats in aid of Parkinson’s UK, I decided that it was high time I ticked the route off my list.
It seemed a good way of warning my legs of what is to come in the next year, and so on a cold, damp, blustery November morning I duly headed out of Banbury.
A gingerly descent through Shotteswell signalled the start of the main route, and the stretch of road following allowed me to prepare for the first “proper” ascent of the day.
Joining the B4100 for the Warmington climb, the main hazard – and an ever present one of late autumn riding – was the accumulated mulch from dropped leaves. Any discomfort was only temporary, St Michaels church signifying the end of the climb, but as it is followed by the false flat of Camp Lane, there was no real respite until the descent of Edge Hill and the very picturesque run through Radway. I made the most of this respite as Sunrising Hill was looming large in my mind, having never actually climbed it before.
No coffee stop on this ride
I’ve avoided Sunrising for years – it’s a fairly daunting climb and there are definitely more friendly alternatives nearby! The initial ramp had me running through the gears before getting a temporary respite and then tackling the meat of the climb. With the wet roads, getting out of the saddle wasn’t viable without risking a spinning rear wheel. Keeping my weight over the back wheel and grinding out a slow cadence was the only option. Cotswold climbs are short and sharp, and Sunrising is no exception, you can’t just spin at a comfortable cadence – you just dig in and hold on, and see whether you get the top of the climb before your heartrate hits its limit.
Seeing the road flatten off towards the Sugarswell Lane turning was a very welcome sight, as it gave me time to recover before dropping into and climbing out of Tysoe. Another tentative descent followed, with farm traffic having deposited a goodly chunk of the nearby fields onto the road. Mother Nature had done something similar on the Lady Elizabeth hill itself, rainwater having pushed mud and gravel over a significant patch of the climb.
This is another climb I’m very familiar with, the one that I most often visit of those on the escarpment. It breaks you in gently before the “esses” signal the start of a markedly tougher second half to the climb with a really nasty ramp to finish.
Fortunately, there is an immediate opportunity to recover, with only a small rise before another descent to the bottom of Col number four.
I should say at this juncture that in reviewing my ride there was disappointment and confusion as to why I didn’t appear on the Strava segment standings. Well … it turns out that I went the wrong way, descending what I should have climbed, and climbing what I should have descended!
The descent of the Compton Wynyates Col is a lot of fun in the dry, but less so on a damp autumnal day where you do have to be cautious. The climb up Winderton that resulted from my missed turn is one of my favourites, in part because it’s a climb of many parts rather than one long drag. It’s much easier to break down into manageable chunks given that it does it for you. At no point do you really have to grind like you do on Sunrising or Edge Hill, and with some fantastic views on the way up, this climb really isn’t a chore at all.
The discovery that this means that I haven’t completed the 7 Cols ride at all … well, that just means that one less ride I need to plan in the future.
Freewheeling down Lady Elizabeth hill marked a return to the “official” route before a right turn and heading up to Tysoe hill – the first of the 7 Cols I was introduced to when I started cycling back in 2013.
Greg LeMond said “It never gets easier; you just go faster”. I’m not sure the Tour de France winner was talking about Tysoe Hill … but as I’ve gotten fitter, I can confirm that it is certainly the case with this climb. Heading out of the village the road rises gradually, before really ramping up past the nursery. Again, it’s a climb where being able to get out of the saddle helps alleviate some of the discomfort as the cadence slows and the watts build, but again the conditions meant that if my rear wheel was to remain planted then so too should my rear end!
After continuing to retrace my tracks, I headed out of Radway to the Edge Hill climb, there’s no lead-in, no build up, no introductions or other formalities, you’re just straight into it. I soon ran out of gears, and my cadence continued to drop. Fortunately, the road surface is much improved from a few years back, and there wasn’t too much in the way of muck and mulch on the road, so I was able to get out of the saddle – which was very welcome as my cadence dipped into the 50s. It’s a pretty unrelentingly tough climb all the way up.
The Shotteswell climb rounded out the ride. It’s steep but short, and the prospect of a welcome cup of coffee and an afternoon watching rugby was all I needed to keep my legs turning, and ticking off number seven.
Training with power has been something of a revelation for me in 2020 – and certainly made the pacing of a ride such as this that bit easier. Knowing that I was going to have to dig deeper on the hills, the riding on the flat – what little there was – was done at a more relaxed pace. As an (almost) introduction to the route, I was pleased with how it went. However, having failed to tick the “official” route off my list, I’m now looking at the weather forecast and facing the prospect doing it all again …
As Jens Voigt would say … “SHUT UP LEGS”
If you’d like to support Adam’s fundraising for Parkinson’s UK, then this is his fundraising page https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AdamParle
For a bit more of an insight into his Ride Across Britain, and his preparation for it, you can read his blog at https://adamsrab.blogspot.com/