Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Rapha Rising Challenge: A Little Bit of Cramming for PBP

Like clockwork, the Rapha Rising Challenge appears each year in the third week of July to coincide with some of the most epic climbing stages of the TdF.  This year, though, I was unable to lock in any of the details despite several attempts, so I figured they made a shift at Rapha HQ. As I've said before, I'm a sucker for a good challenge. If I know that a group of cyclists are off somewhere trying to do something possibly not possible, I have a hard time not joining in. Throw in a patch and I'm there! As luck would have it, I happened to be scanning Instagram a week ago Saturday and found that #rapharising had begun that very day. The challenge? Climb 9366 meters (30,728 feet) in 8 days. What could be so tough about that?

Climbing is good training. On this there is no debate. Ever wonder why the winner of the Tour de France is always a good climber? In part because being good at climbing makes you good at other things, too. It's also easy for a good climber to put some serious distance on a poor climber, but that's another story. I love that I live in a hilly area because I've found that riding hills can often make up for limited time on the bike. My general equation is that as a ride shortens, it needs to go vertical. Climbing this much in a week would hopefully make the hills of Brittany a bit easier to roll over next month.

It occurred to me more than once while I was riding this week that 30,728 feet is a respectable cruising altitude for a 747. It's almost 6 miles above the Earth! To climb this high on my bike was going to take some planning. Since I was working this week and needed to take care of a few important family jobs, I didn't have endless time to get this done. As a result, I chose some of the steepest hills in the area and rode up and down them multiple times. Since I live near a ridgeline with multiple hills, this wasn't as monotonous as it sounds, and doing a few hours a day of hill riding put me in some very lovely spots.

My planning wasn't perfect, though. On the final day of the challenge, I awoke with over 8200 feet left to climb! To make matters worse, it was raining with thunderstorms in the area. I had risen at 5:00 am to get out and finish things off in the first half of the day by riding over the Shawangunk Ridge in New Paltz multiple times, but when I got there in my car the storm had actually picked up intensity and the entire mountain was shrouded in fog. This was not looking like a particularly safe way to train for PBP, so I threw in the towel and drove home. Who needs a stinking patch anyway? After sitting in bed reading the paper for a few hours, I saw the sun poking through the clouds and threw on my kit and rode out the door to hit the ridge a bit closer to home.

As a result, my profile looked like this:

All in all, I slipped in under the wire. My patch should be here when I get back from Paris.

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