A New Year Approaches pt2: Goals, ambitions and some really big plans

I had some rough plans for 2016 albeit it was more of an ‘ideas board’ than a plan per se. In 2017 I have some big plans already in motion starting from August and therefore am really keen to get some great, challenging events in before all that kicks off (more of which later).

February onwards until about April will be Audax season for me. A chance to get in some long rides (200km+) and get my money’s worth out of my winter gear.. I haven’t decided which ones to do yet (it’s not like they sell out!) but one in particular looks interesting. Scouting Mam Tor starts and finishes in Cheshire and heads into the Peak District. The climbing is pretty much done by 130km before cruising back to the start. At 207km and 2,210m of climbing it should be a decent early season challenge in a lovely part of the country.

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I will probably look to do 3 200km Audax rides, one per month from February-April.

Towards the back end of March we have a week’s holiday planned in Tenerife. Naturally this is to ride up and down the volcano, Teide. I’m hoping to get in some good training rides, enjoy the warm weather and generally relax. It is incredibly difficult to simulate riding the long mountain passes you find in mainland Europe whilst living in the UK. Whilst my strongest area on the bike (all relative of course) is climbing as a result of being fairly skinny, I still haven’t ridden that many long (45mins+) climbs. The mindset and pacing on a 15km 6-7% climb is so different from the short but double figure gradients we tend to get here.

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By May I hope the weather will be half decent (double figures ‘c would be acceptable) and the focus turns to some challenging sportives in the UK. Plenty of climbing will be the priority to make sure I am in good shape for the Alps. The Peak District is probably the best national park within a reasonable distance of where I live. I really enjoyed Wiggle’s Peak District Punisher in September and fortunately there are some good sportives in the area in May as well with very similar routes. In fact, the awkwardly named ‘Peaks Brewin Dolphin Tour Sportive’ that takes place on 14th May uses exactly the same route at 159km with a fairly punishing 2,676m of climbing. At least if I do it next year I’ve put a 30t cassette on where I had a 29t this year 😉

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The alternative to this (or maybe in addition if I am truly set on maximum suffering) is the Tour of the Peak with a ‘are you really sure you want to do this?’ 3,316m over 185km – at least according to the route I have. It takes place a week prior on May 7th.

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I hope that by June my legs are flying and I can put in a fast (for me) time on one final challenge before the Alps. My good friend Tom has suggested a sportive on 25th June in the Cotwolds that neither of us have done before. The 4Shires Sportive is organised by the North Cotwolds Cycling Club and takes place over 160km. I don’t have a route map but I’d expect it to be full of short, steep climbs and picturesque countryside!

2nd half of 2017

January to June is just the warmup.. The real riding is going to take place from July onwards!

Earlier this year I really enjoyed the few days I had in the Alps and vowed to return to do a proper trip. I didn’t have any particular event in mind as just riding up any of the iconic cols is an event in itself. However when I saw the route and all the fanfare around next year’s Etape du Tour I thought that would be a perfect focal point and a great way to end my road riding for the year. I quickly persuaded Tom to sign up and now I have 9-10 days in the Alps to look forward to. The route is really tough with a long attritional build up before the Col du Vars and finally the finish at the top of the Col d’Izoard. At 180+km and nearly 4,000m of climbing it will be tough..

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Mike Cotty of the Col Collective has done a really good preview video of the route (making it look very easy of course). Well worth a look. I am quite nervous about it as whilst I am confident enough about the final two big climbs in isolation, the preceding 100+km could be really wearing if I can’t get in a group, especially if there are headwinds.

Whilst in the Alps I want to tick off a number of the iconic climbs, in particular the Col du Galibier, Col de la Madeleine, Col de la Croix de Fer & last but not least Alpe d’Huez. There is also the small matter of the possibly result defining stage 18 of the Tour de France to watch..

As the next chapter of 2017 moves on to the mountain bike and a challenge of a totally different nature and scale, I will cover that off in a seperate post.

Photo credit: Feature image Bikepacking.com (fantastic adventure mountain biking site)

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