We done what we set out to do on Sunday 26th April……to cycle up Tabayesco 13 times to raise awareness for the Cycle Against Suicide campaign in Ireland. This is how our day panned out.
1.20am – Alarm goes off. I’ve been in bed since 6pm on Saturday evening. I had hoped to sleep for 7+ hours but the mind was restless. Thoughts of failure and success were equally rife all through the night. Breakfast consisted of a pot of porridge oats topped with my favourite, raspherry jam, an orange juice and coffee.
2.15am – It’s out the door. Feels very strange being up on a road bike with a back-sack. Food, tools, tubes, spare lights, 2 phones and lots of liquids. 1 solitary car is all I see between Costa Teguise and Tahiche. It feels like a proper drag with the weight on my back, although the time passes quickly when I realise I have reached the top, maybe it’s because it’s pitch dark and I can’t see it properly. I use the service road to reach Guatiza so I don’t have to deal with night time traffic. It helps the body relax and get into a rythm. It breaks momentarily as the Go-Pro comes loose. I had hoped for some footage from the day but that put an end to that.
3.10am – I commence the first climb. I only travel with the bare essentials for the climbs. The day will be hard enough. I even go without any of the gadgetry. I decided to ride on feel. It’s the fear of paying too much attention to the figures in front of you and not listening to your body enough. I’ve ridden Tabayesco no less than 30 times already in 2015 and that’s before we add 13 more today, so I know where to push and where to lay off to get the most out of the climb.
Climb 2 & 3 – Everything is going relatively smoothly. The wind is strange. It’s calmer than usual, but that is not an advantage on Tabayesco. When it blows hard, it comes over the top ridge and stays at a higher level, causing a back draft underneath which helps you up the first 6km of the climb. When it’s calmer, the wind comes straight down the climb into your face. It’s not hard but it makes the climb a little harder than normal.
Climb 4 & 5 – Really happy with how it’s going. I’m staying calm. Originally I had decided to do round trips of 52 minutes….39 up and 13 down. Every 3 climbs I was going to stop to eat. I scrapped that!
Instead, I decided to eat on the bike. Climb slower at about 44 minutes with a round trip of 57. Every time I got to the bottom, I got off the bike and took a little food from the big bag and ate it on the way up.
Was it a better decision? For me, yes.
It’s also brightening up. In Lanzarote, this happens like a light switch….it just happens in a few minutes. The descents in the dark have been a little cautious. It’s like a double edged sword. You know there isn’t a car coming around the corner, but it’s much more difficult to judge some to the turns at high speed. Sun rise is a welcome sight. More cyclists should climb this mountain at this time of day!
Climb 6 – I’ve really settled into a grove. As I’m heading down, I meet my first accomplice for the day, Alan O’Dwyer. He decides to go to the top and rejoin me as I go up on climb 7. Knowing that you’ve got company gives you a great lift.
Climb 7 – It’s like I just got a dose of adrenalin. I’m definitely climbing more economically and relaxed. I resist the temptation to go faster. It’s a great feeling getting to the half way point, just as Alan joins me.
Climb 8 & 9 – They fly by. Conversation is easy. Thoughts of those silent moments on hard training spins where everybody goes quiet on the climbs had crossed my mind. I’m well below thresehold, so it feels easy. Alan stays with me and gets a sense for the pace and the rythm almost immediately. He takes the pressure off me even more as he taps it out and I can sit in behind him for brief periods where there is head wind.
Climb 10 – I’m back on my own and I get the formula 1 moment. I look down at the rear wheel and to my horror, it’s in shreds. All it’s going to take is one small pebble or piece of pecan to blow it. Not only could the attempt be over, I have to take the descents really easy for fear of a blow-out. It’s like listening to Lewis Hamiltion being told to ease back and mind the tyres because he’s got 3 more laps before the finish……you have to finish.
A quick call and Gavin from Evolultion bikes comes to the rescue, although I have climb 11 & 12 just completed as he arrives at the top of the climb…..perfect timing!
As I completed climb 10, I started to consider the record. 16 climbs. To break it that’s 17. All of my climbs have been from the white marker at the Tabayesco sign up to the white marker at the very top, 500m beyond the restaurant. Going only as far as the restaurant is like doing chin-ups and not fully straightening your arms before you do the next chin-up :-)
Climb 11 & 12 – The thought of the record is still there. I decide that it has to be all or nothing. It’s either going to be 17 or just set out to complete the 13. I don’t want to be somewhere in between.
The pace remains constant for these 2 climbs. Mentally, I’ve been good. I thinking, 7 done, 6 to go, 8 done, 5 to go and right now it’s 11 done and 2 to go. This thought process has really kept me in a positive frame of mind……but it’s starting to get a bit lonely on the climb.
There has been cyclists on the climb from about 10am until just after 1pm. Seeing others on the road definitely keeps the tediousness of repetitions at bay. I even over-taken quiet a few on occasion. I had told myself not to get involved in the “silent” races to the top but that went out the window on climb 11.
I had just turned at the bottom when a cyclist turned in off the junction, I have 200m on him, but it closes to 100 as I reach the first hair-pin, just above Tabayesco village. Across the divide, he gives me the eye, ok, that means I was looking at him as well :-) but he gets off his saddle and pushes on. He’s definitely gaining. I get a little angry. I don’t want to be goaded into a race to the top…..after all I’ve been through for the previous 11 hours. But, I know this climb better than most. I know where to push, I know where to lay off. I know where the surface rolls slightly better.
He comes within 30 metres just before we reach the false up-hill. This famous section looks up-hill, but in fact, it’s -2% gradient. I had layed off for about a full kilometre before it. I have stayed really calm, knowing that the guy behind me was probably starting to feel that he was going to get the better of me as he was reeled me in, but I don’t want to be beaten up the climb by anybody today…..I’ve stayed out front all day and it’s not going to happen now. Just as he is about to reach me, we get to that critical point where it goes down hill. I don’t free wheel as many do. I’ve just taken 1 kilometre of recovery and I accelerate as I have done on every occasion so far today, on this section. The race is over. I see him later in the climb, 2 hair-pins below. It’s the lift I needed to keep me on track.
Climb 13 – Just as I crest climb 12. Gavin from Evolution pulls in with Lee Elliot for company. They change the tyre while I waltz into the cafe for a can of coca-cola. It’s at this point that the battery on my phone fails, that’s the end of strava for today but at least I have 2 good men for company on the last descent and the final climb.
I really enjoy the final descent down to the start before commencing the last climb. It takes something between 11 and 12 minutes. For the final climb, the lads get a sense of where I’m at almost immediately. There’s no half wheeling and anytime one of us wants to stretch the legs and get off the saddle, nobody reacts. It stays steady and after getting a few bike lengths ahead from the leg stretches I settle back to the steady pace.
It’s very jovial on the way up. I can still talk. Talk of 17 returns, but goes just as quick. I decide that I will have enough at 13……always stick to the plan. I still have to cycle home.
13 climbs done – What’s the feelin’? To do the 13 climbs, I didn’t really feel much. It was a target and I hit it. There’s always the feel good factor when a few compliments gets bandied about, of course there is!
The idea was to raise awareness for the Cycle Against Suicide campaign which takes place back in Ireland. In just a small way, I achieved that and I am very proud!
Dedicated to the memory of Dan, Dessie, Joe, Albert and PJ.
“If only someone had told you that it was OK not to feel OK, and it’s absolutely OK to ask for help, perhaps you’d still be with us” – miss you all, you are deeply missed!