After three thoroughly enjoyable weeks here by myself, this week I have the pleasure of welcoming four friends to the area and the house for the first time: Exeter Wheelers Anthony (Ant) and Matt, Keith who (along with Ant) was one of the Paris-to-Rome riders last year, and Sue. Sue’s a long-time friend who jumped at the chance of coming down to be chef for four ravenous cyclists: she loves cooking, travelling, being with friends… and how could I refuse her offer, in these circumstances? They survived the long drive down from Devon on Sunday, so the plan for today was group food shop, followed by a walk and foodie things for Sue, and for the four riders…?
One of the pleasures of having visitors is trying to give them a good taste of the area generally, with its varied geography and roads, and satisfying rides to match or stretch abilities. I’ve got five possible rides in mind, and thanks to great weather at the moment, the first just had to be the ‘warm up’ of Col de Rousset and La-Chapelle-en-Vercors.
This was Matt’s first Alpine ascent, his previous climbing experience being mostly limited to the lumps and bumps of Devon – I think he’ll be the first to admit he didn’t quite get the pacing right today, but he’s already talking about going back up as soon as he can to have another go – that’s the way to learn.
Certainly, quite apart from fitness, it does take some experience to feel you’re able to pace longer climbs well (and it certainly helps when you know the particular hills). But my repeated observation is that you should ride these long climbs at your own pace, which should start reasonably comfortable – if that means watching riding partners forge ahead, let them. Sometimes doing that you will catch them up later in the climb, and if you don’t, they’ll happily wait for you at the top (if they are friends), and they’ll be pleased you’ve not used so much effort that you can’t enjoy the rest of the ride.
Having said that, I’m still not quite sure I’ve cracked the pacing on Col de Rousset – it’s not a hard climb in itself, but judging pacing over a variable 50 to 60-minute sustained climb I don’t find that easy.
And as for the descent… let’s just say that all three of my riding guests got a similar degree of delight from it as I do! And it reminds me how lucky I am to have this on my doorstep.