So following on from Aldo's suggestion that I ride the queen stage of the Giro on behalf of BG, I say no, but I did go for a little ride recently. Aldo also asked if I could share the story, so here goes...
Many of you know I have been raising money for, and riding, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation One Ride for the last few years. This year, for some reason, the ride got moved from January to May and conflicted with taking my daughter to the Disney World. Having already raised money, I needed a substitute ride. So, after some research, I stopped off in Maui on the way home to ride the Haleakala, a dormant volcano that takes you from sea level to an elevation of 10,023 feet (or 3.055 metres for those of us that like metric).
The route is 57 kilometres, at around 5.5% gradient, so it is really just like doing Norton Summit ten times. Or so I thought....
Decked out with a almost brand new Specialized Roubaix with a compact and 32 teeth on the cassette, and having polished off a McMuffin and hash brown, I set out from the town of Paia just after 6 am, when it was 27 degrees and 65 percent humidity. Here's my cocky selfie at the start thinking, well, how hard can it be???
Climbing through fields of sugarcane, past WWII military cemeteries all seemed pretty easy. Shortly, after a stop for food in the town of Makawao about 15km in, I was treated to the entire 28 vertical metres of decent (seriously, that is all the decent for the whole ride) where I managed to crack 40 km/h... Woot!
By 20 km in and at about 900 vm, the view opened up, and was starting to look nice.
Looking down was the best idea, because the summit didn't seem to be getting any closer. At 22 km, a series of somewhere between 20 and 30 switchbacks (I lost count) over 12km, taking you from around 950 metres to around 1800 metres started. The gradient kicked up too, and for some reason unknown to man, the corners were ridiculously over cambered. As I had been warned, it is during this period, it gets hard, and your brain starts to mess with you. Those 'it wouldn't be that bad if I didn't make it to the top' thoughts start... At around 1500 metres, and 30km in, you emerge from the trees, and the summit is right there, only 1500 metres above you.
She is still looking really nice, here at around 1900 metres and 37km in.
It's struggle street by this stage, but at around 40km and 2000 metres two riders catch me. A very talkative Maui local, named Brian, explains to me that today he was only riding to the national park entrance, because he is tight with his money and only rides to the summit once a week (it costs $10 to get in). The other rider, from California, having seen my bulging pockets asks if I have any spare food. I give him a couple of gels and a couple of bars and he offers to sherpa me to at least 2700 metres. He keeps his end of the bargain and I hope he wasn't shooting for a time up the hill, because I clearly slowed him down, a lot.
Riding with someone else helped, and the road flattened out, so getting up to 2700 metres went fairly well. The bad news was that, by then, Hypoxia had well and truly kicked in. From 2700 metres to the summit, a distance of 3.5km, I took 30 minutes at a grand average of 7 km an hour. I had to stop around every 400-500 metres for about 60 seconds to gulp down some air and try and find some oxygen within it.
Just to finish of, with around 1.5 km to go, I'm in fog, and the rain starts. Then, as if that wasn't enough, just to tell you you're almost at the top, there is 300 metres at a cramp inducing 12-15%.
Five hours and fifty-four minutes later, I was there. Mike Woods needn't have worried about his KOM...
No speccy photos from 3055 metres, as visibility was down to around 50 metres, so here's me in lycra again. It's a bit like the moon up there anyway.
I didn't ride back down, as (a) you all know how shite I am at descending, (b) it was raining, and (c) the brake levers were the wrong way around (a bit like the side of the road you drive on, the direction you flick light switches and the direction keys rotate in locks).
It was the most amazing ride I have done, and if you like hills, must be on your bicycle bucket list.