The season has been slow to start, as I’ve said before, but it’s coming along. Still, I’m 5 kg heavier than I was at Haute Route (I blame 2 of them on Le Shanghai all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, but that’s another story) and not feeling that sprightly yet. So it is with some satisfaction that I tell you this short tale of a climb I did last week.
I was out for a 1.5 hour ride in the afternoon, descending gently down from the hamlet of Vic, when a cyclist glides past. This, unlike any Saturday or Sunday morning in this area, is odd. Mid-afternoon, even in the south of France, means most people who can afford road bikes are working. I let him go. He seemed like a nice guy.
At the bottom of the hill he turned right, which could only mean one thing: he was going back to Nîmes up ‘my’ climb (3 km). Suddenly I became interested in this guy and a story between us began to unfold. I kept my distance behind him on the approach to the climb, sizing him up as best I could (looks good on the bike, big calves, wonky pedal stroke), while questioning my conditioning and cursing those 5 extra kilograms.
As soon as the climb started I saw that I had nothing to worry about; he slowed noticeably and I passed him easily. Then I heard it: his squeaking chainring. I have rarely passed a fellow cyclist in France who has not tried to latch onto my wheel. It’s a mystery to me why this is, but I’m new to this game so maybe it’s the same the world over.
Anyway, the squeaky crank caught up to me and, whether I wanted it or not, the game was on. I picked up the pace, trying not to let him know I was aware of his presence and, obviously, that I was starting to hurt. After a kilometer or so of this it became apparent that he was in better shape than he showed at the start of the climb and I was now nearing ‘red’. What can you do in this situation? Exactly, cross that line into the red and hope he didn’t do 15,000 km last year like you did. At 2 km he was still there, even getting closer, I thought. I shifted down 2 gears and stood on the pedals, breathing hard enough to muffle all squeaks…or maybe, maybe, he had dropped off? I sat back down, perked up my ears and heard….beautiful, glorious silence. He was gone and I hauled my 70 kg to the top of the climb, still not daring to look back. I felt like a god.
I am guessing you, dear reader, have lived this drama once or twice in your own mind. If you haven’t, and I’m the only one, I shall seek professional help immediately.