Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Planning a big one this Friday

My folks are coming out this weekend, so I took Friday off work in order to get in a big ride before they come.  As they will be arriving around 5pm on Friday it gives me plenty of time beforehand to put some more vertical metres in the cycle training bank.

Last weekend was a fair amount of climbing - more than 2,000m.  On Friday though I will aim for more than 3,000m, especially as some of my friends training for the Marmotte also did a ride with 3,000m of vertical climbing last weekend.  It is strange to think they managed that in and around Monmouth, Wales as there are no mountains there, just hills.  But little hills add up and they must have climbed a lot of them.

The advantage of course of being near to the Alps is that 3,000 vertical metres can be achieved in 2 normal mountain passes.  And long sustained climbs give the advantage of being able to sustain a hard effort and also allow you to get used to cycling at higher altitudes where the air is thinner.  There are a lot of passes in and around Andermatt and this is where the AlpenBrevet is held, which climbs 7,000 vertical metres over the full course.  Unfortunately some of the passes are still shut due to their altitude, so it may be hard to find 2 open passes in close vicinity.

If I take the train though to the bottom of one of the passes, I can climb that and then cycle to the next pass, without it taking a whole day to complete (since I have to be back in Zürich by 5pm to meet my parents).

Monday, 2 May 2011

The passes are open, and I celebrated by climbing them

When I woke up on Saturday morning I was very pleased to check the Swiss traffic info site and find that a lot of passes had opened.  The previous week I could not find any passes in the vicinity of Zürich that were open, but most of them seem to open now (more than half).

Klausen pass is not that near to Zürich, but with a height of 1,952m it gives a pretty decent amount of hill training practise.  It separates the cantons of Uri and Glarus and the climb starts from the town of Altdorf and then climbs steadily for 22km or so.

I set off around 11am, which was a bit later than I planned, but I wanted to have breakfast with Anny before leaving and neither of us felt like getting up early.  Instead of going the easiest way possible to Schwyz, I wanted to go via Einsideln, which adds some extra vertical metres to the ride.  The ride up to Einsideln was extremely easy and I was soon descending into Schwyz.  I wasn't too sure where I was going once I got into Schwyz, but the route looked vaguely familiar from last year, and I followed my instincts which turned out to be correct.

From Schwyz the route heads along the lake towards Altdorf, marking the start of the climb.  It has wonderful views if not a little airy at times looking at the lake several hundred metres below.  You wouldn't really want to crash into the barrier and go flying over the top of it, as that might be the last ride you would take, but it isn't that likely either.

After passing Altdorf I took it nice and slow as this was my largest climb so far of 2011, and only my 5th bike ride of the year.  As the climb went on I started to suffer.  I am not yet fully bike fit for the Marmotte and my legs were starting to get tired about half way through the climb.  The last 10km I found pretty hard and there was a mountain biker who I passed but then we seemed to be playing cat and mouse till near the top.  He was clearly doing better than me physically, but using lower gears than I had available and so crawling along slower than I could possibly go whilst still pedalling.  I stopped a couple of times in the last few kilometres, one time to put on warmer clothes as there was still snow at the top, and by the time I got to the Hotel Klausen Passhöhe 100m below the summit I decided that was enough.

I filled myself up on chips and rösti, ice cream, water, coffee and orange juice and then started the descent to Altdorf.  I was very glad I had been sensible enough to take a long sleeved top and windproof jacket in my rucksack, as on several occasions in the past I was caught out at the top of the passes by bad weather and by the time I got to the bottom with wind and rain blowing over me for close to an hour I was sometimes actually hypothermic.  You may think I am exaggerating but on those occasions the second I got home I had to take a hot shower then crawl into my bed covered in blankets and stay there shivering for 10 hours or more before I felt warm again.

On this occasion, although it was raining, with my 2 tops and then a windproof jacket on top I was only slightly chilly on the descent.  My hands were rather cold though, the fingerless gloves not really offering enough warmth.  I started the descent cautiously because of the wet roads, but once the rain stopped and the road became dry lower down the pass I got into the full swing of descending and it was a really enjoyable descent.  I consider myself a reasonable descender - I sometimes go quite fast but I am certainly not wreckless and consider myself to be in control at all times.  One or two of my friends go faster but I don't think they could really stop if they needed to, and I really don't think it is worth it for the sake of an extra 5-10km/h.  If they have an accident and don't end up killing themselves, they will be suffering for months with half of their skin left behind on the road.

The total distance covered on the ride was around 118km with 2,234m of vertical climbing.  I took my Garmin with me, but it ran out half way up the pass so I have had to calculate the previous figure with the help of my friend Google maps.

In addition to my Saturday ride I also went for a nice quick spin on Thursday lunchtime, covering 24.05km in 49 minutes 51 seconds.