Great Hill in the sunshine.

I haven’t ridden my mountain bike since last weekend but I did get some good exercise launching my newly built pedal powered boat on Wednesday. Today, though, I wanted to get a good training ride in with plenty of climbing. I covered 15.14 miles with 1,521 feet of ascent. I always think that 100 feet of climbing or more per mile makes it a hilly route. After all, half the ride will be climbing whilst half will be descending, so the average climbing gradient, with 5,280 feet per mile, will be 1 in 26.4! If half the route is level then the average climb is 1 in 13.2, which is starting to get steep. Mountain biking is never so predictable and gradients vary, often being far steeper than the figures above. To ride such a trail you need the ability to work very hard at times then to recover on the less arduous parts. This was just the type of training I wanted to do today, to improve my mid ride recovery.

The only way to train for recovery is to exhaust myself first, which was never going to be a problem climbing Great Hill. I rode the undulating route from home to White Coppice and deliberately chose a steep climb when I could have used a longer but easier one. I then took the tough, technical side of the river to Brinscall Woods where I again failed at the hardest step up. I think the movement of rocks has made it harder but I’m convinced that it’s still possible. Once at the woods the climbing begins in earnest.

I kept the pace comfortable on the long ascent. The woodland fire road is steep but looking at my time it was OK by recent standards though certainly slower than I would have expected a couple of years ago. I used a steep option again to the top of the woods and didn’t rest at all on the climb to the top of Great Hill. Apparently this is important when training for recovery. To ride continuously rather than having rest breaks. Towards the top I was feeling good. On my last attempt here I’d had a loose component rubbing and needing me to use all my power, which had exhausted me. This time was much easier. I stopped on top, with about 20 other people, though no other bikes. I chatted to a lad who was doing a 3 day hike and had my picture taken by him.

I liked the climb but now had the best descent I know ahead of me and I started to work hard straight away. The trail conditions were nice and dry, making it quick. I pushed myself on the open, hard packed dirt road and after this the riding gets better and better. It was a joy to push the bike hard into the turns, reaching the limit of grip several times. Unfortunately on the lower section I was concentrating so hard on speed that I lost my way! Pity as I’m sure that I could have recorded a spectacular time on the Stava segment called “Better than going straight down”.

I rode along the river bank, still working hard and buzzing from the fabulous downhill. Climbing back over Healey Nab I was really starting to feel the effort but tried not to slow . I was able to advise a couple on E bikes on the route down the hill. They’d been having a heated discussion on the subject. On the open section after the woods I let it go and recorded the second fastest time ever on the segment “Over the fields”. Faster than all but one of the 924 riders.

What a fantastic ride.

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