Maybe I should have seen it as a sign. I promised myself that I'd not race the same discipline consecutively and here I was in the car heading back up to Hillingdon for another Road Race. I'm hooked and it took a closed off motorway to put paid to my plans. Turning the car around I felt disappointed and wondered what kind of ride back in Brighton would make up for this loss.
Despite keen for a road race I couldn't summon the enthusiasm for a road ride strangely. The KM810 was still feeling the pain of the Brass Monkey race so was a no go. Then I remembered a cyclocross ride I did a few years ago. One I call 'The Three Peaks'. No not that Three Peaks. This is far easier, not to mention shorter, but the three climbs involved really take it out of the legs still.
Heading out into the Downs cutting through the slop I felt like I had chosen the right option. I was loving the 'cross bike and it's perfect adaptation to the pure filth of winter. Reaching the base of the first climb I instantly clicked straight the way through all the gears to the easiest one. I know full well what was coming. All three of these climbs ascends the north face of the South Downs right next to Ditchling Beacon, so they're steep.
Peak One – Plumpton
This ramps up straight away and the constantly rutted texture (imagine a tractor leaving an imprint in wet cement) tries to slow you down with each pedal stroke. A momentary break before it ramps up harshly once again. There are no corners as such on this climb. It's just straight up more or less. Like a ladder reaching for the top of the Downs.
As you begin to see the summit the surface deteriates further until the wheels are scrabbling to find grip as you scrabble to find a smooth line. The final nail in the coffin is the cruel headwind as you grovel the last 50 metres.
Peak Two – Streat
This is a narrow private tarmac climb. As such and due to lack of traffic the surface is mossy and slippery. It starts sedately and takes in a few turns before steepening up just before a glorious hairpin left hand bend. Stick to the apex and you're welcomed by a super steep gradient. Carrying your speed is a must. After this leg stinging effort you're afforded a moment to regain your rhythm before the road once again heads skyward. The cruelest part of this climb is yet to come. The gradient increases significantly as you head to the summit, although only it isn't.
A right hand corner reveals yet more as the gradient increases and it is all you can do to keep the wheels moving, stand up and the rear wheel slips, sit down and your thighs scream out.
Peak Three – Ditchling
Ditchling Beacon, the final peak is the classic road climb. The excellent book A 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs rates this 6 out of 10. This climb is longer but mellower than the other two, which shows just how fierce they are, but its constant short steep pinches sap the energy out of the legs. It's a corker of a climb and one to enjoy though as it wiggles it's way up the face of the Downs, treating you to a wonderful false summit before it heads inwards and upwards once more. Passing the now illegible Pantani sign on the tarmac the legs and lungs are working full bore.
Cresting the final Peak into the afternoon low winter sun I decided to reward myself to some Stanmer Park singletrack on the way home and the legs are feeling the tough love this evening. This southern micro Three Peaks is short, sharp and a real cracker.
Posted via email from Oli Pepper