Covid climbing

Photo: The thousand metre marker on the way up Monte Nerone.

I’m getting nervous.

In a week’s time I start the Alpi4000, the toughest audax I will have undertaken. 1,400km in 150 hours isn’t the problem. It’s the 23,500m of climbing (2.6 times the height of Everest) that has been nagging away in the back of my mind for the last few weeks.

My training plan included Sicilia No Stop, to put some endurance into the legs, a bit of recovery, followed by three weeks of mountain rides to get my climbing legs prepared.

That didn’t happen. Covid did. Nothing serious but quarantine for 10 days followed by continued coughing and spluttering and feeling really drained completely screwed my plan.

Only last week was I able to get some climbing in. Tuesday was Monte Petrano, an 814m climb over 10km. Not my fastest time, but not my slowest either so that was a good start. It took a lot out of me though and I slept all afternoon and rested the next day.

Thursday was the big test. Monte Nerone, then Monte Catria.

As I wrote on Strava:

There was method in my madness. Stage 1 of Alpi4000 is 74km with 2,480m of climbing in a time limit of 8 hours 50 minutes. At 74km on today’s ride I’d climbed 2,447km in a time of 6 hours 20 minutes, so I should be able to bank an hour or two on Stage 1. That will set me up nicely for Stage 2 which is 122km and downhill from the Mortirolo and flat thereafter. That’s why I climbed two mountains in the stupid heat today.

Monte Nerone wasn’t too bad, but Monte Catria was a struggle. It had been cooler up Nerone, but climbing Catria with no breeze in 33° took it’s toll. It wasn’t helped by a continual “eek eek ” sound from my rear derailleur which caused me to stop multiple times to try and fix it. I never did. I was exhausted by the time I got to the summit.

Getting down Monte Catria proved to be a challenge. The descent was blocked by a herd of cattle. They had calves with them so I couldn’t just ride through them as they may have seen me as a threat and charge me.

I followed them for about 15 minutes waiting for a sufficient gap to open up and took my chance and sped through the split herd. Next up was some gravel to help me prepare for the7km section of no tarmac on Passo Fenestre.

I know it’s going to be tough and I suspect thoughts of not finishing will cross my mind several times.

This week I’ll prepare my bike, go over my plan, consider what problems I might face and what I’ll do about them. As I can’t condition my body much more then my focus will be conditioning my mind.

Here’s the challenge (the big climbs shown in red boxes).

Here’s my plan:

Starting at 06:00 Saturday 25th June I’ve got until 12:00 Friday 1st July to complete the course. My plan is to complete the final stage, Passo dello Stelvio before midnight on Thursday 30th June, leaving the 12 hours in July for contingencies. I’ve booked a hotel for the Thursday night so I hope I get to use it.

I really don’t know if this is a realistic plan as my body won’t be in the shape I hoped it would be. My mind will be ready. I hope that’s enough.


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