Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I was tooling around YouTube the other day and watching people climb Mt. Ventoux, including some geriatrics who don't just look like they wear diapers inside their bike shorts, like the rest of us do.

Yeah, I'll get that little dig in, because those old farts really can kick my ass uphill. One guy looked about 80 or 100 and he did hill repeats on Ventoux -- climbed it back to back. Another old turd had panniers hanging on the side of a bike that looked as old as me.

Videos, as we know, tend to flatten things out. Sometimes -- especially on MTB vids -- you literally can't tell whether the trail is uphill or downhill. Much of the footage of Ventoux must bve like that, because you watch it and think, "That doesn't look so beastly."

So while I was looking at women close to my mother's age smirk at the camera atop Ventoux when they should be in wheelchairs, I started thinking, "Maybe a fatass crit rat like me could make it up there."

Now, it's no secret that I don't like climbing. My lightweight friends who are actually pretty committed to this sport that I disrespect do not understand why it is that I disdain being humiliated and hurt. But I think some of them have had so many bad relationships that they believe pain and subjugation are states of normalcy, so cycling fits their frame of reference, except without the priest, or the guy up the street 30 years ago who gave out the free Hardy Boys books to hardy boys who'd watch special movies with him.

Nonetheless, I do still go out to climb as much as I can, because everyone who has a keyboard and a bike writes ad nauseum that climbing will get you in shape like nothing else. Maybe they haven't seen me climb. I'm not sure how my form is supposed to improve from rolling backward, then falling over on my side and letting loose a stream of urine onto myself, like a dog that just got hit by a car. But it must have some benefit, because that's what they write and I believe everything I read.

So today, I went out at lunch with very little time to ride and decided to make it hurt -- er, count. I rode down into the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation, then headed southeast to Granger Road. There I turned left up one of the most awful short hills around, suffering from the delusion that I'd do some repeats up it.

The idea of going up it again started to fade somewhere around the halfway point up. As the cars and trucks whizzed by, I felt exceptionally slow and weak. I thought of the guy who was climbing the same hill last year and got hit by a car and died, and for just a moment, I thought he was a lucky bastard.

Still, after I got back to the bottom, I turned around and started back up again, like an idiot. This time I didn't make the top. I've never managed more than two trips up that hill, but now I couldn't even do that.

So I started back north and turned up Warner Road -- not nearly as steep, but still a good half-mile climb. Then I went up and down E. 71st (short, not terribly steep) and E. 49th (ditto, but seriously fouled-up pavement), flying up the road like ... a penguin.

By the time I got back to my car, I'd ridden 50 minutes of my lunch "hour" and had to call it quits. I looked down at the odometer. Ten miles, it said. Even I could do that math in my head: Including 35- and 44-mph downhill plunges, I'd averaged all of 11 miles an hour.

Maybe the day will come when that will be a fairly easy 45-minute lunchtime workout. But that will probably have to wait for the afterlife. If only I could get creamed by a teenaged driver on Granger ... the lucky dog.

As for Ventoux: It would be akin to doing all four of those hills back to back about three times, with no descents in between. And maybe with an Oak Hill stretch or two thrown in.

Judging by the look of those old farts, I have a little time to prepare. But I have a feeling that ascent would be a one-way trip. I'd climb like Homer Simpson and then do a Tom Simpson.

- JN

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