I was panicking at the dinner table the evening before our inaugural 3 Peaks Challenge: “I just think the ride is too hard. I’m not sure how many will actually finish tomorrow”. The following morning we were set to cover 166 km and climb over 3,000 m, courtesy of the slopes of Els Angels, Mare de Deu del Mont and Rocacorba.
It’s not like I hadn’t tried the ride myself. When Nicole Millar asked me on our TV interview , “so have you ever completed the challenge?” I was forced to admit that I had failed twice. A little embarrassing when organising an event for 25 people who would attempt it!
Morning came and with it drizzly grey skies. I feared the worse and that nobody would show. But when I rolled up to the shop I was met with a crowd of smiling, slightly nervous looking cyclists, dressed for battle in their winter gear. An anxious pre-ride photo followed and we hit the road to Els Angels. As we climbed the drizzle stopped, things were looking up.
The route was incredible. We descended Els Angels, 1 out of 3 peaks conquered, and set our sights to the snowy peaks in the distance – Mare de Deu del Mont & Rocacorba were waiting. I was half in awe and half c******* my pants at the thought of getting up both of them! Mare de Deu del Mont is at least an hour of lung-busting hard work but the epic view at the top makes it worth while, not least because you can see Rocacorba waiting on the horizon.
After peak number 2 (and a fair amount of sandwiches, crisps, coke, chocolate, sweets etc) a careful descent to Besalu followed with the group mostly in tact (one had glimpsed the cloudy peak of Mare de Deu del Mont and turned for home, another was in the broom wagon saving himself for Rocacorba, and another had fallen foul to back trouble) (but otherwise all were ok!) We were on the home straight and the sun was shining. Just 13 kms of up remained: Rocacorba was the final challenge, and the part of the ride I had always failed at (twice).
Silence descended on the group during the flat stretch to the final climb. We’d lost another rider to a bar in Banyoles, the lure of coffee too great to tempt him uphill one last time. Only the most determined remained and the strongest were about to battle it out to win the coveted prize of an Eat Sleep Cycle mug (now there’s a prize worth risking cramp for). For most of us though, it was just about making it through the steep sections (and yes, there were some wobbly moments as people hauled their smallest gears over).
So with heavy legs and aching bodies when we reached the crest of Rocacorba, the third and final mountain of the day, the feeling of achievement was huge. I was thrilled that so many of the group had made it and I was also very proud of myself!
Individually we arrived, haven given our all on that monster of a climb. Each of us went through our own suffering and went to that place we love to hate. Then at the top, the camaraderie between the group, who had only met 7 hours earlier, was amazing with cheering and congratulating as each rider arrived. We waited for every single rider to make it to the top; those who went deepest arriving last and receiving the biggest applause.
Rolling, painful miles home followed, and we rewarded our efforts with an essential beer at Placa de Vi. We presented jerseys to the two riders who had made the most heroic efforts to complete the course, we awarded the Eat Sleep Cycle mug to the fastest climber and we toasted to a successful, truly epic day.
A huge thank you to everyone who supported our first Eat Sleep Cycle Challenge Ride. You are champions. See you at the next one – we already planned it, watch this space for The Valter Slayer. Just a bit more climbing, just a few more km’s… Here’s to Rule 5.