Wed 04 Nov 2009 22:08 GMT
At the end of October I spent a week in the UK visiting friends and family.
It's been a year since I was there last and I was amazed to see how, in 12 months, cycling still seems to be on the increase as a participation sport and as a mode of transport.
My first stop was Eastbourne to the TriStore where I was very kindly lent a bike for my own transport during my stay (thank you Sarah http://sarahlovelock.blogspot.com/). On my 18 mile trip back from the shop I was pleasantly surprised by how well UK motorists treated me. We hear so many stories to the contrary so it was nice to feel so safe and to have such a positive experience.
I'm from East Sussex but left there at 18. It was after this that I took up cycling so unusually I have never really ridden the roads and lanes of my own home county. I have surprisingly never ridden the 35 mile round trip from my former home up and over the much talked about Ditchling Beacon. Ditchling Beacon, known and dreaded by those thousands of riders who take part in the annual British Heart Foundation London to Brighton bike ride.
Making an early morning start I set off via the quiet country lanes; Isfield, Barcombe, Plumpton...Ditchling. Approaching the foot of the Beacon I had the same sensation as the first time I ever rode Alpe d'Huez; a rushing recall of all the horror stories I'd ever heard about the climb and how once I heard it called 'the green monster of the South Downs'... The climb is roughly 1km at around 12% and I have to say that it was not easy at all. After about 7 minutes I eased off anticipating the sighting of the resident ice cream van only to find that it was a false summit...on and up again... To my disappointment I was too early for a 99, the Whippy van was not yet there, I did however get the reward of an amazing view of the sunrise over the sea, beautiful.
My experience was that I found the climb very close to an Alpine ascent in terms of its unrelentless gradient, it was tough. We are very often asked by newcomers to riding in the Alps how to train for the climbs here and what to expect. Our response is that the most difficult thing to replicate when training in the UK is the sheer length of Alpine climbs. This is true of Ditchling Beacon, too short to really resemble an Alpine climb, however...hill reps on Ditchling Beacon would have you getting a good feel for the riding out here. There's an idea for all you masochists out there!