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Sportive Blog: Chris Walker - What does 2013 have in store for me?

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Having done La Marmotte, the huge Alpine sportive in France last July, I think I may have lost my presence of mind. Immediately after completing it, logic and sensibility ruled the day and I swore blind I would never do it again. Two days later I was telling a completely different story...

Many (but by no means all) cyclists will tell you they enjoy climbing hill. Yeah, right. What I think they mean is “I enjoy the challenge of climbing hills”. Now this I identify with 100%. There is something really special about conquering (or at least struggling up) a stiff climb, whether it is Winnats Pass in the Peak District, Holme Moss in the Pendle Hills or Alpe d’Huez (of blessed memory).

However, in true American tourist style, I’ve “done” the Alps(!). Possibly time for a different challenge? How about Spain? I’ve done a couple of training camps, which involved a lot of climbing, and enjoyed them hugely. Besides, Spain is a country about which I know virtually nothing. I’ve been to Barcelona (which was brilliant) and the training camps were both based in Denia on the East coast. Beyond that, nada. No Benidorm booze-ups, Costa Packet sun, sea and sangria packages – my life is obviously incomplete.

Whilst on the training camps, mention was made of a Pyrenean sportive called the Bone Crusher. It sounds much nicer in Spanish – Quebrantahuesos or QBH for short. I checked it out. 205 km (128 miles) around the Pyrenees, crossing over into France, and including three big climbs – Col Du Somport, Col du Marie Blanque and the biggest one, the Col du Portalet, which is on the French/Spanish border. None of these are as big as either Galibier or Alpe d’Huez in La Marmotte, but the distance is considerably greater (Marmotte is “only” 180 km!) Just the job, I thought, as a goal for 2013.

Well, the time has come. I’ve booked a package with Train in Spain via John Fegan, who runs the aforementioned training camps who guarantee entry to QBH – it is extremely popular (there is free beer at the end, after all…..). I am still faced with the daunting prospect of booking a Ryanair flight with my precious Ribble from Stansted to Zaragoza, which does make my heart sink, so if anybody is driving down and wants to share, let me know!

OK, so that’s the main goal sorted. What else? Well, I’m in the ballot for the Ride Around London next August (and inveigled my brother to boot), but that is literally a lottery. I need a couple more at least. I did Tour of the Peak earlier this year and enjoyed that too – the B&B we stayed at was fantastic – but it is on June 2 – three weeks before QBH, but would be a good guide to my fitness. I’d also like to do the Brad Wiggins sportive again if it runs – that was in August this year – plus maybe an early and late season sportive. The Wiggle No Excuses sportive in March is local to me – might well give that a go. If the Ride with Brad doesn’t happen, I might do the Bike Blenheim through the Cotswolds. So much choice….

Oh, and by the way, following my earlier blog, I’ve now doubled my pilates efforts, attending a class twice a week. I’ve even invested in a pilates mat! Never thought I’d ever say that. Next purchase is a gym ball – hark at me!