When you travel around Sydney on a bicycle, you suddenly start to realise that very few roads are actually flat at all. However light your fancy road bike, suddenly every rise and fall in the route is amplified. Travelling up hill remains my biggest challenge both physically and mentally.
Over a few weeks of training I’ve gained some confidence in my ability to make it, however slowly, to the top of most hills – clip in shoes are a definite help here despite being a serious barrier to my previous hill climbing strategy of just getting off and walking.
On my first proper group ride I was consistently confused by the call of “pinch coming up”, followed by a rise in the terrain and the associated dropping down through the gears and shortening of breath. I relaxed a little when no one behind me actually used an old fashioned finger pinch to encourage me up the hill faster, but given I couldn’t speak after the climb I kept forgetting to ask for an explanation. On reviewing my Strava feed later, I could see numerous sections labelled as “Pinch” – I was intrigued. (For those not familiar with Strava, it’s social media for cyclists, perhaps a subject of a future blog!).
I eventually summoned up the courage to ask a riding buddy what a pinch was. The explanation was simple – it’s the psychological trick cyclists use of not referring to a hill as such unless it is truly worthy of the label. A Pinch is something you must simply power up and absolutely not complain about.
Armed with this knowledge and approach, I recently completed my first ride of over 100kms. As I reflected on this achievement, I took some time to ponder some of the reasons I’ve undertaken this Westpac Tour 200 challenge. Starting with the funerals I wish I had never been to.
The mother of my son’s friend at childcare who lost her battle with breast cancer in her 30s. The father of a family with boys the same ages as mine who died from melanoma in his early 40s. The amazing woman who would have been my sister-in-law now if she hadn’t been taken at the age of 39 by ovarian cancer. The friend who undertook radical surgery and treatment to survive many years longer than predicted to just see his son reach 17 years old.
When I think of these people I find both inspiration in their approach to their situations and frustration that an answer could not be found – I want to feel that I can do something, however small, to prevent this happening to someone else.
The work of Tour De Cure and similar organisations is vital in funding initiatives and research to support cancer patients, their loved ones and work towards better treatments and research, as well as raising awareness in the community of how getting fit and staying healthy can help prevent many cancers. I have an opportunity to make a difference, simply by putting some time aside to train, enduring some physical pain and fundraising through my network of friends, family and business contacts.
Those fighting cancer have hills and mountains to climb step by step every day. I have a small, insignificant pinch of 300kms to power up which can make a difference.
I’m looking for 100 people with $100 each to support me as I ride – thank you to those who’ve helped me get 20% of the way there with 7 weeks to go! I’m sure there are at least 80 more of you out there, so please donate what you can to my fundraising page here and follow this blog to track my progress.
Ride safe everyone and keep those EyesUp!