Yesterday Charles succeeded in completing the Bicingles challenge in a little over 14 and a half hours. That was up more than 9000 metres and down the same covering over 270km.
It was a really quick time and Charles was very grateful for the support from Jon Fearne from Sportive Breaks who looked after him all day having fresh bottles ready at the summit each time and even driving the van down the first wet descent as it was too fast for Charles to ride down at 40mph in the cold dark and wet without something to follow. Jon is a very high achiever with some exciting plans on a bike ride up at 8000m - good luck Jon! It was really great to have his support. He took some great photos too.
Here is a bit of coverage from Jon:
Without doubt is was very tough physically and mentally.
Things that went well were:
The time: Charles actually found the uphill pretty ok. He went much faster than either he or Jon (always good to surprise a pro cyclist in your times) had expected often staying above 1000m of vertical gain per hour. This meant that he needed less food and less drink than planned because he got the job done 4 hours faster than expected.
Food: The feeding strategy of eating 100-200 calories every 20 mins or so while climbing and another 200 calories at the top before each descent.
The bike: Charles used super light wheels (tune skyliner) with skinny light tyres to keep the bike (a Pinarello F8) under 6kg and used a really low 1:1 gear ratio to avoid ever really stressing his muscles in terms of force generation.
Drink: Taking on 500ml at the top, but only 600ml for each climb (to keep the weight down). This might be why the climbing was not so bad. Charles used Tailwind for his drinks on the advice of his ultrarunner knee fellow Pavel Tesar - thanks Pavel!
Shoes: Doing a shoe change half way through to give the feet a different feel helped. Charles used shoes with a different stack height which just changed the bike geometry enough to change the stress on his back for the third climb, which helped a bit too.
Kit: Having old flappy jackets to ride down in then throw away at the bottom helped with the chill and also keeping the speed down (see below). Charles had brought some kit changes, but as it happens, he didn’t feel the need to expose himself at the top of the mountain!
Logistics: Having some disposable ‘power hit’ chargers for the bike computer. It would not have lasted and not recorded the event otherwise! Also, the planning of which order to ride climbs in (there are 3 roads up each to be done twice), worked well as there were a few other events on the mountain and Charles wanted to keep out of the traffic.
Things that challenged more than anticipated were:
Numbness - humans are not meant to be on a bike that long! Hands and feet went very numb and are still recovering 24 hours later from some nerve swelling.
Cold - the first descent at 4:45 was really cold. Charles put on a down jacket and a second pair of gloves but still got a bit hypothermic in the cold rain and wind chill. Uncontrollable shivering at 40mph down a mountain was not great. Even the second descent was bad, which makes good relaxed bike handling tricky.
Postural muscles: There were times when the back was pretty unhappy, and certainly afterward it was wrecked. Whilst Charles has been prepared his legs heart and lungs for many months, perhaps some more thought to core stabilisers and postural muscles would have helped.
Descending: It is hard to practice descending in the UK. Climbing can be well simulated on a turbo trainer, but long steep descents simply can’t. The descents were long (up to 30mins) fast (70kmph) and cold (7 degrees) and steep (-20% in places). It took a while to get comfortable descending on new wheels and brakes, and it was hard work staying in the drops and working the brakes for 30 mins solid.
Overall a satisfying achievement which goes to show that just like in surgery, with careful planning, the right support and some good old fashioned hard work, great results can be attained!