This week Charles seized the opportunity to ride up the highest paved road in Europe in order to investigate the effects of low oxygen at altitude on muscle physiology and to test his legs out for a forthcoming cycling attempt. He and a local physiotherapist colleague, James Creasey, set off from Granada to ride up to 3400 metres in the Sierra Nevada in Spain on some hire bikes with 50kms of uphill, starting at 700 metres of altitude and going all the way to the top.
It was perfect conditions and a nice steady day of climbing and despite the heavy hire bike, it was actually not too challenging. Really frustratingly, despite some spectacular views, up at 2500 metres, there was still a lot of snow on the roads and despite walking through a few snowdrifts, Charles finally had to turn back at 2800 metres where the snow completely covered the remainder of the road. This means there is some unfinished business and he will have to go back in high summer.
The oxygen up at 2800 metres was probably about 20% less than at sea level and it was quite noticeable in terms of the power dropping off but wasn’t too uncomfortable. Overall, it’s been really good preparation for an attempt on the longest day of the year, to ride the height of Everest in one day, doing six ascents of the epic Mont Ventoux.