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Road to Ventoux: poetry in motion [Apr. 13th, 2009|10:40 pm]
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This weekend I have toiled to the top of an exposed Ditchling Beacon swathed in thick fog but without a breath of wind - an eerie sight; I have pedalled up on to the Ashdown Forest to find it ablaze a million yellow gorse flowers; I have waved at bemused cows grazing at the foot of Toy's Hill, a climb that ought to be child's play but isn't. I've passed banks of bluebells, endless rows of daffodils and beautifully tended gardens. Hours of exertion but without a word - just the reassuring sound of a whirring chain and the rumble of tyres on Tarmac. I'm struggling, with aching thighs, stinging eyes and a brain that wants to go to bed, to express it artfully but, at its best, cycling is poetry, isn't it?

I'm just back from three days in Sussex, where my family had gathered for Easter. With Independent teammates spread across the country, it was left to each of us to snatch vital etape training miles between plonk-drinking, egg-eating and small-talk. My weekend of lone cycling kicked off with a rain-soaked, 34-mile sprint through Kent before I drove with the bike down to North Chailey, near Lewes.

Sunday morning took me south on sodden roads and up Ditchling Beacon, where last Month's Puncheur had finished. I carried on over this time towards Brighton, before pedalling back up and on to a big loop back to base. Forty-five miles in the bag before lunch.

The biggest ride came this morning, when I headed north through Fletching and Nutley before crossing the Ashdown Forest en route to Toy's Hill, a long, draggy climb that rears up cruelly at the top. The reward: a winding descent down to Brasted. Then left to Westerham and back up Hosey Hill before pedalling south through Edenbridge and Hartfield. Sixty-three miles (100km) with a lot of climbing in 3h45m, not including a couple of stops.

I felt reasonably strong but there's no doubt we have a lot to do to be fit for Ventoux. It's back on the commute tomorrow before a week of holiday where I'll replace wheels for skis. When I get back there'll be less than three months till the big day. Time to get serious. It would be nice to have the energy to raise our heavy heads to appreciate the wilds of Provence. It's hard to find poetry if all you're looking at is sweaty handlebars and brake levers.