Third Climb’s a Charm

With over 4000 meters of elevation, I was starting to enjoy the tough battles up the ascents of the Swiss Alps. The Sunday, which was to be the official first day of the Sufferfest National Training Camp, would be another day of battles.

Over night National Coach, Sir Neal Henderson had arrived in Aigle. We were surprised to find that we have voluntarily punished ourselves on the climbs in the past days running up to the camp. Yes, we are Sufferlandrians.

We were all feeling vibrant, so we decided to tackle one of the UCI’s favorite climbs. It’s not a favorite because it appears in the grand tours, or holds historic significance, rather this is the climb that the athletes and staff of the UCI’s World Cycling Center most frequently tackle in their own programs. Word has it, a young Kenyan athlete by the name of C. Froome, who is training at the World Cycling Centre, could often been found on this ascent. The climb is known at Torgon, a 600 meter elevation gain over a ten kilometer distance.

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On today’s ride, David, Braith, and Neal joined me. Jared also came with us, but was still chasing his elusive shoes. So I lent him my Giro Empires.

The initial few kilometers of the climb are punishing. It ramps up over 10% on the push out of Vionnaz. Braith set the pace again, as he raced up towards the switchbacks. Knowing my legs were needed for the training camp ahead that week, I paced myself, filling my head with images and checklists from Sufferfest’s Elements of Style, form, and rhythm was going to get me through this climb.

There is something surreal about driving your legs up a climb, elevating you over the stunning valley below, surrounded by the sound of cow bells. It makes the severe punishment of your body seem ‘peaceful’. But as you focus on the effort, it’s hard to remind yourself to take the time to enjoy the moment, and enjoy the view.

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Switchbacks provide somewhat a motivating structure to the climb, as you watch the layers of road grow in numbers below you. Starting at one, then two, then ten. They act as a reminder of how far you’ve already come.

Just under 9km into the climb the road flattens out at a church, a false summit before a small rough descent and then back up the final kilometre into Torgon. This was where Neal and David waited, while Jared and Braith elected to explore further up the road.

David & Neal at Torgon
David & Neal at Torgon

The summit was above the clouds that day, making for a magical setting as we awaited Jared and Braith’s return. I got a chance to get to know Neal more, a great guy with a wealth of experience in sports science and coaching. He coached the Team USA in Women’s Track Cycling, and even Rohan Dennis for his Hour Record, riding at the Velodrome Suisse in Grenchen, Switzerland. The Australian covered a provisional distance of 52.491km, to add 639m to the hour previous mark. I knew this camp was going to dramatically improve my cycling, this just raised the bar.

For the descent, I had strapped on my GoPro with the aim of filming the team down the rapid descent. Little did I know, Jared, Braith and Neal are awesome descenders, and I had no chance of keeping them in view. Descending takes practice, and Singapore offers almost zero chances to practice decent skills. So, I was the slowest down the mountain. But it did make for some great footage. You can watch the descent in the video at the bottom of the post.

For the rest of the Sunday, Sufferlandrians from all over the world arrived before grouping for a welcome ride in the afternoon. For those of us that had been riding the past few days, we elected for a quiet afternoon in the hotel. A big week lay ahead of us. We were going to need fresh legs.

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