“Shut up legs! Do what I tell you to do!”
Following a discussion in the pub with a fellow cyclist about climbs that have defeated us, the Whiteleaf climb being the most talked about climb, I came up with a challenge for myself. To take on the Whiteleaf climb.
Having a look at Google Maps also showed that this climb led to onto the Kop Hill, which having been at a school nearby, I already knew was a challenge in itself. Why not take on both climbs?
The climb itself is around 7 miles away, so I set off to experience the 23rd hardest climb in the UK. Admittedly I was unsure what to expect from the climb as I hadn’t done much researching into the climb other than looking at the Strava segment for the climb. All I knew was, if it was the 23rd hardest, it was going to be a tough climb. At a distance of 0.8 miles with an average gradient of 10% and a maximum of 20%.
The ride to the climb was quick and easy, trying not to expend much energy before I reached the foot of the hill. 25 minutes after I set off, I had arrived feeling quite nervous about what I was about to experience but at the same time quite excited, following in the footsteps (or tyre tracks) of some of the worlds best professional cyclists as the 2014 tour of Britain took them up the Kop Hill. A stop off at the foot to compose myself and make sure I was ready and off I went. The weather made for good climbing conditions, light breeze and middling temperatures.
The run up to the climb was very gentle, nothing too serious but just getting ready for what was about to begin. Change down the lower chain ring and find a good rhythm was the only way I was going to get through it. First half of the climb goes by still nothing too stressful, nothing I haven’t experienced before, then, the gradient kicks up to around 22% gradient. Then 27%! Pulling myself out of the saddle I keep the rhythm as much as I possibly could, by this point the lactic acid is building up and the burn is starting to be felt however, the only way is up. Once I dragged myself over the top I knew that was the worst over and done with. Or so I thought at least as there was still one more section to get through which wasn’t as tough but still took some effort to get over but I knew that this was the final push before I would finally reach the summit.
At the top I pulled over into a car park to take a quick rest and recover some energy before before heading down and then back up Kop Hill. A short five minute break was all I needed before I was back in the saddle heading for the descent down Kop Hill which in itself provided a decent rest, get down on the drops and relax. After reaching the bottom it was a quick look back up from where I had just been and I was off again finding the right rhythm and ignoring the pain that was coming from my legs. As Jens Voigt once said “Shut up legs! Do what I tell you to do!”, which I felt as a good phrases to remind myself of at this point. Compared to what I just experienced climbing up Whiteleaf, the Kop was a breeze. No gradients above 21% made for a much more comfortable climb. Back at the top I took a longer break to admire the scene at the top of Whiteleaf as with it being early spring the trees and surrounding fields had begun to gain more colour, which in the sun light made for some very pretty views.
As I set off back down Whiteleaf I passed another cyclist who must have been going through the same pain I had just been through. The ride home again was easy once my legs had recovered from the pain and fatigue. On reflection my first experience of the 23rd hardest climb in the UK was, to me, an achievement having challenged and pushed myself and now I know what to expect next time I tackle this climb I can hope to push myself even further and better my time.