In July, Chris Pedder and Rachel Fenton will be tackling the BIKE Transalp as it travels from Austria to Italy, over the Alps in seven days of glorious mountain biking. But first – training camp!
Over the years Chris and I have done a lot of cycling together. You might argue that neither of us would be nearly as passionate about the sport without the other. Still, deciding to embark on the challenge of racing as a team at Transalp this summer took some careful consideration. Our riding together, like most couples, has not always been harmonious and tempers have frayed on many occasions over the 14 years or so we’ve been attempting it. But, as I have said before, I like to challenge myself so we decided to take the plunge and do what people have been suggested for years – race together.
The main reason for Chris and I falling out when riding together is that I was always paranoid about being annoyingly slow (despite Chris’s unerring encouragement I should add). This meant that I would go for too long without stopping for food, try too hard and then blow and be constantly worried that I was going to completely implode physically (often meaning I completely imploded mentally!). Last summer however, our riding together had somewhat of a breakthrough when Chris finally convinced me that he wasn’t trying to break me. We had a wonderful week in Livigno, riding big distances, stopping when we wanted to and (mostly) not fighting.
Having made the decision to try team racing we decided we ought to try and think about what ‘racing together’ actually means. So we booked a week off work and took ourselves down to the Cote d’Azur for a
training camp in the mountains. Having both raced pairs events before – Chris at the Transalp in 2006 and 2012 and me at the Cape Epic in 2013 – we are acutely aware that there is always a speed differential
between team riders and it is the management of this speed differential well that makes a successful team. With this in mind identified a couple of ways that Chris could help me. We spent some time practicing pushing and towing and also trying to monitor each other’s food and drink intake so that we stayed well
The road riding is so great on the Cote d’Azur we decided to stick to riding on tarmac. But we wanted to ride our mountain bikes so that we got used to their setup climbing and descending. Even though it won’t be possible in the race knowing our speed differential is pretty big at the moment, we also put slick tyres on my bike so that I had a better chance of keeping up with my superdomestique on the climbs. This also served to maximise the training effect for Chris despite him riding with me most of the time.
Statistics from training camp
This all sounds rather serious and focused and whilst it was a big training week we also had a wonderful time, getting some much needed sunshine and eating some good food. We covered somewhere in the region of 550km in the week and 15,000m climbing, added to by a couple of Chris’s special “it didn’t look that far on the map” moments.
One week and a couple of commute rides to work later and we were taking on our second ‘team training’ exercise at the Tour of Flanders sportive. Living as we do now in Luxembourg we are trying to make sure
we explore all the cycling experiences continental Europe has to offer and one of the first things on our list was a classics sportive.
Our day started out rather eventfully when our car (with both bikes in the back) was towed from the town square where our AirBnB was located because we had parked it in the way of the weekly market. We must have looked horrified because a lovely town official took pity on us and drove us to the towing company offices where we proceeding to have our wallets emptied by some (actually quite lovely) gentlemen. When we explained that we had a time constraint they were very accommodating and I have to thank Chris for running (!) to the bank to take out cash so that we could pay them. Another successful training opportunity for racing together, since despite a few gruff words, we managed to deal with the whole situation and it didn’t have a major impact on our day.
Over the 129km middle distance route which centers on the Flanders region’s famous bergs Chris and I both felt pretty strong after our week in the mountains. Chris seemed to warm up over the course of the day
such that by the time we were on the final 15km stretch back to the finish he was feeling amazing. I sat on his wheel as he proceeded to tow me at high speed all the way home. But whilst we enjoyed going fast at times this was a experience ride and not a race. We stopped for plenty of waffles.
So preparation seems to be going well. There is still plenty to finalise before we hit the startline in July,
but we are both feeling positive so far.
Thanks in advance to Bike Transalp for having us and to MarathonMTB for allowing us to share the fun with a wider audience yet again.