'Here's a challenge mate, how many times you think we can climb Box Hill in one day?!'.......(silence and ignoring of texts, whatsapp notificiations and tweets from Ali ensues).
Box Hill now has its own place in cycling folklore. For the riders who knew of it before the Olympics came along and gave it its 5 minutes of fame, its always been an iconic climb of Surrey. Its hairpin turns (theres only 3 of them) are fun to ascend and descend, its not a particularly difficult climb and you have the option of a greasy spoon at the bottom in the form of Rykers or the gourmet middle class themed stop of the National Trust Cafe at the stop for refreshments. The road was refurbished just in time for the Olympics which was a delight to hear for a friend of mine who somehow managed to get a double puncture on the descent down when the road used to be like sandpaper. You do get a gorgeous unrestricted view of the Downs and it is a nature haven for walkers and hikers alike.
With @RouteSurreyUK's persistence and determination of completing these crazy ideas that were mentally torturing him, given time and thought, I came round the idea of giving it a go. I know the craze of 'Everesting' has now taken hold of the riders out there who are looking to push the extremities of human achievement in cycling, but for us two who casually enjoy throwing the odd hill or two in our rides, the thought of lapping Box Hill until we know we can't do no more would push us further than we have ever been.
Our rendezvous is always Waitrose Cobham, bang in the middle for us both and a good 13 mile warm up from our living headquarters. I learnt from the Richmond Park 100 mile challenge to stock up a bit more on gels so I doubled the amount of SiS gels and made sure I had some decent hydration mix for my bidons. We knew pacing again would be key so we held off pushing each other (often we reach a train station climb and a shout of 'small climb' would initiate a short sprint up, we would often pay for these outbursts of man ego!). Not this time though, we knew the climb off by heart so no need for any reconnaissance. Again, this challenge began early so the Zig Zag road up was relatively quiet but what we did not realise that there was a Human Challenge Sportive scheduled to come through later in the day. Whether this would be a help or a hindrance, only time will tell.
The actual Olympic route climbed over Box, turned off at Headley Common then made its way to the A24, obviously this was a closed road when the race came through but for us, we did not fancy using this route just because of the fast traffic. We agreed to turn off at Lodgebottom Rd and cut back into the start of Box. Although this would shorten the distance (this wasn't the aim), it would give us less time to recover as it shoots you out basically at the beginning of the Zig Zag Rd.
The first few laps up were without sounding arrogant, a stroll in the park. We were chatting and having a laugh all the way up and were very quickly into a rhythm. We were not worried about pace because our sole aim was to see how many times we could tackle and overcome this iconic climb of the South. I followed Ali's plan of an energy gel per lap but I struggled to consume at his pace. 5 laps in, Ali started to feel the burn. I'm not going to crucify him here (although if it was roles reversed, he might of done!) but we have both been on rides where one of us is struggling. It could be down to something simple like breakfast, not enough carbs the day before or your body just not in the zone. Lap 6 came and went, Ali put his hands up (not literally otherwise he would of fallen off his bike and that would of ruined the challenge!) and called it a day. We both knew we had to be open minded with how far we could go especially when we knew we needed that last ounce of energy to make sure we could make it home. Kudos to him, we are both honest and 6 laps in one ride is a feat in itself.
Weirdly and its normally Ali pushing on for that extra climb, I felt quite fresh. Could of been the extra gels or the Tesco Lasagne with a side of garlic bread followed by Carte D'Or Eton Mess ice cream I had the night before (just speculating!). I had confidence that I had 2 more laps in me. By this point, the sportive bunch had arrived and I focused on not allowing myself to get dragged up by those who were pushing it (the sportive had a KOM competition for the hill so some were giving it the beans!). Once again like the Richmond Park challenge, I was probably the only one who had a different agenda that day on Box, unless there was an 'Everesting' attempt taking place, I was quietly confident I had ascended the most already up Box.
Lap 7, I felt the energy level sap. I had ridden past a mobile cafe on top of Headley Common and have seen Ali in the past wolf down a Burger and become the Incredible Hulk on 2 wheels. I wanted my version of EPO in a bun! I don't know whether it was my hunger or the gels had made my taste buds think everything tasted like porridge thanks to the same flavour being consumed time and time again, but that Egg, Bacon and Cheese Bap would not be out of place at somewhere like Jamie's Italian! From memory, it probably looked like a builder's bum but no way did it taste like one!
The bap turned out to be the boost I needed and I persevered on with the task we had set out to do. Lap 8 was a push as my stomach was now lined with grease, I did have a slight thought of packing it in but that magic Olympic number was in sight. I had told the other half I wouldn't be long. 6 hours later I was still out on the bike, I would feel her wrath later! I began lap 9 knowing I didn't have much left in the tank but this was an opportunity too good to miss. The pace on the final climb wasn't something to be proud of but hitting the peak and taking that final descent down, I knew I had set a standard for myself I never thought I could hit.
I took the time on the journey home to review what I had achieved. 9 laps of Box Hill which turned out to be just shy of 2000m of elevation. Would I do it again?.......(silence and ignoring of texts, whatsapp notificiations and tweets from everyone ensues).
'Don't look for the opportunity, this is the opportunity'.