Mike Simpson

Stupid Stupid Just Stupid

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Many times I have been asked what I think is the hardest mountain to climb. My answer has previously always been the same. It depends on two things, the weather conditions, and where the climbs is on the stage. Even the toughest climb is comfortable at the start of the day. However that same climb at the end of a tough stage when you are riding on the limits will be brutal. Add extreme weather and it's turns into pure survival. Thursday's ride has changed my answer to that question. So what is the hardest climb.......The Scanuppia no hesitation.

The lowest gear on a standard road bike is 34/29 (add a longer derailleur and you could get a 34/32).This wouldn't get past the first 50m of the Scanuppia. I hired a mtb with 24/36 lowest gear and for most of the climb I wished I had a couple of lower gears. The stats are hard to comprehend, a 2km section averaging 23% and the sign at the base of the climb states a maximum of 45%!

In fact the road is ominous even before the base. A 20 foot white cross guarding the village adds a sense of foreboding, and the start is adorned with no entry, no cycling and private road signs. All this is very unnerving, but the sight of the first ramp is undescribable. I had read about mountain bikers who have attempted the climb, most having to stop dozens of times during the climb. My aim was not to stop. It was not just about pushing out the watts, the concentration needed was immense. One slight slip and I'd stop. It was crazy so much power output and only travelling between 2 and 3 mph. The climb is tarmaced to the top, but this really is a road to nowhere (bar a couple of houses). The Tarmac has an odd pattern to it, probably because it would be running down the slope before it had a chance to dry!

The strain was really affecting my joints. My back was crumbling under the pressure of it but it was my hands that oddly hurt the most. With no km signs and no indication of when the finish was, I just had to carry on and grab a quick drink when I could. After 45 minutes of this I tried to reach round to get a gel from my back pocket but my arm cramped as soon as I let go of the handlebars. Beasting a killer section for a short period of time is good training but this was just idiotic.

Finally the road just stopped at a barrier and continued as a narrow dirt track into the woods. I'd made it without stopping but it was a truly horrible 78 minutes. Why on earth does this road exist, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone. I had to do it but I will not be returning.



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