Day in the Life of a Cent Cols Rider image

Day in the Life of a Cent Cols Rider

What it is really like to challenge the cols!

We usually start riding at 7:30 A.M. with breakfast at 6:30. That means alarms set at 5:30 A.M., a shower to wake up after a night without enough sleep. Get an update on the weather. Riding kit on. Check if kit washed the night before can be worn or put in plastic bag to wait until the next hotel to finish drying. Then Pack suitcase. Check all devices are fully charged and make sure that the day’s stage appears on Garmin/Wahoo etc.

We ride 60-70 Kilometer sections between the two roadside feed stops. Sometimes in a group, but most of the climbing happens alone or in small groups: each rider needs to find his/her space and find their own sustainable pace. A lot of talking is done we spend enough time on very quiet roads together to have time for long, sometimes quite random conversations. As fatigue sets in, a good sense of humor can sometimes be a lifeline!

The pack of riders will arrive at the next hotel in between 5-6:00 P.M. and 8-9:00 P.M. A ‘fast’ CCC-average will be 25-27 KPH, a slower one 18-20 KPH. For the latter, that means between 10-12 hours in the saddle. Add to that a maximum of 30 minutes at each of the two roadside feed stops + ‘Nature’ calls + photos + café/ice cream stop (we are human!) + the odd puncture and maybe getting lost. Some days will be long!

Time pre-dinner, if there is any, flies by: check over the bike, wash body & kit, phone calls, photos, data upload, stretching, lie down. But for some riders it can be straight into dinner in lycra. The lucky ones have time for a beer. One. Dinner is usually at 8-8:30 P.M. which is not fast-food. The meal will generally take us all well into our wished-for sleep-hours! I try to keep the “next stage briefing” as short as possible but few get to their rooms before 10-10:30 P.M. (Which is when our staff meeting can start!)

DO AGAIN ten times!

Despite all of this, dinner is usually a very loud moment, full of the day’s stories and smiles that tell both of fatigue, satisfaction and elation all together. Some, though, have fallen asleep literally whilst eating…The CCC Bubble only takes a couple of days to engulf everyone in a world of disbelief, outstanding beauty and wonderful comradeship. The real achievement is collective, not individual. As this realisation becomes apparent to everyone, so too the relentless daily routine becomes bearable, sometimes even enjoyable!

What does this mean in terms of preparing to ride the Cent Cols Challenge?  Here’s some advice beyond the basics of following a solid structured training plan and being diligent in your preparations.

  1. Get to know one’s body: ride occasionally without being able to see the data screen on your bike. This will help you be more attentive to your body sensations so that you can adjust your effort.
  2. Slow down! Avoid going too far into the red and thereby creating problems for the next day.
  3. Do a mental review of the day’s ride before going to sleep. This helps to ‘turn the page’ and prepare for another day.
  4. Learn to ignore the feeling of exhaustion, physical and mental: miracles happen overnight. The body is an incredible organism and can repair itself in just a few hours beyond all expectations!
  5. I often must remind riders that they have not come to a CCC for a ‘holiday’ when they complain that it’s a bit hard(!) It’s true that there is little time for anything but doing the riding, recovering from it, and preparing for it again, but this is exactly how the Magic gets in! Our perspective on everything changes. Whilst we remain too focused on our data stats, on our personal expectations versus our actual performance, and this in relation to the performance of others, we will miss a lot of what can be taken back from this event.

What does this advice really mean?

I talk a lot about “The Moment” on the event because it is so easy to miss the opportunity to stay in the present. In our ‘normal’ lives it is so hard not to project into the future, even thinking about the next hour, maybe even the next ten minutes. When you must focus so hard on a tough task, you are IN it! You are not ‘thinking’ you are just ‘doing’!

This means that you accumulate a huge treasure store of images and sensations that you have not ‘processed’. They have happened and are instantly buried, BUT NOT LOST! It’s once the event is over, and you are back home that these gems will shine inside you and you will feed on this wealth for a long, long time.

Many riders have told me that it was only after several weeks, sometimes even months, that they began to understand what they had done and why. Initially a common reaction is: “It was great, but never again for me!” A very high percentage of those who say that will be back within two years, and often return again and again.

This high ‘return rate’ is a telling sign of the ‘something’ almost undefinable that happens on a CCC and that riders feed on for many riding hours afterwards, and which they tell me is so hard to find elsewhere.