May 17, 2019

SUMMIT FOR THE WEEKEND

Climbing is a ubiquitous part of cycling, no terrain on earth is absolutely pan flat forever. Any parcours close to pan flat will be a breeding ground for headwind and we all know that headwind is the invisible hill. The worst kind of hill, the unseen gradient with no rewarding view or thrilling descent on the other side.

Floating up the gradient as if pulled along on a grimpeur conveyor belt

Going up hill divides cyclists; the skinny ones shake with excitement with every Col whilst the bulky sprinter types wince at their very mention. For many, going up is just the price you pay for going down again, a necessary evil that you can’t change but you’ll soon forget as you weave around fast corners to the foot of a hill. For these people an Escher landscape would be heaven, impossibly descending forever without having to pay the Gods of The Mountain.

The climber is slight, the climber is featherweight. The climber is Manny Pacquiao, bobbing and weaving and dancing around the ring with elegant agility. Their power to weight ratio is their right hook, seemingly impervious to the forces of gravity. Just as the hill starts to bite, when many want to sit in, to choose an easier sprocket, to dream of the summit, the climber will kick. Up one sprocket, then another, out of the saddle and dancing on the pedals. Floating up the gradient as if pulled along on a conveyor belt. It’s poetry.

Mortals gulp and gasp for air as the climber rides off into the distance. Wondering how so much power comes from such a small frame. That secret engine that others have spoken about. The Core. Weaving, looking for shallower gradients hidden on the slope, the mortal curses the road. Curses the bike, curses the whole idea of cycling. Surely there must be a puncture or a a brake stuck on, how can the mortal be moving so slowly?

Climbs don’t last forever, even when it may seem they will. The summit always arrives, the clear blue sky widens as the view reveals itself below. The triumph of the challenge bettered only by the calming of the heart rate and the promise of the unwinding road ahead. A few pedal strokes and gravity takes over, velocity grows as the wind rushes past making you momentarily deaf. Speed rises, effort ceases, brakes are feathered as switchbacks come and go.

The mortal is now weaving around bends and slingshotting into the next straight. The mortal is now champion. Weight becomes power, the climber is pedalling whilst the mortal is gliding. Throw it wide, hit the apex, look ahead to where you want to go and you will. Follow the bike through the bend and allow it to plummet faster, faster, ever faster. Using up all the energy stored by the climb, the winding of the clock spring propelling you ever on. God bless mountains, god bless the hill.

In 1933 the organisers of the greatest race on earth decided to honour the climbers with their own award, the King of the Mountains. Fittingly, the winner of the first KOM competition was a terrible descender. Whilst Vicente Trueba may have ascended many of the 16 mountains first that year, he was never in contention for the Maillot Jaune. The Flea of Torrelavega would be a winner in 1933 but not of the famous Maillot à Pois Rouges.

The Polka Dot jersey was introduced in 1975 and worn proudly by Lucien Van Impe. Sponsored by chocolate maker Chocolat Poulain who’s wrappers apparently boasted the same distinctive pattern. The eye catching pattern has been shown off every year since and often with unwelcome enthusiasm, with the dots finding their way onto shorts, helmets and bar tape.

Our admiration for The Climber is thankfully not diminished by these crimes against style. This year we are excited to present our special edition jersey in tribute to the first winner of the prestigious KOM classification. The Vicente Trueba Edition for men and women will be released in the coming weeks. Whether you’re a climber or a mortal, this limited edition take on our Club jersey is a stylish addition to your summer wardrobe.