I'd been feeling pretty good about my Etape training, until about 3pm yesterday.
According to most training schedules, I'm meant to be able to ride 50 miles without stopping by the end of January - with long rides once or twice a week meant to be the best thing I can do over winter.
While I've not ridden that distance more than a handful of times, I have done it. And that was on the old bike.
Add in the new bike, with new gears (we'll come to that later), a slightly slimmer me and more miles under my belt I was starting to feel I could do this.
Yesterday I went out for a 30-mile blast round one of my favourite routes. There are a couple of nasty (but really short) hills along the way. The new gears meant I got up them a lot faster than in the past - being able to "sit and spin" even on the steepest parts.
I added 0.5mph to my fastest average time.
Feeling good, I then went out again in the afternoon, with a couple of friends, one on a hybrid.
It was meant to be a Sunday afternoon spin down into Kent and the countryside, a couple of hills, then a pootle back. Just some more time in the saddle really.
Then, 20 miles in, we found a hill.
Now it was steep, yes, but short. Probably not more than a kilometre at very most.
I didn't make it up. Even with my new bike, gears, and better condition. I tried sitting and spinning, but even with the new cassette I couldn’t. I tried standing up on the pedals and powering it up, but couldn’t find the right gear or rhythm, so just sat back down again.
Half way up I was riding at 4.8mph, knackered, had at least another 10 miles to ride home and my legs just decided that that was it.
My hybrid-shod mate made it about 100m further up than me.
I can make excuses. That I hadn't fuelled properly (at all), that I had 50 miles in my legs, that there was no point riding up it just to wait at the top for the other two.
But fundamentally, I wasn't good enough.
50 miles into the Etape is about half-way up Mont Revard, the longest climb on the course - five miles into the climb, 500m up from the bottom with another 500m and five miles to come. 75 miles in is the final killer of Annecy Semnoz, the steepest climb of all: 1,100m of climbing in far too little distance.
I'm no-where near good enough to do that.
I hit the nearest Londis (I'm classy like that), bought Lucozade and chocolate, and slunk home (almost all downhill).
But I made a note of the location of that hill, and I will be back. I've never walked up the same hill twice and I don't intend to.
More on gears
Even in the "not enough chain" gear the bike still runs. I try to keep out of it, but forgot a couple of times (normally approaching traffic lights, when I just shift down a few clicks on the chain ring I'm in). Good to know it doesn't break the chain/derailleur, but I'll try and keep out of it as much as possible.
More worryingly, there's chatter in the highest gear, from either chain ring, and the cassette’s rattling. That probably means the indexing's out and the lock-ring needs adjustment or I'm missing a spacer. So, basically, another fun hour with my tools and Big Book of Bike Maintenance awaits.