The N2 Challenge 

Been away on a cycling holiday, training camp or cycle tour recently? We bet you can tick off a few of these

What is it with cyclists? We say we want a holiday. Whilst most normal civilians then imagine themselves surveying sandy white beaches over cocktails, we cram our sweaty lycra into a plastic box around ‘the precious’. Then we grimace as our pride and joy – in its potential coffin – is loaded onto a plane, before settling into a week long sufferfest.

And yet, we do it – and we love it. Except the moments we spend contemplating the most accidental-looking way of driving the bike off a nearby cliff edge (just me?!).

CW jetted off for a riding holiday recently with Volta Pro Tours in Portugal. And as per all such trips, there were certain ‘moments’ we’ve come to expect…

Someone’s bike has mysteriously broken between home and the destination

‘I swear, it was fine when I put it in the box!’ they’ll claim. And yet, there’s no damage to the box – just a clearly very worn bearing that’s started to resemble a collection of beads used somewhere entirely different.

You’ll share stories of impending injuries

“I’ve got this pain in my knee.. it’s going to make me really slow”. Sure.

You think you’re the only rider arriving with an emergency foam roller, ibuprofen and ‘ICE’ number for the local physio saved in your phone. You get the excuses in early. Turns out everyone’s in the same boat.

Upshot: long miles in a group at low intensity will probably get blood pumping to all those little niggles, aiding recovery. Maybe.

There will be some logistical confusion

A lot can go wrong over hundreds of miles of riding. Like that wrong turn that took you on a 10 mile detour of the local dual carriageway.* Whatever it was – mistakes happen – it’ll be annoying at the time and hilarious by the evening.

* To be fair, rather uniquely, we didn’t take any major wrong turns, but it’s hard to do when riding 500 miles along one road – the N2.

One rider will go off hard. And somehow maintain that pace

Early on, you’ll condemn this blatant arrogance, muttering something about the tortoise and the hare. But no, it turns out the rider off the front in the first five miles is just much, much fitter than you and can keep this up all week.

There will be a hangover in the peloton

Ay up! Well, it is a holiday

It’s a holiday after all? There will probably be several. Annoyingly the most thumping, alcohol ravaged head often belongs to the most impressive legs, and the key sufferer will somehow prove to be super human by getting up the climbs first regardless.

One rider will decide to get a massage. Everyone else will copy.

Massages: the only common ground our ‘holiday’ plans share with those of the normal human beings. One rider will book in – and no one wants to miss out on the potential marginal gain.

Of course, cyclist’s rub-downs differ as they’re administered by a ten tonne man with biceps the size of the turkey you now wish you’d not eaten at Christmas.

The ‘bollard’ / ‘taking photos’ / ‘showing off on a descent’ crash

Someone’s bound to go down, at some point…

The pre-ride briefing made it very clear that the LAST thing anyone wants is the nee-naw of sirens. There’s to be no ‘lookmumnohands’ moments, unless you move to the back of the group – and bollards must be pointed out.

Alas, it’ll happen, and a new catchphrase will be invented and repeated throughout the week amongst much hilarity (provided no one was actually hurt).

One day you’ll all work together

It’ll probably be around day three or four – there are some weary legs in the pack and a hell of a headwind. Maybe even rain. Everyone will go very quiet, straight line frowns will adorn faces and you know all anyone can see is dancing hubs. This is how cyclists bond.

You’ll come home 1kg heavier, at least – with some weird looking tan lines

You’ve been eating whatever you like because ‘hey, 100 miles a day!’ Unless you’ve been very disciplined, you will be heavier. With tan lines that look like you’ve had an accident with a tanning spray gun.

Good news is, that weight will drop off after a day or two of normal eating – and in the mean time you can bore your entire family with stories of: ‘This one time, on our training camp….’

After a few days of DOMS, you’ll be at your fittest ever

You can expect to feel a but sluggish for a few days on return. However, when the fatigue has worked itself out of those legs, the overload effect means they’re going to be as on-form as they’ll be all year (unless you’re already planning your next trip).

You’ll make friends for life

How can you not make friends with people that dragged you up the hills all day?

There were moments of suffering, moments of pure elation (the two largely determined by gravity and gradient). And you shared every one together. Post tour reunion planning will begin one month later.