Bicycling (South Africa) - - INSIDE! - BY JONATHAN ANCER

This is why cross train­ing is way bet­ter than EPO. Sort of.

I“IT’S GOT NOTH­ING TO DO WITH SOCK LENGTH OR SHAVED LEGS,” my mate Moose said, af­ter I lamented that I’d hit a hill­climb­ing pace im­passe (an im­pace?). “No, the se­cret to smash­ing hills is… crosstrain­ing.”

Cross-train­ing? Pfffffft. Throw­ing up diced car­rots isn’t my idea of fun, and that’s what hap­pens when I run, lift weights or burpee.

But I pon­dered Moose’s words as I made my way up the six-kay climb from Camps Bay to Suiker­bossie. Would be­ing a lit­tle more strate­gic help me climb faster? And there and then – on my heavy, dual-sus, knob­bly-tyred moun­tain bike – I in­vented ‘roadie-mag­net in­ter­vals’.

As road­ies bul­leted past, I’d tuck in be­hind them, and stay with them as long as pos­si­ble.

Some in­ter­vals later three road­ies came past, and I slipped in be­hind them. Af­ter a few sec­onds, one of them turned to his mates and said, “What a chop. He’s wear­ing Joberg2C arm warm­ers, and Wines2Whales socks – he wants ev­ery­one to know he does the races.”

“What a chop,” said mates two and three, in uni­son.

I looked around to see who the chop was… and then re­alised they were talk­ing about me! I was the chop.

Dilemma. Should I clear my throat and alert them to my pres­ence, or should I just drop back and for­get the whole thing?

Be­fore I could de­cide, one of them spot­ted me. He mum­bled some­thing, his mates looked around, and

I looked around to see who the chop was… and then re­alised I was the chop.

an awk­ward ten­sion rip­pled through our lit­tle pelo­ton. We – the road­ies (in match­ing bank- branded kit, with blue­and-pur­ple- striped socks, on shaved pins) and I – rode on, locked into our un­easi­ness. I was mor­bidly cu­ri­ous about how this fraught sit­u­a­tion would end.

They picked up the pace. Sud­denly, I re­alised how

they wanted it to end – they wanted to ride away from me. So I stuck to them. I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to hang on to the what- a- chop­pers, but I was de­ter­mined.

Though the three would of­ten put the ham­mer down, the more they tried to shake me, the more cross I be­came. I wanted to crush them with an acer­bic com­ment, but I couldn’t think of a suf­fi­ciently hu­mil­i­at­ing put­down.

Fi­nally, af­ter what seemed like an eter­nity of pain, we reached the ro­bots at Llan­dudno, where the gra­di­ent kicks up a few notches for the fi­nal grind to the top. Chop, hey? I’ll show you who’s a chop, I thought, as pur­ple fumes of fury poured out of my ears. With 500m left to the Suiker­bossie sum­mit, I made a dash for it.

My legs were scream­ing, my lungs were burn­ing; but I was turn­ing my ped­als in

anger. Though they tried to stay with me, I reached the top a good 30 sec­onds be­fore they rolled by, look­ing sheepish. I still didn’t have a witty re­tort, but I like to think my grin said it all.

Now, when I’m at the base of any tough climb, I think of Mr La­mont, the sadis­tic ge­og­ra­phy teacher who made my life hell; and Telkom’s faulty ADSL, and Vo­da­com’s data theft, and queue­jumpers, and able-bod­ied jerks who park in bays for dis­abled peo­ple.

I think of peo­ple who don’t know how to use apos­tro­phes, and of the hours of ‘ your call is im­por­tant to us’ I’ll never get back. I think of my ex-girl­friend, who made off with my Bob Dy­lan CD. I think of racists who uri­nate in old women’s food, cor­rupt politi­cians, and a fam­ily who cap­tured a coun­try, and I think of Edg­bas­ton 1999 (why didn’t you run, Don­ald, you chop?!).

And when peo­ple ask me my se­cret to con­quer­ing climbs, I smile wisely and say: “Cross train­ing. I be­lieve in cross train­ing.”

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