|Instructions before climbing "The Hill"|
A group of ten of us have decided to give up this Tuesday evening to train for the MS Mountain Tour. We're a varied lot. A mixture of men and women. Fitness and equipment levels from coach potato with a commuter bike to our supreme leader Stew - a hale and hearty 60 something with a brand new full suspension mountain bike. After a few minutes of riding, I discover that most of the participants seem to be in way better shape than me and can climb steep, lengthy hills without breaking a sweat while I slowly huff and puff my way to the top.
After a long warm-up, Stew stops at the bottom of "The Hill". A sudden incline with only a very short, flat ramp to use to build up speed. On an earlier attempt last week, I managed to claw my way three quarters of the way up and as the group watched from the top, my right foot snapped out of its cleat and I lost all forward impetus and began an undignified slide back to the bottom of the hill. As I began rolling backwards I swear I saw one of the younger riders above me smirking with an expression that said "Too bad old man. Maybe you should have brought your electric cart!".
Never being one to know when to stop, I set my bike up at the end of the ramp and waited for another opportunity to publicly demoralize myself. I calculated that if I started three or four gears up from my lowest gear and then as the trail disappeared beneath my churning wheels, quickly down-shifted, I would not only have the forward speed necessary, but also be in the lowest gear to grind my way to the top. My team mates would shout and cheer as I crested the hill and rode my proud way into their honoured ranks.
A pebble the size of an Easter egg. That's all it took to arrest my second attempt. Seven eighths the way up as my pedals churned furiously, my forward speed was so slow that when the stone presented itself under my front wheel, that was it. I stopped as though I had struck a concrete wall. I could hear the shouts of encouragement fading as I coasted backward down the hill and my team mates shrunk in size as the distance increased.
I think I could just make out the smirker bent over double laughing as the group faded from view.