What's your Weir Lane?
by Paul Thomson, 1 March 2018
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There's always that one road, it doesn't seem that bad to anyone else. But to you it's purgatory. Paul Thomson's is called Weir Lane.
There can’t be many cyclists that don’t remember the first time they tanked going up a hill. I do. It's called Weir Lane, and it’s just outside the village of Abbots Leigh near Bristol. A depressingly modest rise which, according to Strava, has an average grade of 5% and is less than three-quarters of a kilometre in length.
The first time I attempted ‘Up Weir Lane’ to give it its Strava segment title, it bested me. Twice. By the time I reached its crest I was a sweating, wheezing wreck.
A two-stop strategy
A two-stop strategy for Weir Lane!! Unheard of and really rather embarrassing.
It shattered the illusion I had garnered over the years that cycling was a cinch. I’d had a paper-round you see, and if I’d found bombing round the estates of the West Midlands easy enough on my Grifter and snorkel parka, just how difficult could this road cycling malarkey be?
I remember that ‘Weir Lane’ feeling well. That knot of fear and pain in the pit of the stomach has returned to me many times in the three years since. I’m no King of the Mountains. A good friend who happens to be a very good cyclist once said to me: “Embrace the climbs and you’ll soon start to enjoy them.”
That hasn’t happened yet. I doubt it ever will.
The end of March 2015 was the first time I’d ventured outside for training. I’d agreed to take part in a charity ride from London to Harrogate via the Peak District, Pennines and Yorkshire Dales – where there are much bigger, longer and steeper Weir Lanes – in the last week in June. Drink may have been involved.
The new Cannondale (@RideCannondale) I’d bought didn’t arrive until the 28th February and thanks to an unusual bout of common sense I chucked in a turbo-trainer. A few hours strapped into that, ever growing pools of sweat steadily soaking into the spare room carpet beneath the bike, had lulled me into thinking I was some sort of latter day Eddy Merckx. Hitherto undiscovered I was about to realise my true vocation.
And then Weir Lane.
It made me train harder. I made it from London to Harrogate – just. Several sections of Peak District, Pennine and Dale had me whimpering. They also made me realise despite how well prepared I thought I was I had monumentally under-called the severity of pain cycling can bring and how much of a mental battle it can be.
Despite the deep loathing I feel for the turbo it is back out, dusted off following its sojourn in the garage. he spare room is once more alive to its whirr and the patter of sweat.
This time the challenge is a not unambitious six day, 900km trip around Sardinia with 15,000m of climbing thrown in courtesy of Marmot Cycling Tours (@MarmotTours). Once again drink may have played an part in the decision making.
Weir Lane is on most of my training routes. I still hate it. It knows it has got something on me and I can hear it sneer as I heave my way up it. It is like a living thing. Haunting my rides and my dreams too sometimes. The positive side is that as my fitness and power has increased then the time spent on it is briefer. In theory Sardinia will be considerably harder, but I wonder about that. I still think those hills will sneer less. .