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the only way is up

cent cols challenge

fifty years ago, on 20 july 1969, the americans landed neil armstrong and buzz aldrin on the moon, almost 385,000 kilometres from the earth. as the remnants of the saturn rocket headed away from the earth, images received from the lunar orbiter showed a blue, white and green planet, hanging almost desolate in inky surroundings. it possibly should have been a bit of a wake-up call to those back on earth that, in an expanding universe, we were/are somewhat isolated and that this was pretty much the only planet we had at our disposal. however, there may have been thoughts at the time, of colonising the moon, so that lack of an appreciable safety-net may have been ignored.

cent cols challenge

what also seems to have been ignored by a certain section of society, and throughout the entire apollo 11 mission, was that each and every image of the earth, when see from the moon or space, showed a spherical planet. what is technically described as an oblate spheroid. the folks that chose to ignore or dispute the veracity of those images are still alive and (presumably) well to this day, carrying their flat earth society membership cards wherever they go. and not only does such a society exist, they, not unnaturally, have a website (tfes.org). thankfully, i do not propose to enter a discussion as to the foundation of their flat earth belief system, for i seriously doubt there are sufficient pixels at my disposal.

cent cols challenge

however, the basis of their tenuous theory revolves around (see what i did there?) the earth being none spherical, rather than devoid of hills and mountains; those would be a lot harder to deny. but should you have need of garnering sufficient evidence as to the frequency and wide range of gradients available to the intrepid velocipedinist,you could do a lot worse than speak to phil deeker.

i first met phil a long, long time ago, when we briefly collaborated on a yet to be published manuscript, detailing his inveterate climbing of rather a large number of european climbs in a single month. the warning signs were there for all to see; not only had phil subjected his wiry frame to an endless list of whacking great mountains, but he subsequently invited others to join him in this singular (at the time) activity, through the auspices of the cent cols challenge. some of you may even have joined him in those (mis)guided efforts before his notoriety brought him to the attention of rapha. they effectively adopted the cent cols challenge, provided it with a new, ultan coyle designed, logo and provided not only webspace, but a number of short, compulsive videos into the bargain.

cent cols challenge

with rapha's recent re-organisation, those days are now past, but phil is still intent on bagging those cent cols, while taking others along for the ride. however, the window of opportunity to join mr deeker has, it would seem, a statute of limitations. when i contacted him recently, he stated his intention to retire from such foolhardy gradients in 2022 ("retirement means only stepping back from the Big Events, NOT stopping riding up hills!"). though the dolomites and west pyrenees remain to be yet ridden this year (all 2019 events are sold out), phil has already trained the organisational portion of his brain on next year's programme, including the ardennes, southern alps, east pyreneees, piemonte and corsica.

cent cols challenge

about the latter, phil said, "I love riding in Corsica for the craziness of the roads, the free spirit of the people, and the sea views. Two nights at each hotel helps too, to create the most relaxed of all the Cent Col Challenges. Fewer double-figure gradients than any other ride also helps! Definitely one for those who don't enjoy finishing each stage running on fumes! But having said that, there is very little flat road in Corsica!"

no longer a part of the imperial works empire, phil has teamed up with albion cycle clothing, who offer cent cols jersey, bibs and cap for purchase on their website and a company with which phil says it's a pleasure to work. though we're scarcely midway through this year's summer season, for many it's just the right time to plan for next year's cycling holiday, just while warm, sunny weather can provide the necessary impetus and enthusiasm. regarding the nature of his cent cols ascending challenges, phil pointed out that "These are tough rides. Participants shouldn't be afraid of riding from dawn till dusk on occasion. They will be taken out of their comfort zone, more often than not, but in my experience, they'll learn to love that!"

as for ageing gracefully, yet with self-imposed retirement looming, phil mentioned "Life after 60 seems pretty good so far for me. Must be all the pedalling." if we're willing to accpet that mr deeker will actually take a metaphorical step back in three years' time, i would advise those of you who wish to take advantage of his climbing and guiding skills in the high mountains, to pop on over to the website and book sooner, rather than later. in the words of joni mitchell, "you don't know what you've got, till it's gone", even if that's only to the lower slopes.

cent cols challenge

wednesday 17 july 2019

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