It is a not unusual occurrence, while I toil up Uffington’s White Horse Hill on what I refer to as my daily mortification, for me to cross paths with another cyclist, not once but three times: twice – an overtake and a criss-crossing – while I’m on the way up, and once more when I’m coming back down and the other fellow is climbing again, unable to resist second helpings. ‘How many are you doing?’ I call out, as we cross. ‘Only half a dozen,’ he or she typically replies, whereupon I shake my head admiringly and wish him or her good luck for the remainder – bonne continuation, as the French say.
This exchange began in its usual way this afternoon at about 2.30 when I recognised a black-clad cyclist as the man who had overtaken me a few minutes earlier and sped back down past me soon after that. His answer, however, was unusual. ‘94, but I might do a hundred’. One doesn’t like to interrupt the uphill cyclist, but this one was happy to pause and explained that his objective was an Everest – 8848 vertical metres – which requires 94 climbs from the crossroads to the disabled car park, a 1km ascent for 95m of altitude gain. ‘I started at 5.30 this morning’ he told me, before resuming his 54th rotation.
Was this some Captain Tom-like fund-raising exercise for a charitable cause, I wondered? ‘No,’ he replied. ‘Just a challenge I set myself.’ At least he chose a nice day for it – warm for November, with an easterly breeze which helps on this hill.
Bonne continuation, Sean Ballard. You must be into your 70s by now. I hope your lights are bright – was black lycra a good choice? – and that the courting couples who frequent the disabled car park of an evening don’t run you down. And that there’s someone at the top of the hill to meet you with a beer when you complete your 94th in a few hours time.
PS (Nov 12) Sean Ballard has been in touch and tells me he ‘called it a day’ at about 19,000ft, which must have been soon after I saw him again at about 4pm. So: no Everest this time, just a Kilimanjaro. Good going, for a Saturday ride in lockdown.
He will choose a longer hill next time, and drink more as the temperature drops. ‘100% that was the downfall of this attempt,’ says Sean. ‘A day with longer light would’ve been nicer too.’