Invicta Grimpeur ’09

Not the best named event of the year in the my view.  But maybe one of the toughest.  Actually, that’s nonsense – I just say and think that every week!

The ride itself is only 100km (60 miles) but takes in every hill surrounding Sevenoaks – twice.  The ride starts in Otford, does a 50km loop in one direction, back to the start and then repeats – but in the opposite direction.  There is a slightly odd psychology at play I think.  Each year, the directions are swapped in order, and this year was the turn of anti-clockwise first then clockwise.  This is arguably harder, not least as the 30% or so Yorks Hill is the final climb of the day.

We, DaveC, DaveM and AndyC and I, met up at the ludicrously named Green St Green and made good time to the registration hall in Otford.  All signed in, we have a nice cup of coffee and I sneaked in a couple of old-school biscuits – a custard cream and a bourbon – wallup!  The number’s swelled and it was nice to spot a few faces; not least PaulM who is the brilliant organiser of the Marmotte trip.

It was good to relax and build up a bit of anticipation for the ride for a change but it was great to finally set off.  Fortunately I had my excuses in early – with an interval session on Friday night and a reasonable length (120km) solo ride the day before my legs were not as fresh as they could have been.

And do cyclists like an excuse!?  As long as deep down the excuse does not mean that you’re a fundamentally shit cyclist, anything will do.  Tired.  Full of cold.  Bad knees.  Out the previous night.  Etc, etc – on it goes.  It’s a brave and reckless cyclist that turns up for any ride, pronounces that he or she is fully fit, that the training is going well and they’re well rested and expecting to have a great day :-) .

We set off at a reasonable pace, with a nice group of about 10 riders.  We took it reasonably easy for a while then after about 10 minutes opened up the legs a little.  Even without any serious hills to contend with we had a little shake-down and the numbers thinned a little.

Being an Audax ride, we had to deal with/enjoy the process of getting our card stamped at a series of checkpoints.  This has several drawbacks.  The first is that it’s a pain in the arse, fumbling around in pockets with winter gloves on.  Second, the level of competence of the very nice people that generously give their time is mixed.  Third, I managed to lose my keys somehow, doubtless during one of these stops.  And fourth, it allows dropped riders to regroup.  Which is good and bad I guess, but when you’ve busted your balls to build a gap on the road, it’s a shame to see it effortlessly taken back.

Given the hilly nature of the ride, you’d imagine that the descents would be something that I would happily embrace – and sometimes this is the case.  Just as often, however, descents are pretty terrifying – especially at this time of year.  I am particularly fearful of coming off for some reason.  Others seem to be able to race down wet, potholed, greasy road surfaces quite happily at speeds well over 50km (30mph or so).  I’m not quite at the level of being embarassing, but I can’t be far off.

I managed the first few climbs pretty well actually – despite my obviously tired legs from the previous days exertions :-) , though towards the end of the first loop AndyC was starting to put a bit of time into me on the steeper climbs.  Not enough that I’d be dropped, but enough to show a bit of authority (in my weakened state of course!) so I was relieved and knackered by the time we got back to Otford.  All four of us arrived together, with DaveM looking  strong, especially having been temporarily dropped earlier in the ride.

Another quick stamp on the card and a jimmy riddle later we were back on our way.  Straight into a tough climb.  When a climb gets beyond a certain gradient, it’s hard whatever you do.  Whilst the alpine climbs are doubtless difficult (says he with all of his vast experience!) they are rarely that much above 10%.  When climbs are above 15 or 20%, whatever you do, it’s going to be hurting.  In the saddle, out of the saddle, change down, whatever.  When you’re tired and the climb is steep – it just hurts.  Sometimes a lot.

AndyC was once again setting a really good pace and we quite quickly dropped first DaveC then DaveM.  It turned out that DaveC (club legend – I’ll properly introduce the guys in another post) was running a ‘standard’ chainset (which has standard, and big, front rings) so he’s probably now nursing thighs that look as though they belong to Arnold Schwarzenegger!  DaveM caught us again briefly, but then he was to be seen no more – this left just AndyC and I.

There was just one guy left in front of us – who turned out to be a thoroughly decent chap (as most cyclists are I find) when we met up at the end of the ride.  He’d set off a little before us at the changeover, and we caught him pretty quickly.  He was quite a big rider,brilliant/fearless on descents but not so great on the ascents (he’d been racing at Hog Hill the day before ;-) ).

(Image courtesy of Adrian Fitch – the full image can be viewed here)

After the next climb AndyC and I dropped him.  We still had 3 tough climbs left.  Fortunately AndyC started to tire a little – thank god! – and was climbing at a pace that I could just about manage.  We worked well together – of all of the riders in the club, we seem to be the best matched I think and we struggled, moaned, laughed over the next couple of climbs and pushed on a bit on the descents and flats.

The last climb, Yorks Hill, loomed.  Normally I manage a good laugh, literally out loud actually, as the road turns and you think you’re done and you find yourself facing yet more 30% or so climb.  We both managed to climb with me just about in the ascendency, grace completely out of the window, Paul Sherwen would have doubtless said “he’s all over his machine” several times.  But we were done climbing and just had a nice descent and a bit of flat back to base.

I felt pretty strong and was keen to push on.  On a small hill I looked back and saw AndyC and he’d dropped back a little.  I thought with a mile or so to go that it would not be bad form to press this advantage a little so I pushed on.  What I didn’t realise was that he’d been caught at the roundabout.  Therefore my impressive end of ride ‘sprint’ actually represented a small betrayal as I was exploiting his misfortune.  But only a small betrayal :-) .

I finally rolled back to base and got my card stamped for the last time.  I helped myself to a coffee, a ham roll and a cake, which cost a princely sum of 40p!

I think, but I’m not sure, that I was the quickest rider of the day which I was pleased about.  Nothing to get excited about though – this type of ride is not a race for a start.  But it helped ease the pain a little.

AndyC finished a couple of minutes behind me, and DaveC a little further back completing a bit of a miracle ride given his somewhat contrarian choice of gears ;-) .  DaveM was MIA.  Leaving a text, aborting the ride and heading home!

Just a 20 or 30km ride home left.  Horrible strong and slightly scary winds and a little rain greeted me but I made it home in one piece.

I can try and explain how tired I was when I got back.  We have a nested occasional table set – when about to eat my lunch, I racked my brains to try and think what I called the one I normally eat off.  I had to ask Rach in the end.  The answer : table.

No Comments on “Invicta Grimpeur ’09”

  1. 1 Alberto C said at 7:24 pm on March 8th, 2009:

    It was an audax not a race, to finish you need to get your card stamped at every control during that controls specified opening time . If it was a race then you were DNF and Dave C came 2nd after the SFA rider.

    Nice story though.


  2. 2 Paul Nixon said at 7:56 pm on March 8th, 2009:

    We only missed one control; and that was because we were so blindingly quick the chaps were still in the pub having a sneaky beer :-)

  3. 3 Sean Yates said at 8:54 pm on March 8th, 2009:

    Being a local myself, I did this ride last year on a standard and received no such fanfare! And my bike weighed a ton!

    Carbon on an audax, indeed!

  4. 4 Davem said at 9:00 pm on March 9th, 2009:

    Good writeup. The control you missed the bloke said you flashed through before the time limit.

    I bailed with 6 miles to go as I didn’t fancy the 20miles back into london up the A21 and choose the more secnic route taking in Toys, Clarks lane, beddlestead and layham road instead. I also wanted to beat the weather which was getting increasingly gloomy. This was futile though as I got caught in a horizontal hailstorm just before crystal palace. Doing the last 5 miles soaked to the skin and utterly freezing was truly horrible.

  5. 5 Bradley W said at 5:17 pm on March 10th, 2009:

    David M, I hope you got back in time for Paris – Nice.

    The missed control at the top of Exedown was nowhere near a pub or anything else.

  6. 6 Paul Nixon said at 9:31 pm on March 12th, 2009:

    Fast forward to July…

    4 extremely tired but contented Bigfoot Rides relax in a bar in Alpe D’Huez having completed the Marmotte. DaveM walks in…

    “Alright Dave, what happened to you?”
    “Err, well, I got to the bottom of Alpe D’Huez and, to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered to finished the ride. I’d already done a 160km and with only a 14km climb left, legendary though it is, I decided to give it a miss and went for a nice coffee and a pastry in Bourg D’Oisans. I just got a lift back with the broom wagon”
    “Oh right…”

  7. 7 Adrian Fitch said at 3:57 pm on October 22nd, 2009:

    Hi Paul
    Nice post but I’d have appreciated it if you’d asked if you could use my photo. Please include a credit plus a link to it’s Flickr page (
    Many thanks