Same but different – Two sides to everything right?

Nuun Sigma Sport’s Barnabas Purbrook had a rather different take on a day that rendered his mates two dribbling wrecks!

Few have the gift of encapsulating suffering on two wheels into words like Stu can, however as a member of the group on his latest expedition into self-loathing I thought it might be interesting to hear another account.

That day in Gran Canaria summed up for me why riding bicycles is so much fun, and how the same pastime can generate varying types of satisfaction for the individual. As Stu mentioned, we were of group of ranging skill sets but with a shared objective of testing ourselves on what we had been assured (by a pro) was a brutal climb.

That first climb was a long gradual one with the steep stuff only coming in the final couple of kms. Stu and I were in charge of setting the pace, and we kept it steady ensuring we could all enjoy the climb and the stupendous scenario together. Darren, who will be the first to admit he is no mountain goat, elected to plug an earphone in to help keep him focused on keeping in the wheels. For some this is a faux pas when riding in a group, personally I’m indifferent; if that’s what D needs to get him up the climb and it will increase his enjoyment then so be it. If Cyndi Lauper, S Club 7 and The Proclaimers (his tastes) are going to enhance his riding experience and it doesn’t impact the safety of others, then crack on mate.

Ben, Stu and Darren in their natural habitat.

Towards the end of the climb Stu and I degenerated into two 8 year olds seeing who can hold onto the monkey bars the longest; some sneaky side eyes and the watts ramped up as the summit neared. The last km was all out attacking each other to take the imaginary KOM classification points! This was seriously good fun, does it ever get better than fighting to the line against a mate on a magnificent road with the sun on your back? Now some would argue Stu and I have committed another faux pas here by splintering the group, however the opportunity to ride on those roads in those conditions is rare and so I hope that Ben and Darren were happy for us to get our measuring tapes out purely for enjoyments sake!

This was going to end badly for Stu, the big guy adjusts the final nail.

After regrouping and riding together to the base of the climb together it became apparent that these next 12+kms of uphill would be quite different for all of us. Stu had come to the island known for its wind and hills with deep sections and a 23 cassette (20+ years of experience on the bike paying dividends eh mate?). The climb had several sections with gradients exceeding 20% so clearly staying clipped in would be a challenge. D was still recovering from an operation over Christmas and so simply completing a 5 hour day on the bike was an incredible achievement.

Impressive gradients! Always take time to reward yourself with a view back down the valley.

Ben was becoming quite the climber, and as a man relatively new to cycling was eager to test out his developing abilities on the infamous segment (plus he also has a blog, so every journey is a story blah blah!). For me, the climb formed part of my training programme for the day, which was part of a programme for the week, which was all part of a programme set by a coach to put me in a place where I hope to be competitive in road races in the upcoming season.

This may come across as incredibly boring and almost robotic however I bloody love competing, and so preparation for competition motivates me enormously and gives me a great sense of satisfaction. If you then throw in beautiful roads/scenery, great company, warmer weather, and top notch equipment (Cannondale, Castelli) you’ve got yourself a bloody fantastic time in my book.

The point I’m trying to make is that each of us had something different to gain from the next 12k or so. The Strava output of time taken, watts spent, heart beats pounded, simply does not reflect the experience each individual had. Ben and I ended up taking less time that Stu and D, but we didn’t have any more or less of an experience – Stu’s story is absolute testament to that!

No training camp complete without a sundowner barbie and a glass or three of the local produce.

All four of us marvelled at the views down the valley, laughed with the construction workers who cheered us on, suffered in those hairpins – we just all did it in a slightly different manner. The sense of achievement we all felt that night back at the villa was equal, irrespective of our rankings on the Strava leader board. We had all be in our own little box at some point on that climb, and as long as we finished the day uninjured and in good spirits we had achieved our objective as a group.

Stu and Darren recounting their experience over dinner that night was a particular highlight of the week. The vision of Darren offering a sweaty EUR 50 note to the local construction workers in exchange for a lift up the mountain still makes me chuckle, “I think you’ll find that’s legal tender pal”!!!


Barney rides for Nuun Sigma Sport and is supported by  CastelliCannondale , Fabric , 3T , Mavic , Stages Cycling , Oakley  Nuun and Clif Bar  Further support is provided by Rockstar Games, Cycling Sports Group, Saddleback, TrainSharp Cycle Coaching, Chiro London, Big Yellow Self Storage, Cycle Accident Management Services (CAMS), Colonna Coffee and Pro Cycle Insurance…..and the more important than any, long suffering wife Ruth!