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Rasmus Helt Poulsen shares his approach to the Cent Cols Challenge where taking the shortcut is not an option.

The Unmatchable Ups And Downs II

Rasmus Helt Poulsen shares his approach to the Cent Cols Challenge where taking the shortcut is not an option.

06 January 2016

If you’ve signed up for a Cent Cols Challenge, there is a chance that you were caught up in the moment when you did it. Maybe you were looking at amazing photography in a Rapha book, got carried away on a sunny day in France, or had one glass of wine too many. That might have been what happened to me. Signing up is easy. Following through can be a challenge, especially if you live in the Northern part of Europe like I do, where the weather tends to welcome your training ambitions with a cold wet kiss.

From October to March, the weather in Denmark is half the challenge for a road cyclist. It’s not really cold, nor really warm. It’s usually wet, and at times quite windy. Your worst enemy is flintstone and punctures are unavoidable. A concept like the Rapha Festive 500 is different in the Nordic region, where it isn’t as simple as it is for those in warmer climes who seem to log 200km rides on Strava like they’re nobody’s business.

Despite my weather complaints, I must say that January’s blue skies and crisp air can still offer great training in Copenhagen. And knowing that spring will eventually come – even if it’s still snowing outside, as it is now – helps you learn to love the conditions. Spring’s arrival heralds some of my favourite rides of the year: amazing long rides along the coastline. You feel like everything is how it should be again.

There are six months until I ride a Cent Cols Challenge. On one hand, it’s far away. On the other, it’s close enough to force me to be serious about it. I flit between worrying, measuring my weight, FTP outputs and kilometres ridden, and fantastic views, photos with filters and coffee. The frank truth versus the romantic philosophy. I am sure that every cyclist has experienced days in the off-season when both time and motivation makes it difficult to get on the bike. How to balance a busy working week with family, two kids who love sport too, and a challenging plan to climb 100 Pyrenean cols in September?

My approach on weekdays is the turbo trainer. I have a detailed and effective training plan and the trainer allows me to stick to it. Early in the morning, late at night, it doesn’t matter. People have different opinions about turbos, but for me they are the best alternative to riding outside – an effective and precise alternative too. Stick to the different drills, short or longer, measure your progress on watts, or just get your legs spinning – everything is better than the sofa and I have never regretted a session (afterwards, that is).

I spend between six and eight hours every week on the turbo and besides the benefit of effective and relatively short sessions, it helps your morale. Keeping going for a three-hour long sweaty basement session to obtain your virtual Century kit in Zwift might sound stupid, but in the mix of loud music, the fumes of ammonia and soaked towels, it somehow increases your mental strength. I try and do something different every week and set short term goals as a way of keeping it interesting. My youngest likes to watch for a while and cheers me on like it is an actual race – it helps a lot actually – and you don’t want to let your biggest fan down.

Aside from pedalling, weight becomes a factor. Am I too fat? Should I drop the white bread, pasta, chocolate or stop drinking red wine? I cannot stay off any of those things for more than a couple of days, but simply trying to think about controlling the intake helps. People often ask what is the best weight for a CCC. There isn’t one. Yes, it helps not having too much to carry over the passes, but skinny men cry too.

For me, this is all about trying to find a balance in the reality of an established life with family, job, friends, personal development and cycling ambitions. It’s a struggle. Cycling towards something – rather than away from it, is a good starting point. However, the same questions still come to mind as last time round. Will I be strong enough? Can I make it? Can I live up to my own ambitions, which are as steep as the climbs in the Pyrenees.

Taking the shortcut is not an option.

Rasmus Helt Poulsen is a Rapha Europe Ambassador who lives in Copenhagen in Denmark. Follow his journey towards a second CCC on his Instagram

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