The road slowly, almost imperceptibly, rears up in front of you. You look ahead, and you see it, several kilometres up the mountainside, snaking its way through the rocks; a string of asphalt winding like a string of spaghetti thrown onto the intimidatingly huge mountainside.
You relish what’s to come. You’re going to be climbing high, but going deep; deep down into your mental reserves and physical limits. You know that a mountain ascent isn’t just a journey from the security and habitation of the valley below to the wild meadows above, but an exploration of the shades of light and dark lingering in your mind.
A mountain pass doesn’t take any prisoners, and exposes any hint of weakness or doubt. If you blow, there’s no space for recovery, no friendly wheel to help you. It’s just you, your legs, and a gradient. It won’t be easy, but the challenge is so beautifully laid out in front of you, so physically real – as opposed to a mandatory duration of effort of 5, 10 or 20 minutes – that you’re keen to conquer it. It’s perhaps the purest ‘interval’ that you can do, far more of a representation of mental and physical strength than any turbo trainer workout.
Although the only way is up, the nature of your journey is dictated by the path you choose to take in the vital first kilometres. Bouyed by fresh legs and nervous, adrenaline fuelled enthusiasm, it’s so easy to start unsustainably. You can take those initial kilometres thinking you’re one of those whippets you see racing up the Cols in the Tour de France, in and out of the saddle, dancing on the pedals, all flair and finesse. Victory or nothing. You know you’ve set an unsustainable pace, but you ignore the flickers of warning in the back of your mind. The environment, so different to your training ground in the sleepy country lanes, give you misplaced confidence. You round a switchback to see the village at the start of the climb hundreds of meters below you already, and it fuels your intenisty. The sense of journey and progress is addictive and you want more.
Or you could be patient. You head out, you calm your mind, and let it slow your legs. With an hour of climb ahead of you, you know the pain will come. Let it come to you, don’t advance towards it. You move metronomically, sustainably, zen like, calm. In your pace in your zone, serene, settled, in control of your fate.
Mid-way through the climb. You took the former option at the foot of the col. You went hard, you danced out of the saddle, images of climbing greats – Contador, Pantani, Coppi – in your mind. Your heart rate spiked a long time ago, and hasn’t settled since. You can feel it pounding in your chest as your breathing becomes hoarse, and your eyes cloud as the fatigue settles. You realise you’ve only got half way, and the lights in your mind darken. The inspiration of only twenty minutes ago turns to self-doubt, glimmers of hesitation and anger spark as you realise you’ve shot yourself in the foot. The time passes and the legs only move slower. As the energy dwindles, you can only think of the top. You cease to enjoy, you only endure. The adrenaline has turned sour. You count down the kilometres as the stone markers on the side of the road indicating your progress serve only to taunt you.
However, if you started patiently at the bottom, things turn out a lot differently for you. You feel yourself growing only stronger as you ascend. Your mind revels in the experience, as you pass through one landscape and into another, out of the busy valley, through rocky tunnels, and into luscious meadows on the upper slopes. You have the mental wherewithal to take it all in; these are memories for a lifetime. Those stone markers beside the road indicate there’s only three kilometres to go until the summit, and you take on the challenge. You up the cadence, push out more power, and you feel the sense of acceleration. This is a summit to be conquered, and with every few bends, you pass other riders for dead. It fuels the adrenaline and you accelerate further, gathering speed until you sprint for the sign denoting the summit. In your mind, you’re wearing the Tour De France’s King of the Mountains jersey. That very same version of you, he who went too hard at the start, limps in behind you, minutes later, hollow eyed and dishevelled.
Climbs are built from the bottom up. And likewise, your ride to that summit – whether it’s a Hors Categorie Mountain pass, or a hilltop village café in the leafy UK lanes – is built on the way you approach the very bottom. Get it right at the start, and things will only get increasingly better.
And guess what, the same goes for what you’re wearing.
Socks maketh the rider. A flash of colour where you least expect it, a blur of style and expression at the base of the outfit. Get these right and the rest – the choice of jersey, the glasses, the helmet – will fall seamlessly into place.
And of course, socks aren’t all looks. We understand that as riders, different conditions require different apparel for you to perform at your best. If your feet are uncomfortably hot, cool, or unsupported, you cannot perform at your best. At Pongo, we let you choose the right socks for the job. Climbing mountain passes in the European heat? Our lightweight Climber Mesh range is your ally, lightweight and breathable to keep you cool when the heat is on. Mid-winter reps of your local test hill? Our luxurious and warming Merino range will let you get the job done when the elements are against you.
Build your ride from the bottom up. Get the start right, and the rest will fall into place, faultless and victorious.
Likewise, build your outfit from the bottom up. Classy, quality socks make for classy, quality riders.