We're well into 2015 now. The days are starting to lengthen significantly, and thoughts are turning to the summer. We're going back to the Alps again this year, with a new set of climbs to try.
One of the difficulties in preparing for Alpine climbs is in finding anything comparable in the South of England. The best I've found so far, near where I live, is on a 40 mile loop. There are couple of sections on this ride that provide significantly long climbs, albeit at moderate overall gradients.
The frst starts in the village of Easton, just to the east of Winchester. A short steep climb leads out of the village onto the top of the downs, then flattens for a while before ramping up again to the top of Cheesefoot Head. In the 7km or so the total height gain is only around 150m, but Cheesefoot Head is a decent climb that is a good work out if taken at reasoable speed.
The second climb starts in the village of Ovington, just to the west of Alresford. Alresford is a pretty market town that is one end of the Watercress line, a preserved steam railway. A short, steep ramp leads away from Ovington, and, after a brief drop, a gentle climb leads into Alresford itself. Once through Alresford, which can resemble a car park on weekends and holidays, the climb to Bighton is moderate, with some steeper sections. From Bighton, the climb steepens for a while, before a short respite. Just before the village of Medstead, the climb steepens once again, hitting 10%, a sting in the tail before reaching the top in the village itself.
Neither of these climbs is anything like Alpe d'Huez or the Col du Galibier, of course. But it is possible to get some level of preparation by riding them in a gear that is slightly higher than optimal, rehearsing the kind of low cadence, high torque effort that is needed when you run out of gears in the mountains