Angus Rolle joined up with Elevation Coaching to transform his riding experience - read his inspired journey from weight-loss battles to Australia's toughest endurance challenge.
Cruel rain and a whipping headwind hit me as I rode out from the tree cover. A silent gun sounded, starting the hardest 10km of my life.
My shot at the Peaks Challenge in Southern Australia's Victorian Alps was 225km old and my 10 hour target was drawing terrifyingly close. The relentless pressure of the ticking clock weighed as heavy as my legs.
I hauled to the line with six minutes to spare on my goal - elated, relieved, destroyed. Past the finish line, I could soak up those emotions, just 14 months after seeing the photograph that changed everything.
The photo shows me tackling my local charity hill ride, the Buderim 9, in Southern Queensland. It was mid summer 2017, 30 degrees and humid.
The task is to complete all nine roads that scale the Buderim “mountain” in less than three hours - no doddle. The hills are steep – each averaging 8-12 per cent for about two kilometers, with harsh 20 per cent pitches.
After three years of trying, I finally reached the bottom of the ninth hill before the cut off – but I missed the finishing time by one minute. It was gutting. As I saw it, the hard training had not paid off.
Another disappointment was this picture. I was 53-years-old, and weighed 103kg. I did not like what I saw.
In the eight months following the Buderim 9, I began losing weight. I still rode regularly but could never keep up with my faster friends. A kilogram was shed every month, but the frustration built. I lacked the motivation to turn the disappointment into real action.
Then I found my inspiration.
I saw an article reviewing the Peaks Challenge - Australia’s hardest endurance ride with more than 4,000m of climbing in 235km. Everyone I knew who had taken it on had found it gruelling, and they were super fit.
But I decided to make it my focus. The dream? To make it to the finish inside the 13-hour cut-off. That, I figured, would be amazing.
The respect I had to give the event would kick me from my recurring rut. I needed help though.
One of my riding partners, Jolene, had made an amazing improvement, taking great delight in wiping the floor with me. Jolene asked if I had thought about doing some structured training, and told me the secret to her gains - Elevation Coaching.
If it can work for her, it can work for me? I called up, agreed to work with Kenny, and jumped in with both feet – I had a coach and I had a program.
It was August 2018, seven months to go.
Initially I was asking, where are the harrowing hill-rep sessions? Jolene’s advice, in her strong Scottish accent, was simply: “do wae yur f%kin telt, reet!” I did, and gradually got stronger and faster.
Accidental personal bests were popping up everywhere, weight started falling off. After four months I was 83kg.
Training Peaks and regular chats on WhatsApp gave me focus, while positive feedback from Kenny and the exciting results melded into an addictive process. I was leaving my expectations in the dust.
January 2019 - my dress rehearsal for the Peaks Challenge, “Not The Alpine Classic,” an Audax ride in Queensland. The same distance as the Peaks, more elevation, and in scorching heat.
I finished in 10 hours, and as soon as I uploaded my ride, a messaged pinged through:
Kenny Wilson: “That’s it – sub-10 hours is the target for the Peaks Challenge”. Terrifying.
Perfect weather, thousands of riders, a brutal fight ahead - I rolled away from the start line on the big day fully focused on conserving energy. Feeling good and riding slightly ahead of the 10 hour pace, I reached the final summit, known as ‘The Beast’.
It hit me like a tonne of bricks. With 200km in my legs, I understood why the first ramp is called WTF Corner. The 10 per cent slopes were relentless, but pace I could still maintain had me stunned.
Those brutal 10kms later, and I stood at the finish line more than three hours ahead of the cut-off time I set as an “amazing” target seven months ago. I was so happy with my cycling
To top-off my first year of coaching, I took on an bucket-list three-week European adventure through the Italian and French mountains with a group of friends - tackling the Dolomites’ Stelvio and Gavia, Provence’s Ventoux in a heatwave and some beautiful rides in behind Nice’s Cote d’Azur. Climbing 32,000m in 17 days - this was unimaginable 12 months earlier.
I came home, took an FTP test and jotted a 15-watt increase – win/win.
So, what have I taken out of this first year:
Structured coaching delivers results way beyond what you can get by plugging away at the same old rides every day. Having a program motivates you to suffer more, as does the positive support and guidance of your coach.
I thought coaching was just for racers and athletes - it isn’t. It is for everyone who wants to achieve a goal. Whether yours is the local Gran Fondo, or any target you set, you reach it faster with a coach.
You do not need to become a hamster on a wheel. Your program needs to fit with what you want to do. Talking to your coach allows you to tailor your program for the time available and the riding that you want to do.
Riding when you are fit is so much more enjoyable than struggling. My cycling has experienced a massive turn around and I really enjoy it more than ever.
Now to work out the next goal…
If you would like our help at Elevation Coaching to formulate a progressive training plan to smash your goals and keep the fun in cycling get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
We offer a range of bespoke plans ranging from £75.