What did you do with your bank holiday weekend? I spent mine, along with another seventy or so nutcases, riding repeatedly up the famous Tumble climb in South Wales as part of the Tumble Up 4 Life event.

The challenge is immense – each climb and descent in total is little more than nine miles long but rises over 1500 feet. That means clocking over 22 500 feet of climbing in a 135 mile day if you achieve the maximum fifteen ascents.

The top of the hill saw squally showers through the morning, with a spiteful wind blowing down the valley all day long. Fortunately, the summit of every climb was met with enthusiastic support at race control, which made coming back much easier.

Unsure what to expect, I was surprised when my first three climbs were on schedule for doing all fifteen – but my pace soon dropped. I wouldn’t say it was painful, as I was pacing myself to a level that wouldn’t spell disaster.

Instead it was more like the “rurr-rurr-rurr” of a slowly dying battery as you try to start the car on a winter morning. Even just grinding my way up, I slowly ran out of legs. It wasn’t that they hurt, they just wouldn’t turn the pedals anymore. So I had to bale on eight.

Nathan Priest (13 climbs) and Nick Wachter (14) came achingly close to completing the full set, but as has been the case during the previous two events, only one rider was able to sign off the maximum fifteen. For 2013, that rider was Lawrence Gruijters.

Make no mistake, this event is a massive challenge – although the fantastic descent almost makes up for the endless upwards toil of the climb.

If you want to try and add your name to the small number who’ve completed the challenge, the 2014 event is scheduled for the 3rd of May.

Keep an eye on http://tumbleup4life.wordpress.com/ for details.

  • Roger Pratt

    I’m a friend of Julian’s just to declare an interest. I can’t ride any more but I support him during the event.

    I endorse what he says above as both he and I have lost wives to cancer, two in my case.

    I think that he must be the oldest participant on the Tumble and he is not a club/sportive/racing type rider although he is fit. He rides a Thorn with flat bars, steel frame, 16-speed Rohloff hub, no cleats, toeclips or straps. The Thorn, although an eminently sensible bike, is so heavy I can barely lift it.

    The weather was ghastly this year and all credit to everyone who rode the event. Julian managed the same number of climbs as last year.

    This is a tremendous event and the Dutch organisers are to be congratulated on its originality and the funds that it raises. The cake is absolutely excellent as well. Well done the ladies of Gilwern Village Hall.

    May 3rd next year? Don’t miss it.

  • Julian

    Paul – apologies if my comment was worded sharply – this is a event that brings people together and not an occasion for controversy. I look forward to meeting you next year – you’ll recognise me – I’m the old gent who insists on the macho practice of riding the Iron Mountain on 26″ wheels and hub gears!

  • Anthony

    A really nice day, especially when the rain subsided. The comment above was right – both those wanting to get to double figures and those less bothered about numbers were made equally welcome. I’ll certainly be back next year – I’ve just got to persuade a few mates that it really isn’t that bad so they’ll join me – just keep your pedals turning and the hill eases off in the end!

  • Diana and Peter

    As organisers of the TumbleUp4Life we would like to say that there is no right or wrong here. All participants are special to us. In the TumbleUp4Life cyclists raise funds in aid of Cancer Research UK. They also seek to share their inspiration about living life to the fullest, even when that seems an uphill battle. The struggle to conquer the Tumble as many times as possible (with a maximum of 15 times) in a single day symbolizes the sheer impossible task that cancer patients undertake every day to live life in spite of a disease. All cyclists push their limits at their own level. We also think that if cyclists like Lawrence Gruijters and Scott Ramsay manage to do 15 climbs, they have achieved something really amazing. That also applies to cyclists like Bryn Ruston and Evan Lane, who have done 2 climbs each, as a patient and/or cancer survivor. We climbed side by side with Heather, who told us about her father, who died of cancer last year. We were moved to tears by her story. We enjoyed the company of all cyclists and we had a great day. So thank you Paul for writing your post, thank you Julian for your comment and thanks to allmac for your kind words.

  • allmac

    Julian fair point but a tad harsh perhaps? Paul maybe got carried away with the challenge but i doubt if any insult intended. You have filled in the blanks which at least his article has given you the opportunity to do . I enjoyed both your comments and Paul’s article so well done to both of you

  • Julian Ross

    As a participant in this event for the last two years I am very disappointed that that there was no mention in the post that the event is organised by some wonderful Dutch people to raise funds for Cancer Research. The underlying idea being that repeated attempts of the climb pays tribute to the daily uphill challenges facing cancer sufferers. No matter what your ability as a rider is you are welcome and if you complete one climb or fifteen each individual effort is as valid as another. Sunday was hellish given the weather conditions but that in a way was quite appropriate to the event’s ethos. To participate in this event is a privilege and there is a lot more to it than a macho attempt “to complete the challenge” that this post suggests.