At the break of dawn on Tuesday mornings, the peak climb is strangely a very busy place for cycling. Like clockwork, numerous individuals from at least 3 different Hong Kong clubs choose this time to train on this iconic climb.
I'm always late! I have to be out of the house and on the bike by 5:20 latest, and no matter how early I set the alarm, it is always 5:25 when I leave. Well this is not entirely true as I refuse to set my alarm at any time that starts with the digit "04:XX" as that just seems too extreme, so there is always going to be a rush to exit by 5:20. Especially with my very annoying and expensive latex tires that need pumping up every day! I must get rid of those despite the extra 2 watts they supposedly provide!
I'm heading to the SIRS meeting point, 5:45 at the "shellopec". They have had a traditional ride up the peak on Tuesday mornings for almost 10 years now, and nothing much has changed in that time. Like most weeks I catch the group of 12 riders, not a bad size today, at 5:47 on their descent to the Adventist. My legs have felt a bit tired and heavy on the approach and I am favouring an easier recovery ride if possible, so I quickly flash my eyes through the SIRS line up to see if I can spot anyone that is likely to push the pace.
To be fair, I am as guilty of anyone of getting a whiff of testosterone-driven competition, and this first ascent up to Magazine Gap is always as fast as the fastest and freshest rider in the group. Well, at least for as long as you can hang on. “There goes my recovery ride”, I think to myself as I notice 2 or 3 of the fittest and fastest riders in Hong Kong present. And, as it does every week, the well-mannered group of mostly middle-aged men quickly becomes stretched out and splintered, the frontrunners reaching Guildford road in well under 9 minutes with their tongues hanging. A couple of minutes of waiting for the more sensible riders that are pacing themselves and we're off towards to the summit, this time at a much more sociable pace.
We always spot a handful of riders descending at this point, and I have still no idea who these insanely serious riders who must get up well before the 05:00 early alarm limit. Respect to them! On this second segment of the ride, many SIRS still fresh, the pace does quicken, and there is always someone that feels the need to stretch us out again before the end which is at the bridge.
Descending immediately from this point, the SIRS pass another group of cyclists coming up the hill, this one heavily populated by members of the Tritons Triathlon Club. The later starting Tritons group is typically smaller than the SIRS but it does contain the highest proportion of female riders. I will often spend a little bit of time riding with them after the sun has risen to enjoy the views which are so much better than when with the SIRS (as it’s later in the morning).
Still early on this fine morning, I notice that their group has fractured into single riders and a couple of smaller groups. Unlike the SIRS, this will have been calculated, as the Tritons are triathletes! Each rider will be following their cyber coaches plans and keeping to specific HR zones. The lucky ones might even have an appearance from their coach in the flesh, in the form of forever-young “Coach Mike”, who was recently declared the most handsome man in Hong Kong.
After a second and much slower ascent with the SIRS, the sun is up, we have merged with some of the Tritons and the views are fantastic. It is at this time that the city looks its best, strangely quiet and calm. To ride on the empty roads at this time really delivers the feeling of stolen time, there is no better way to start the day. We reach the top at 6:45 and turn home for a well-earned breakfast.
But before breakfast I take the chance to sneak in a cheaky extra half-climb on sighting of our final club - the Dragons. The Dragons are great triathletes (unless you ask the Tritons) and have one of the largest and most organised weekly group ride schedules of any club. So much so that they have attracted a decent number of pure cyclists into their ranks to balance out the distribution of sleevless tops. By this time in the morning they are well into a ride that will have featured climbs up Repulsebay Rd and Mt Butler, and with the social part of their ride over, they are "pushing it", some riders possibly going for times to count towards their KOTM challenge. Their ride is nicely completed by around 7:15 with an easy summit of Mt Austin and a few minutes admiring the view before its time to descend on the roads that are beginning to fill with those on their way to work.
© 2017 Roojai