The Team RR race in Al Ain and up Jebel Hafeet had been so much fun; it was natural once the pain and torture of the climb had been blunted in our memories, our thoughts would wander over to our other wee hill in the UAE, Jebel Jais.
Located half an hour outside Ras Al Khamiah (RAK), Jebel Jais is a nice 20km stroll of a constant-ish 5.8% gradient, almost Alpine quality road that tops out after about 1080m of climbing. Summer is looming here in the UAE so it was decided we should head on over before the high temperatures really kick in.
4:30am departures from Dubai are just so much fun, the ninety minute drive over to JJ is easy enough, if lacking in decent coffee opportunities. Our 6:30 start time saw most of us ready to go, with eleven of us lined up for the climb and fashionably-late-Gareth on the way.
Quite a few of Team RR had done the climb before, but we also had a few trepidatious JJ virgins. Needless to say the bull*hit started early, just put on 3kg on business trip, jet-lagged from work, lacking sleep, hang-over knee, damaged shoulder, wrong cassette, heavy bike, all possible excuses were well represented.
A 10km warm up from the car park on gently rising roads got us in the mood, before the climb started. Almost straight away the young and not so heroically built (fat) gently pulled away up the first real slope. Those of us who were not so blessed with youth and waifness tried to find our pace, keeping heart rates on just the right side of Tachycardia.
And so it went, a long constant 19km grind of somewhere between one and two hours depending on athlete (sic). The camaraderie of pain never ceases to amaze me, generously I had offered to escort Chris-tine of the hangover-knee up the hill and even with the occasional stops to adjust his skeletal imbalances, he still managed to be the most photogenic of the group. A shout of Morning Gay Lord, announced the arrival of fashionably-late-Gareth as he came powering past us about 60% up the hill, showing off all his youthful fire-power. I never did like Maths teachers very much.
The young and waifs had waited patiently at the top for the team photo, fashionably-unfashionable-Squeak had topped out first, in a pretty good 72 mins and 15.7kph average for the 19km climb, with Soso not far behind. Ferret was next across the line, finally getting a decent climb in on his new TCR, even if his Garmin conspired to deny him proper validation.
Gareth had a mighty climb too and if he had been on time would have been third across the line, at a very respectable 13.4kph. Our forgetful-Podium-Princess, Sara had a great ride on her 25 tooth cassette, with an average speed of 13kph. Least surprising result of the day for everyone except herself was Megan who came in a minute or two behind Sara. Next year Megan will be destroying all comers! Anthonie also had a good ride, topping out with relative ease.
A brave effort was put in by Dawn, who got about half way up before the pain killers wore off and her damaged shoulder ligaments cried enough. Guest TRR member Kev almost got to the top, before his knees cried enough, not enough cycling time, of recent took its toll. Chris and I spun up the hill as best we could, with latent cramp slowing me down a bit, but not much. A final prove-our-manhood sprint at the top saw me seize my quads with cramp, an inglorious finish to be sure, never mind as always the only award I am likely to win is the Strava Suffer Score.
A brief pause at the top for photos and the moment for vindication had arrived, the descent.
Having all the natural attributes you could wish for, to be quick downhill, this was going to be fun. GoPro started; off we went with Ferret in the lead. What Furry loses out in the kg stakes he makes up for with ex-motorcycle race cornering ability and sheer bloody mindedness…. I was going to have him! With Soso and Squeak in close formation we rapidly pulled away from the more sensible team members. Although I wanted to win the downhill segment, some good video footage was the order of the day, so I wheel sucked Ferret and Squeak for about half the descent, clipping along at a nice easy pace.
Boredom eventually got the better of me, so cranked it up above 70kph and a cadence of 120 to stamp my authority on things, then bang, physiological equipment failure. Effing CRAMP, defeat, humiliation! My team mates were suitably oblivious and gradually pulled away, while I relied on my natural gravitational benefits to pull me down the last 30% of the hill, just keeping them in sight most of the way. Funnily enough somehow or other I still managed to have a quicker time than the Ferret down the hill, well if it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen, so it must be true.
The team formed up on the bottom of the hill and we spun out the 10km back to the car park, we had all survived, many mutterings of never again were heard, not least by me. A full de-brief at the Team RR HQ was mandated, well lubricated by endless supplies of fizzy grape juice and flat-nose-beef sausages, the nonsense continued unabated. Strava and video evidence was studied in depth, worryingly our team Captain could see the day fast approaching where he will no longer be able to have family Strava re-plays with the kids, as his wife will probably be beating him.
The day finished with an inspection of the new team support car, the Rolls Royce Dawn, all I can say is that it is sumptuous and gorgeous, with appropriately orange finishing kit! And we thought we were spoiled having a Prado as a support car, on that note a big thanks to support car driver Debs, who rescued and hydrated us with aplomb. Last but certainly not least a big thanks to AGMC Rolls-Royce Motors Cars for the fantastic riding kit and new support car.
Jebel Jais, simply a brilliant day out