Training on Mount Teide is what made the difference between Brad [Wiggins] winning and losing the 2012 Tour de France. After he broke his collarbone in 2011 I thought he’d missed his chance but standing at the top of that mountain, in the months before the race, I changed my mind. I realised that he was ready.
Teide is a barren – it’s like the moon. At the top there’s nothing except this twisted, volcanic landscape but towards the bottom it’s nicely tree-lined and the views are breathtaking. As mountains go it’s pretty unique – there are very few places where you can ride from sea level to 2100m in one go. But it’s not an ‘in your face’ climb and one of the advantages of it was that was in Brad’s range (he rides well around 7-10%) but it’s climb that you have to endure to appreciate its value.
We’d ride from El Medano on the south coast, through Granadilla to Vilaflor.
This top section beyond Vilaflor is really special for me; it’s where the suffering went on, where we did the real work. It’s what made him a winner.
I’d be following Brad on a moped, like a pizza delivery boy. He’d be low on the bike and I could see his body working, see his lungs expanding, taking in the air and letting it go. I’d pull up along alongside him, urging him to keep going but he’d barely register that I was there.
There’s a hard, right hand bend about half way to the top. By this stage of the climb he’d be riding hard, at threshold power, but from here it’s still around 8km to the summit and from time to time I still had nagging doubts. We’d get to this hairpin and I’d be thinking, ‘he’s going to stop’ but he never did. Most people crack on Teide, they pop, but this is where he emptied the tank. He’d ride like it was like a time trial.
Teide became our world for weeks at a time. We’d stay at The Parador hotel at the top, which means that you’re sleeping at altitude but also that you’re pretty much stranded. It’s totally isolated, eerily quiet and 15 miles from the nearest village. Your whole life becomes about getting to the top as fast as possible. All you can do is ride, recover and sleep. Sat there one day I remembering thinking that we’d found this place where we could just go deeper…
Written by Shane Sutton for Mountains: Epic Cycling Climbs