It is 12.30 at night, 32 degrees warm and on the highway to Ras Al Khaimah’s Jebel Jais mountain. Two hours later I arrive at the foot of these bare mountains, pure rock forced to the surface by some tectonic force million years ago, now crumbling each day caused by the tide of day and night.
As scheduled the holiday preparations begin, and I set off on my bicycle for the ascent of Jebel Jais. No wind, humidity is high and the temperature has risen due the mountains radiating heat from the previous day. The first 10 kilometres is a slight slope, which changes into a steeper gradient at the top for a further 20 km. It is dark out here, very quiet and I can hear my steady breathing and the rocks crackling during the cooling hours. In 3 hours the sun will rise and the new cycle of the day will begin. After about an hour and an altitude of 800 meters, the first cool breeze raises the spirits. I hear some crackling sounds in the darkness, goats most likely.
The first hint of the approaching day lights the sky from a dark black blue to dark blue. Just enough for me to recognise the silhouette of the mountains on the other side of the valley and dark enough to see the shooting star – dark enough to think of life and death – dark enough to think about existence.
The legs are calling gently for a rest, without the distractions all around, you can feel the movement of the body parts and how they all fit together. The body feels good, it has been preparing for 2 months for the mountain challenge.
Suddenly we are on top of Jebel Jais, well not quite, but nearly. A quick drink of water, and a check of the brakes, down we go 30 km of descent. The sky is getting brighter, the dark blue is turning navy blue and there is a shimmer of orange-red skirting over the mountain skyline. It is still too dark to really let it roll, just can’t afford any crashes during the holiday preparations. Reaching the valley, the light is starting to set in.
I refill the water bottles, grab some food and start the second ascent. This time the ride will be tough but the body still feels good. The sky lightens further and soon I will meet the sun and we will exchange greetings. As I ascend the mountain road, the sun is rising from the sea in the east. The mountain still prevents the direct sunlight from lurching over the horizon. It is a race that I cannot win. Brightly the first rays shoot over the mountain tops, and a new day has dawned! I have nearly reached the summit of JJ, as I affectionately call the mountain. We have had many conversations during our previous encounters, each time the language becomes softer and I have learned not to fight the mountains. Eventually the mountain summit will gently come to you.
Now the bright sunlight starts to burn, and it is time to find shelter from the sun. Just another downhill, concentrate, view the line into and out of the curve, pressure on the outward pedal and force on the inside handlebar. Keep the line, accelerate, pressing the legs together, head and body down, elbows inward. The adrenaline rushes, the white road markings blurr, punching into the pedal on the straight sections and screaming brakes just before the next curve. Leaning into the corner and keeping the eyes fixed in the direction of the curve exit. Ready to punch into the straight.
The final stretch ahead, the heart is pounding, the thighs feel swollen from lactic acid, glutes are complaining and the quad muscles are tight. This was the last real test and I am ready to start the holiday, hoping that the preparation will suffice for what is to come in the French Alps, the “cols” can be tough, and I am looking forward to the breaks at the local “brasserie” and the phrase book will help me navigate through the Cevennes. The ‘cols’ are busy at their base, noisy little town at their feet. At the peak, they quietly whisper Liberte´ in their language.