Mountain Laurel/Climbing Speed

33“Being a mountain specialist is very hard. Not that I’d rather be anything else because I don’t think you can become…a better human being without effort. You can beat the problems of life much more easily if you’ve met hardship. It sometimes looks as if the first rider to the top has done it fairly easily; you tend to feel more sorry for the men who’ve knocked themselves out to make the climb at all; but believe me to be quicker than the rest and particularly than the other stars involves a lot of pain.”   Manuel Fuente, El Tarangu-Man of Strong Reputation

Fuente in Pink following Merckx

Fuente in Pink following Merckx

34«Marco, perché vai così forte in salita? Per abbreviare la mia agonia».

“Marco, why are you such a strong climber? To shorten my pain.” Marco Pantani, Climbing Sensation


The pain is great, but skirmishes of the mountain specialists to shorten it yield bicycling beauty. On craggy slopes of mountainous forests here in the mid-Atlantic, a gorgeous flower blooms between May and June known as Mountain Laurel. If ingested, its toxic poison leads to 35“profuse salivation, depression, uncoordination, vomiting…watering of the eyes, irregular or difficulty breathing, weakness, cardiac distress…”

These symptoms are a bit like painful climbing at race speed. This ultimate test of limits for a road cyclist demands a large heart, lean body, leg strength, and lethal abilities to suffer. The strength gained from off-season uphill endurance and overgeared tempo is the launching pad toward the pinnacle of speed up the peaks of early summer. A fitness progression to further prepare for this climbing prowess includes flatland speedwork, rolling motorpacing, dozens of uphill races, power intervals of varying gear selections, and a well-trained ability to sustain paces of suffering that buffer again and again into uphill anaerobic agony.

Peak examples of these physiological and psychological factors blossom in the mountain stages of the Grand Tours. Here is where the hardy hearts of the hills display their splendor and unleash dangerous moves of distinction. Honors, such as King of the Mountain, Trophée des Grimpeurs, Cima Coppi, Polka Dot and Maglia Verde are the laurels of hillside heroes. Perennial favorites and annual newcomers embrace the pain of penultimate courses for this mountainous glory!

“I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!”36Habakkuk3:19


Prayer for Climbing Speed

We are enthralled with uphill combat. We pray for the elements of uphill speed and for help and hearts as big as the rising elevation ahead. We ask blessing on our beloved Climbers.

Ponder Have I heart enough to climb quickly? Affirm I climb with speed if I prepare to embrace pain. Watch who suffers shortest.


33“The Greatest Show on Earth: The Story of the 1974 Giro d’Italia,” directed by Michael Pfleghar ©1974 Bavaria Atelier GmBH, packaged by World Cycling Productions

 Manuel Fuente, the little Spaniard, was respected by Merckx for his mountain strength, 40+ pound weight advantage, and climber’s penchant for uphill attacks. He was known for his character and died in 1996 after battling kidney disease at age 50.

 34Marco Pantani, not sure the original source for this quote. For a great tribute to Marco see, “Marco Pantani, don’t look back in anger,” by Podofdonny posted 2/13/2007 on

 Ultimately the pain of both of these mountain men was eased through shortened life.

 35Mountain Laurel

 36The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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