Alptitude 2015 – Achieving goals I never knew I had

We’ve just got back from Alptitude, a new sort of conference. Formal sessions are out. Bringing your families is in. In fact, I was brought by my partner who has worked with the organisers – The Happy Start-up School – in the past. We needed a holiday, it was during half-term and it was in the French Alps. Easy decision.

Once the flights and car hire were booked I didn’t pay too much more attention until a few days before we were due to leave when I decided to hire a bike out there. After a 25 year lay-off I’ve been hit hard by the cycling bug, just like many recently-turned 40-year olds it turns out. “Would it be OK?”, I asked my partner. Asking such a question it transpires is the antithesis of the Alptitude approach.

I now looked into the region a bit more and discovered it lay in the heart of one of the most famous cycling areas in the world. An area that has seen countless Tour de France stages pass through, or more accurately over. The area is home to some of the most challenging and beautiful climbs going.

Over the course of three days of cycling I climbed two mountain passes – cols – that have featured in previous Tours. One, the Col de la Columbière, is a genuine classic and name I remember from when I was glued to the Tour de France TV coverage over 25 years ago.

These are nothing like the climbs I’m used to. My nearest proper climbs at home are Ditchling Beacon and Kidd’s Hill, both rise about 150 metres over the course of 1.5km. They are tough, but short and sharp and over in under 10 minutes. Columbiére rises 1100m over the course of a 16km climb and takes an hour.

The point is, I didnt even know I was into this sort of mountain climbing because I simply hadn’t had the opportunity to do it before. I am now completely smitten by the experience of challenging myself in such a beautiful environment doing something I love. I WILL be back.

Just like the relaxed but inspiring conference that got me there, this experience reminded that when you don’t place heavy expectation on something that’s exactly when you can get pleasantly surprised. It might even change your life. Alptitude actively encouraged us all to take time for ourselves, recharge and be inspired by others. I can’t think of a better way of doing that than riding in such stunning mountains.