Setting off on Le Tour - Brest, Brittany

Setting off on Le Tour - Brest, Brittany
Ian (Left) and Matt (Right)

Hello and a very warm welcome to our blog.

We are two amateur cyclists who have decided to follow in the footsteps of our cycling heroes and ride the complete 2008 Tour de France route. This year the most famous cycle race in the world covers 3500km (2200 miles) over 3 weeks in July and takes in some of the highest mountain passes in the Pyrenees and Alps.

We will start two days after the professionals on 7th July in Brest, Brittany and ride the whole thing stage-for-stage, road-for-road, day-for-day as the pros will be. This will result in us arriving in Paris on 29th July, having averaged 100 miles per day. Please click this link to see what lies ahead of us:
Our aim is to complete the whole route and this means that we will not be racing round but riding at a sensible, sustainable pace. As a result, we expect to be in the saddle for 12 hours on some days.

Friends and family will be driving a support vehicle but we will not have the benefit of masseurs, soigneurs, chefs and team doctors that the pros have. And there will be no Testosterone, EPO or illegal blood doping going on in our Tour!

We hope to raise as much money as possible for two very worthwhile charities: Ian is raising money for CLIC Sargent and Matt for MacMillan Cancer Support. Please dig deep and support these charities via our justgiving pages on the right. Alternatively, please email us with your name, contact details and the amount you would like to donate and we will contact you after we complete our tour.

At this time, a friend of Ian's, Robbie Stuart, is fighting Leukaemia and is a supporter of CLIC Sargent's work. A link to his blog can be found here. Best wishes go to Robbie who is currently recovering from a bone marrow transplant.

Please tell you friends about our blog and what we are doing, and please send us words of encouragement and support.
We will update you with our training and we will be keeping a diary on here as we ride the event in July.

Best wishes

Ian and Matt

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

28th February 2008 - BBC Radio Scotland - 10:15am

All listen in to Macaulay & Co on Thursday on BBC Radio Scotland at about 10:20am tomorrow - Matt is being interviewed together with recent Round-the-World Record Breaking Cyclist Mark Beaumont!

I shall be sure to get plenty of tips!!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Lancashire Bike Exchange and Four Seasons in a Day

It was a hectic one this weekend, with a meeting arranged with my parents to exchange bikes around Lancaster (about halfway between Glasgow and Hereford). After Christmas, my Dad (my perennial mechanic - thank you Dad!!) had decided that my training bike needed a bit of a sprucing up and had kindly taken it upon himself to do this (knowing fine well I'm incompetent!)
So this midway meeting was arranged so that my folks could take my racing bike and I return with my training bike. It also coincided with their wedding anniversary - congratulations all round!

So we had a pleasant lunch and catch-up before we went our separate ways again.

Sunday then required a longer ride having had Saturday "off". So on Saturday night I sat down and planned a route to the North over the Campsies through Callander, up the A85, left onto the A84 to Crianlarich and then South along the A82 and the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond and back into Glasgow.

I've decided to call this ride "The Three Cs" - Callander, Crianlarich and Clydebank! The route profile included a long climb out of Lennoxtown followed by a windy descent down to Kippen with stunning views back to the South. A nice bit of flat through to Callander and then a shallow climb to Lochearnhead. Having experienced glorious sunshine to this point, it started to rain in a pleasant springlike way. Shortly after this, while descending at a heady 30+mph, the sleet and freezing rain started. At this point it would have been fairly easy to locate me - simply following the cries of "Ow,ooh,AArgh, B*******d, ow..." and other choice expletives as my face and body were pounded by the freezing winter weather.

This soon disippated however on the long climb up Glen Ogle, followed by a sharp descent and a headwind to Crianlarich. The last time I was in Crianlarich was about 10 years ago following a 100mile day in the course of Andy Kitchen's and my End-to-End adventure so it quite interesting to see it again. It's a tiny wee one-horse kind of town with a train line and beautiful views across the valley to the southern Highlands.

I stopped for a five-minute breather here, having covered 68.5miles in 4hrs 25 mins. I knew there was a short climb out of town and then a long descent to Loch Lomond and then a (pretty-much) pan-flat 45-50 mile ride back home.
I totalled 124.75 miles in the end (just shy of 200km) and averaged 15.9 mph - a speed I was very pleased with.

More than that though, this was an amazingly enjoyable ride. The scenery around Glasgow is simply breathtaking and to be able to ride around for the best part of 8 hours with a smile on your face is something special. It's pretty odd to be cycling on an A road which is so narrow cars can't overtake you if something is coming in the other direction - but that's what it's like - so quiet and peaceful and with stunning scenery to boot! I'm a lucky chap to have all this on the doorstep (admittedly most people wouldn't think that riding 125 miles to enjoy this is lucky, or even sane, but I'm odd!).
Big thanks go to my Dad for sorting out me bike - it rides like a dream (and seemingly goes quite fast too!) and to my Mum for putting up with him being in the garage fixing me bike!

The picture (for those of you interested) is taken between Fintry and Kippen looking South West at about 10:00am - doesn't do it justice, mind!

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Gospel Pass 160km and Dunkery Dash 102km

Firstly, I'd like to second what Matt said, and say a big thank you to everybody who has sponsored us and helped us raise £1000 so far. This is really motivating us to train hard!

Following on from Thursday's hilly 65 miles, I decided to make it a weekend of hilly events:

Saturday's "Gospel Pass" 100 mile event started at 8am in Chepstow, just over the bridge from me, and headed out to Hay on Wye, Abergavenny and back to Chepstow. The first 30 miles was fairly undulating but the fun started after Hay on Wye. After turning off the main road you head into the Black Mountains and over the Gospel Pass. This is the second highest road in Wales going up to 582m. You really wonder where you're heading as the route becomes single-track and just goes on and on! Once up the top the wind was unbelievable. It was hard keeping upright, several times the gusts nearly blew me off the road. Even the downhills needed constant pedalling just to keep moving. It was here, apparently, that Gerald of Wales preached the Third Crusade in medieval times. Once over the top, the wind died down for some very impressive views of the Black mountains. After Abergavenny, the route was very undulating ending with an 8km drag to Chepstow. Somehow I managed to average 15mph with 2500m of uphill.

Sunday's route started in North Petherton, near Bridgwater. Basically an out and back route heading out to Dunkery Beacon in Exmoor National Park. This event included 1300m of climbing including about 2 miles at 18% before the long drag up Dunkery Beacon. Just when I thought it couldn't go on for much longer, the control loomed into sight on the top - a 4x4 with horsebox! I took this opportunity to scoff some delicious home-made bread pudding and spiced apple cake. I did this route in just over 4 hours. It certainly wasn't a dash! My legs really ached today but I managed to climb the hills strongly. The first bloke back did it in under 3 and a half hours which is impressive for that distance, especilly over that terrain.

So I've clocked up 227 miles this week with a serious 4000m of climbing. With 4 months to go, this is looking hopeful!

Friday, 22 February 2008


Thank you very much to all the people who have sponsored us so far - on the 22nd February we have surpassed £1,000 in money pledged.

A heartfelt thanks from Ian and Matt and all those at CLIC Sargent and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Keep those pledges coming - the training is getting harder all the time, and it's really keeping us motivated!!

Matt and Ian

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Tasty Cheddar Gorge

This week Evans Cycles have kindly offered us 10% off all cycling components and accessories from their stores.

Today I adapted the “Tasty Cheddar” 101km Audax, that starts near my house, to make it a little tougher. This is a fairly undulating route anyway but I thought I would stick a long, hard climb in right at the end to really hurt the old legs.

A very scenic route (scenic = hilly!) starting at my house, crossing the Clifton suspension bridge and cycling through the lanes to Clevedon and past the sea front. From Clevedon you get a fairly flat secton across the Somerset levels towards Weston- super-Mare, turning off to Winscombe. Powering along the lanes into a headwind, a very kind muck spreader driver decided to pull out in front of me, and being as wide as the lane I was stuck behind him enjoying the lovely aroma that was passing into my nostrils with every breath. Turning onto a wider road, and him travelling at around 15-20 mph, I decided I’d had enough of this and promptly shoved my bike into a big gear and powered past him, leaving him to drip “muck” all over the Somerset lanes.

On to Cheddar via the lovely little town of Axbridge. On joining the main road up Cheddar gorge, this time an open-top tour bus pulled out in front of me. He could have let me past but no, he had to go first and stop every time he came to a car coming the other way. Luckily he buggered off as the road started to climb and I could get into a comfortable rhythm without having to suck in lungfuls of diesel fumes. I climbed Cheddar gorge without any problems, feeling strong all the way up. At the top of Cheddar gorge, you fork left and then the fun starts, with some real short, sharp ups and downs before reaching Dundry and a very long climb up to the top. From here you can see the Clifton suspension bridge and both Severn bridges. Today I wasn’t interested in the views and continued back to Long Ashton and the long climb up to the top. At the bottom I passed some mountain bikers walking up and decided to go for it and ground my way up it. A fairly flat run in back to Clifton finished off a decent ride. 65 miles. A good warm up for some serious events at the weekend.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Holy Bouncing Bottles, Batman

Ah, the joys of cycling of a weekend - eating excellent (and plentiful) amounts of food to make up for it.

This weekend I intended to have two shorter rides and so on Saturday I went North over the Campsies which involved a good long climb out of Lennoxtown. Once over the hills I ended up heading towards Stirling on very flat (if exceptionally bumpy) roads. After about 2 hours I was rounding a bend and hit some especially poor terrain to feel my water bottle take a giant leap out of its cage and meet an untimely end on the tarmac. This left me with no drink, 3 hours of riding ahead of me and two ruddy big climbs. I confess I may have said a naughty word!

Fortunately about 8 miles up the road I hit a small village where I was able to replenish my water bottles. The remainder of the ride was uneventful apart from slow moving cars coming off the last hill of the day which took all the fun out of the descent and the exceptionally hairy ride into Glasgow past St Rollox shopping centre (you have to be in the outside lane of 3 on a 40mph limit or you end up on the M8 - this hence involves maintaining speeds of over 30mph for a considerable distance after having cycled 65miles).

So that was a good 71 miles on Saturday. Sunday was an uneventful and fairly flat ride along the National Cycle Route #7 to Irvine, through Paisley then I hung a left to Kilmarnock before dropping by Galston and back to the A77 and a welcome descent into Glasgow. It was 67 miles in all at a rapid 17.1mph but I felt pretty good and have had a darned good weekend all in all.

And some excellent news on the sponsorship and media front from Ian as you'll see from his latest blog too.

The Cotswold Corker 106km and Hereford (Climb on Bikes) 48 miler

Two good bits of news off the bike this week:
Firstly, Science in Sport (SIS) has kindly offered us 40% discount on energy supplements which is a great help because we will be going through a hell of a lot of it!
Secondly, the Bristol Evening Post published a three-quarter page article yesterday covering our plans to ride the Tour route. This can be found here.

Before I got to see the article in the paper, I was riding an extremely hilly event yesterday called “The Cotswold Corker” Audax. A 9am start in Cheltenham and the thermometer read -1C! This event involved 1900m of uphill in just over 100km. The route was very scenic and a real tester. Two 1 in 4 gradient climbs within the first 11km didn’t really allow for a decent warm-up and I had to work my way past several riders who had started off quite fast and then decided they couldn’t ride up the first hill. This was long and narrow with ice along both sides of the road and in the end I had to get off and walk as it was impossible to get past everybody. The second hill started with ice at the bottom so, after negotiating this, I made my way up to the top. The route passed through places such as Winchcombe, Stow-on-Wold, Chedworth, Daglingworth, Frampton Mansell, up another long, steep hill up to Andoversford, and then back towards Cheltenham. Hillclimbing must be improving because I didn’t struggle too much even on the steep ones!

Today I was in Hereford, and after staying with Matt’s parents, Chris and Paula, rode a hilly 48 mile ">route organised by a local bike shop:

I rode this event with Chris and a friend, Dave. At 9am the thermometer read -4C! This was fairly flat for the first 20 miles and we were flying along at just under 18mph average through places such as Bishops Frome and Ledbury, but the hills kicked in after half way with a nice 1 in 5 climb up from Hoarwithy where Paula, Kate and Dave’s wife Jane were waiting in a car to cheer us on! From then on it was very undulating to the finish back in Hereford. Unfortunately, I inadvertently dropped Chris and Dave, thinking they were in my group of riders and finished in just under 3 hours. I later found out that Dave had punctured. Including the ride to and from the start, this made the total up to 60 miles today. Chris and Dave rode well and have expressed interest in accompanying us on one or two stages in France! After yesterday’s efforts, my legs were beginning to complain towards the end of today’s ride but overall felt strong and averaged 17mph. This was followed by an excellent lunch around Dave and Jane’s.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

A new county

Well it's taken me a while to update the blog from my ride at the weekend but I managed just under 112 on Saturday starting just after dawn and heading South on a new route which took me through Darvel, Sorn, Auchinleck, Cumnock and New Cumnock. This was all into a headwind (for a change) but I prefer to go out in to the wind to get the easy ride back.

I'd planned the route in advance on the old computer so I knew I had 2,700m of climbing to look forward to so tried to keep the old heartrate down as much as possible but with a couple of short sharp climbs in there it wasn't possible! I'm beginning to feel a bit better on the hills now and have found some longer hills as well.

Having passed through New Cumnock I then headed down into the valley of the River ???? and passed into Dumfries and Galloway (a county I had yet to cycle through in the course of training) which made me realise how far I'd gone!

It also represented the point at which I would shortly turn back to head with the wind. Travelling along the rolling A76 I wasn't feeling all too great and turning North with what should have been a healthy tailwind and struggling up the lower valley slopes of what I knew was a 13 mile climb was not inspiring. However, I soon picked up the wind and was whistling along at 20mph up the valley and the average was shifting up from a miserly 13mph to crest 14mph by the top of the valley and some more sharp climbing. I was now on known roads around Muirkirk and North to Starthaven and began to enjoy myself - except for feeling a little bit of the bonk at around 95 miles.

I stopped for some jelly beans purchased the previous evening from my freindly corner shop and I canhonestly tell you that I've never felt food work so fast. The sugar took about 30 seconds to kick in and I suddenly felt gloriously awake and ready to tackle the remaining 15-16 miles.

By the end of it all I had reached 15mph and had been going for nearly 7.5hours and felt really good (stupid endorphins confusing my body again!)

I managed to drag myself to an excellent Richard Hawley gig that evening though with Mark (and his parents) and partied into the wee small hours - I thought I'd earned it after all!

So a good ride all-in-all.

Two shorter rides this weekend as I'm having a "tapering" week (i.e. recovering by riding less - I've only done 2.5 hours on the turbo so far this week - it's been a joy!)

Till next time folks!

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Malmesbury Mash 208km

This 130 mile Audax officially started near Cardiff and followed a figure of eight route through Chepstow, across the old Severn bridge to Malmesbury in Wiltshire, heading back via the old Severn bridge, Chepstow and Cardiff. As the route passed close to Bristol I decided to start it here and then follow it all the way round back to where I started. (We shall ignore the fact that I slept through my alarm and woke up at 7.10am, meaning I had no chance of getting to Cardiff for the 7.30am start!). I drove to Iron Acton (North Bristol) and was on the bike at 8.30am. I knew I had little chance of completing the route before sunset but luckily this bike has good lights.

The description of the route was “Only one big hill, a good early season trainer”. I don’t totally agree with this! There was a long drag out of Caerphilly and a few short, sharp climbs near Newport and on the way back from Chepstow to Malmesbury. Near Tytherington I was rapidly running out of water and thankfully came across a snack van parked along the A38, which was closing up for the day, but the lady in charge kindly sold me some Coke and water and this really helped! I was getting quite dehydrated by this point. The route, overall, was stunning and I will be using it again. I stopped to watch a spectacular sunset from the high spot between Hawkesbury Upton and Horton in Gloucestershire.

I got an answer phone message from a reporter from the Bristol Evening Post and, on phoning him back, was told that the paper is keen to publish an article about our Tour ASAP. This is great because the more coverage we can get, the better.

So far our sponsorship is up to £750.00 so thank you to everybody who has donated and please keep passing the word around. Powerbar have kindly offered us 30% off all their energy supplements as way of support.

Thursday, 7 February 2008


This morning, I headed along the A38 all the way to Gloucester and, surprisingly, this turned out to be a very nice, quiet road. The fun started after turning off the A40 for Monmouth where the road became fairly undulating with long climbs, but a nice final sweep down to Monmouth. This was followed by a lovely ride through the Wye Valley past Tintern Abbey to pick up the M48 (cycle path) over the old Severn bridge heading into a fairly stiff head wind. The ride back through Avonmouth and then along the Portway was flattish until I passed under the Clifton suspension bridge, and then as my legs began to complain I had to climb up to Clifton. All in all 100 miles wrapped up in just over 6 hours. Bring on Saturday and a 130 miler!

I'd like to thank everybody who has sponsored us so far. Its really appreciated and adds to our motivation!

Monday, 4 February 2008

The Three L's

That's Linlithgow, Livingston and Lanark - and were the three major towns on my route yesterday which took me over the 100 mile mark for the first time in about 8-9 years!

On the Saturday night I'd driven over the Campsies (hills to the North of Glasgow) on my way home and had encountered what can only be described as a blizzard - this had led me to rethink my route for the next day which involved climbing up to above the snow line (not that high round here at the moment!)

The only feasible direction appeared to be East as a result and so I was up until midnight planning myself a new route.

So come the Sunday morning I set off (forgetting my sunglasses this time - see my last post) and readying myself for 7 hours of rain and 23 mph Southerlies (as per the forecast).

The rain failed to materialise but alas they were spot on with the winds which was thoroughly enjoyable while heading North but a bit of a shocker in the other direction!

It was a fairly eventful ride all in all. After about 10 miles I got lost in Easterhouse (not the best part of Glasgow to be seen wearing flourescent Lycra). So after looking both ways I beat a hasty retreat along my route to refind the correct road.

About an hour later I passed a group of cyclists going in the other direction and we exchanged hearty greetings. I then heard what appeared to be barking. I glanced around and sure enough there was what looked like a pitbull rapidly bearing down on my rear wheel and (more importantly) ankles. I put some considerable amount of pressure into the pedals, accelerated to 20mph and, after about 5 seconds, the wee bugger gave up. It was like something out of a cartoon. Very odd.

The route as a whole took me through some really stunning and surprisingly remote countryside considering I was never more than about 20 miles from a motorway and no more than 25 miles from Glasgow or Edinburgh at any point.

Certainly a route I shall be doing again, though hopefully with less wind next time. Having said that the wind did allow me to have some fun on the run in to Glasgow. The last 8 miles or so are downhill into the Clyde valley and with a tail wind as well, I found myself coming off a roundabout exceeding 35 mph and gaining on the car in front. It was a long straight stretch of road and I pulled into his slipstream and sat behind him doing 40mph for a little way (he looked very surprised!)

Further down the road, a motorcyclist pulled out in front of me and accelerated up to 30mph. I saw him glance in his mirrors and do a double take as I proceeded to catch and overtake him. Fantastic fun.

Looking forward to next weekend and whatever the weather shall throw at me.

Flapjack 100

After a week of training on my indoor trainer due to inclement weather, I rode this 102km/64 mile event yesterday. This event is one of the many "Audax" events organised by various cycling clubs nationwide, and infact worldwide. They vary from 50km to over 1000km in length and they are good rides for building endurance. They always seem to be hilly and are well organised, using mainly minor roads. The idea is to ride from checkpoint to checkpoint within a designated time.

This particular event started in Chippenham and went out past RAF Lynham, taking in some of Gloucestershire's beautiful villages, returning past the famous Westonbirt arboretum and Castle Coombe. This ride is a bit shorter than what I am used to at the moment but was convenient as so local.

Before I started this ride, I didn't really understand why it was called the Flapjack 100. However, all became clear as copious quantities of flapjack was available at each checkpoint, and very nice it was too! Have to admit I found the route fairly easy and a good sign that my fitness is coming on leaps and bounds. Even the hills felt good, including a couple of 1 in 6s. I have a 208km/130 mile event entered for next weekend.

Matt did a solid 100 miler yesterday, and being up in Scotland, I can imagine it was fairly hilly! I hear that he even overtook a motorbike at some point, so God knows what speed he was doing!!!The fact that we are both capable of riding this sort of distance with 5 months to go till our Tour ride is very encouraging. The key now is to increase the frequency of these rides, because we will be riding day-in, day-out in France.