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

Monday, 28 April 2008

A Mixed Weekend in Wales

This weekend was supposed to be another double: The Milford Haven 203Km starting from Carmarthen on Saturday followed by the Dic Penderyn 150km starting from Merthyr on Sunday.

On Thursday I got out with Dad again and we put in 40 miles. We headed out along the lumpy lanes from Portishead across to Butcombe where they brew my local favourite. After a good deal of looking, we were unable to find a pub in Butcombe so we pushed on to Wrington where we found a very nice pub. It turns out that Butcombe beer is, in fact, brewed in Wrington and not Butcombe! Gorgeous weather and some big hills made this an enjoyable outing.

A 5am start on Saturday for the 100 mile drive to Carmarthenshire, west Wales. I arrived an hour earlier than predicted so I needn't have got up so early after all! I was looking forward to this ride. It was a hilly 127 mile route heading out past Milford Haven and into Pembrokshire, apparently Dylan Thomas' neck of the woods. Well 9 miles into the route, and powering up a long drag there was an almighty noise and I noticed my front mech rubbing gainst my chainrings. Initially I thought this had come loose, but a couple of seconds of further examination revealed that I had snapped my seat tube right the way through where it meets the bottom bracket. GAME OVER! With extreme care and trepidation, I turned round and made it back to the start with my frame feeling very ropey! Anyway, I got back to the car and drove home. 200 miles of driving for 18 miles of cycling. What a great start to the weekend!

Sunday's start was a more reasonable 9am in Merthyr and I had arranged to meet up with Matt's dad Chris and Dave, who I had ridden the Hereford 48 miler with in February. I borrowed my brother James' bike for this one. I used to time trial on it but as a training bike it really felt odd. Several inches smaller than my (now dead) bike although considerably lighter. We had originally planned to ride the 150km event but due to inclement weather and Chris and Dave's training regimen, we decided to do the 100km Dec Penderyn event. Dic Penderyn was, apparently, a man who fought for the rights of workers several hundered years ago and was incorrectly hanged for killing a policeman. Its thought that he was framed because the law had had enough of his meddling. While the 150km ride actually visits his monument in a churchyard, the shorter 100km went out as far as Sennybridge. This was a very hilly route heading over several cattlegrids and accross the Brecons. It was so murky and foggy you could barely see the guy in front of you! And sheep posed an equal hazard! After a good lunch in Sennybridge we were well stocked up to attack the "Devil's staircase", a notorious haipinned climb up several hundred feet. I'm pleased to say I powered up this, having had to get off this time last year. No problems this time and I felt really strong all round. Being a short event, I used the hills for power training, powering up them and waiting at the tops for the rest of the group. All in all an enjoyable ride. Chris and Dave's traing is also paying off. Well done Dave for riding his hilliest and longest route so far! He also provided some light entertainment by falling off three times (we've all done it!!). Great to have friends to ride with.

We covered this 63 mile route at a 15mph average.

This week I'm hoping that we will be able to get my Eddy Merckx racing bike set up. I will be riding this in France and need to get used to riding it over the next couple of months. If I break this too, then I'm really stuck!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Carmarthen Bay 200km and Dustman Dave's Double Doddle 220km

This has been a tough week's training.
Following on from last week's 307km ride where I rode the furthest distance in one day for several years, I decided to set myself another challenge: to ride two 200km rides back to back.

Along with some light turbo training early in the week, I decided to do a short (60 mile) ride on Thursday. Having put together his racing bike after moving to the west country, Dad thought it was about time to get back on it after a lay-off of several months. The night before I planned a route to cycle out to Portishead to meet Dad and then we would cycle from there over the hills to Clevedon, then out into Somerset towards Cheddar. Rather than going over my usual route up Cheddar gorge, I thought that, being it was Dad's first ride for a while, we would go up to Shipham. Unfortunately this turned out to be a very long climb with lorries passing us regularly on their way to the quarry at the top. Anyway, we made it and had a pub lunch before heading back to Portishead, and my final leg back to Clifton. I used this as a recovery session and it was a good workout for Dad who put in 40 miles.

An early rise (5am) on Saturday to drive to Pontardawe near Swansea. Drizzle on my windscreen along the M4 and seeing tress blowing in the wind told me that it was not going to be an easy ride. A carpark start at Pontardawe leisure centre at 8am attracted about 25 cyclists for the event including 2 tandems. I started off with the group but after dropping everybody up the first climb, it would be the last time I would see another cyclist! With the wind behind me I steamed my way around the coast through Millenium Coast Park to Burry Port Harbour and on to Ferryside. I didn't bother stopping at the first control except to get my card stamped and ploughed on through Carmarthen, Llansteffan all the way to Amroth and had a bite to eat on the sea front. A big climb up to Summerhill and I knew the second half was not going to be so nice. The wind really picked up and I had to really work to keep the bike moving. The return leg took my over the west Wales hills back round to Carmarthen to a control at a pub in Ffairfach who had not been expecting anybody yet! They had prepared sandwiches for the cycliststs so I gladly munched on these before pressing on to the finish at Pontardawe. I finished before the marshals arrived at the control.

I averaged 15.5mph over this hilly and windy 125 mile route and was first back by a long way. I had been meaning to take it easy knowing that I had a longer ride the next day, but in the wind it was impossible to keep the heart rate down.

Another 5am start on Sunday this time to get to Bishops Lydeard, Taunton for an 8am start. No rain today and less wind. Although this ride had "doddle" in the title I was not going to be mislead knowing that we were heading into Exmoor! This time I found myself in a group of 10 or so riders and we set a great pace out to the first control on the seafront close to Dunster. Today I decided I was going to stop at controls and the rest of the group did too. They were amazed that I had ridden yesterday as well so I explained my plans to ride the Tour in July (bringing out mumbles of madness!). From Dundter we had a seven-man group and we made great time past Dunster castle, up a long, foggy climb (an alpine gradient) which I powered up leaving the group behind bar one rider, and we continued to Tiverton at about 20 - 22mph for some of the way. We had lunch at the Grand Western Canal country park in Tiverton. The next section would take us back to the start after 84 miles. On the long drag up to Wiveliscombe, our pace split the group leaving myself and 2 others to power on for some cake at the next control. This had been a fairly hilly route so far (about 1500m of climbing) and were pleased to hear that the scond half would take us out over the Somerset levels. This loop took us through Kingston St Mary, Creech St Michael, Stoke St Gregory (lots of saints!)to Langport where I scoffed some jelly babies before we made our way back to the finish control at Bishop's Lydeard.

A great ride of 137 miles polished off at 16mph average.

A solid week overall, covering over 320 miles. Next weekend is going to be a toughie with a 200km event starting in Carmarthen on Saturday and a hilly 150km event starting in Merthyr Tydfil on Sunday.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Heart of England 307km

Since coming back from Majorca I have been spending a fair amount of time on the turbo, gearing my workouts to building muscular endurance and power. I feel that these are areas that need improving.

After much deliberation I decided to enter this 191 mile event on Saturday. This is the longest distance I have ridden in one go for several years. It would be a real test of mental and physical endurnace. Being nearly 50 miles further than the longest stage we will be riding in France, I felt it would be another confidence-builder and it certainly was.

Starting in Cirencester at 6am meant an early start on Saturday. I was up at 3.15am! The first section (41 miles) took me from Cirencester through the Cotswolds to Alcester in Warwickshire. 4 miles into the ride the pack ahead of me came to a grinding halt and I saw a rider motionless lying in the middle of the road being put in the recovery position by a fellow rider. On questioning, a deer had run into the road and charged straight into him, knocking him flying and breaking his collar bone. An ambulance was called and a number of his fellow riders stayed with him. Further up the road I saw a stampeed of deer charging through one field, straight across the road into another field so could see how easily they could take out a cyclist. Anyway passing close to Stratford upon Avon I saw no further mishaps.

After getting my card stamped at Alcester, I decided to press on to the next control at Atherstone, between Tamworth and Nuneaton. This was a 36 mile stage. Reading place names such as these on the sign posts made me realise what a huge distance I was going to be covering today! Towards the end of this stage I picked up a group of three riders who had all done several long distance rides and was pleased to be keeping pace with them. Again, I decided not to stop at this control apart from for a quick Mars bar and Coke.

The three of us pushed on for the next 43 mile stage which took us on a scenic route through Sutton Cheney, Kirkby Mallory, Dunton Bassett and Swinford on the way to the control in Daventry, Northamptonshire. The wind picked up considerably and 5 miles or so before the control I was setting a fair pace at the front of our group of 4 and actually cracked the other riders, who dropped off the back. I waited at the control for 15 minutes for them and decided to push on by myself as they needed to stop for food. I found myself to be the third rider through this checkpoint out of 65starters.

Another 35 miles took me on an undulating and lonely ride through Canons Ashby, Farthinghoe and finally to Tackley, Oxfordshire. This control was at a pub and I couldn't resist some apple pie and a lager shandy which I felt I desrved for my efforts. Chatting to the marshalls here revealed that I was in third place, 90 minutes behind the leader who was Nik Gardner - one of the top long distance riders in the country. He has ridden over 500 miles in a 24-hour time-trial!(I was to finish 2 hours behind him at the end which I thought was pretty good for 191 miles!)20 minutes at this control and no sign of any other riders turning up so I pushed on to the finish at Cirencester. I suffered on this last 35 mile stage - a combination of dehydration and the pure distance I had ridden. This section took me through Witney and Brize Norton, crossing over the M40 at one point.

All-in-all a great ride. I covered 191 miles at an average speed of 15.5mph to finish in a total time (including stops) of just over 13 hours, which is by far the fastest 300km event I have evr done. In fact my 12 hour on-the-bike distance was over 180 miles (only 45 miles less than I did in my 12 hour time trial 10 years ago)and this was considerably hillier.

I had entered a hilly 107km event for Sunday, starting at Merthyr Tydfil but this required a 6am start and I felt that I should rest properly after an event of this length. This didn't take much persuasion! Over training at this point would be extremely detrimental.