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

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Majorca 22-29 March 2008

Apologies for the delay on this - first week back to work has been a bit manic!

Anyway, what an amazing week in Majorca. In the 6.5 days we were there we managed:

  • 553 miles
  • 1 rest day
  • 1 broken rim
  • 1 broken rear mech (fixed by Ian's Dad Peter in 30 seconds!)
  • 1 puncture
  • 1 crash
  • Plenty of dodgy Spanish
  • Copious quantities of beer (the local shop started giving us discount we drank so much) - all in the name of recovery you understand.

Day 1 - Saturday

It started off well - arrived in Palma and picked up the car without incident, found the apartment with relative ease and assembled the bikes (or mostly). Ian's rear mech (the bit that moves around and changes the gears) had lost all its "spring". I recalled a bike shop from my previous trip to Majorca so it was off there. This was Easter Saturday and it was shut, however. Fortunately the owners were just back from a bike ride and so I knocked on the door and pleaded in bad Spanish and puppy dog eyes for a new rear mech for Ian. The lady duly obliged and it was back to the apartment for reassembly and out for a ride at about 4:30pm.

We went up to Cap Formentor, a rolling route of 40 miles return and we both enjoyed the hills and the conditions...until we turned for home when we realised that the rim on Ian's rear wheel was split (most probably due to over-exurberance on the part of baggage handlers). This meant some very steady descending for Ian on the way home. When we hit the flat though, we cranked it up and were whizzing along as the rain started to fall in big clumps. It was as we were speeding into a roundabout on the outskirts of Alcudia that I cranked the bike over at 20mph+ and found myself skidding along the ground on me bum. I quickly jumped up and hobbled to the side of the road. We were nearly home so we cycled on and on return investigated the damage. Most importantly the bike was fine, as were my new shorts (my first concern!) and I had some minor road rash.

So that was all good.

40.51 miles in 2:31:54 at 16.0mph average.

Day 2 - Easter Sunday

No shops open today so Ian's wheel was gaffa-taped to prevent inadvertent tube-poking-throughage-and-going-bang-ness! Ian had found a 50mile drive from the town of Petra which sounded flat (no descents to trouble Ian's dodgy wheel) and pleasing to the eye. So we cycled to Petra and then followed this route.

The scenery was very nice (wide green meadows, flowering orchards etc), the weather was changeable (overcast, windy, sunny in patches) and we felt good. We stopped for a bite to eat in Petra after 26 miles or so and headed on our merry way to Felanitx, Porreres, Llucmajor and then north towards Algaida. By this time I was getting a floaty sort of feeling caused by insufficient nutrition (i.e. I started to bonk) and we struggled from town to town trying to find a bite to eat. Eventually in Sencelles we found a bar open showing the football (Barca vs someone else!) and I wandered in through a haze of dope smoke to buy munchies. The barman must have thought we'd been indulging outside when I asked for four chocolate bars, two cokes and a water with a glazed expression on my face!

This provided us with valuable fuel to get home and we tonked it home along the main road from Inca to Port d'Alcudia at a healthy 20+mph (wind-assisted - as it would be for the rest of the week).

95.05miles in 5:43:02 at 16.6mph average.

Day 3 - Easter Monday

It was back to the bike shop in Binissalem today (Ciclos Gomila) to sort out Ian's wheel as we felt that after 95 miles the previous day was pushing our luck. We took what was meant to be a direct route, but lack of signposting scuppered that plan).

We reached the shop and in my best Spanish ("Esta rueda es rota. Quiero una nueva rueda, por favor.") tried to get a new wheel. The chap in the shop couldn't help us that day though but said he could have it ready for tomorrow - which meant Ian was going to have to do the world's most impressive stoppy to get the 30 miles home! However, the shop assistant then offered Ian his wheel for the day and we could ppick up the new one the next day!! This was so unprecedented that I asked him to repeat himself! So MANY MANY THANKS to Ciclos Gomila for their assistance!

So off we toddled towards the climb of Soller (5.1km at 5.5%) where I got a bit overexcited and climbed it in about 17 minutes pushing the heart rate far too high. Ian (being sensible) arrived at the top about 3 minutes later and we went for a hearty lunch in the restaurant at the summit.

The descent then took us into the town of Soller from where we headed through the very pretty village of Fornalutx before hitting a more main road and turning back East towards Lluc. This involved a climb of 10.7km at 6.4%. This was a real killer (especially in the heat of the day) but I was still surprised to drop Ian for 7+ minutes. When he reached the top - looking very grumpy he collapsed over his handlebars and proceeded to swear when he realised he cycled the entire climb with the front brakes on!! (I did laugh).

The climb had been made more interesting by the sight of cars approaching us with minature snowmen built on the bonnets of the cars! Very weird - must be a local tradition. However, as we descended the other side of the climb it got more manic as the entire local population of Majorca appeared to have decided to congregate at the side of road to revel in the snow - this lead to me getting angry as I couldn't enjoy the descent! Bah Humbug - people enjoying themselves!

We soon passed this though and hit a lovely descent into Caimari which I thoroughly enjoyed - catching and overtaking cars aplenty! We headed back through Campanet along our fast return road to complete a total of:

98.82miles in 6:44:36 at 14.7mph average - not bad for a hilly day!

Day 4 - Tuesday

Oh how the time was flying past. We returned to Binissalem today but via Pollenca and the climb up towards Lluc (7.8km at 5.1% (or something like that)). Our legs felt awful - very heavy and not at all energetic as we started the climb. However, we spun away in small gears and proceeded to catch and pass just about all of the Wrekin Sport Cycle Club (or so it appeared). This was quite a surprise to us but made us feel pretty good about ourselves to be catching folk when we felt awful! We were soon put back in our places when a group of about 10-15 guys went past us with a swoosh soon after the summit (I swear one of them was Marco Pantani's taller brother)!

After a stop for to pick up the newly mended wheel we headed south towards Algaida where we stopped for a late lunch before taking a North Easterly road home through Sineu and Santa Margalida. This covered some wonderful ground, lightly rolling with green fields dotted with early spring flowers, a slight tailwind and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was only a shame we had to finish along the strip from Can Picafort to Port d'Alcudia which is populated with nasty high-rise hotels and Burger Kings! But you can't have everything.

80.50miles in 5:25:02 at 14.9mph average.

Day 5 - Wednesday

After much debate the night before it was decided we NEEDED to do a proper mountain stage and this was the day for it. We set off at 7:30am knowing we'd need all the hours we could get. The route toook us on back roads to Caimari before climbing up towards Lluc (7.7km at 5.6%)and on to Sa Calobra. Sa Calobra is a small cove at the bottom of a long, steep descent and the only way out is back up the road (or hire a boat!). This is a killer of a climb and one which the professionals use in early season training. It's 9.9km long at an average gradient of 7.0%. This is equivalent to a Category 2 climb in the Tour de France (maybe Cat 1 if you're lucky).

We were filled with trepidation at the bottom and set off very slowly. With slightly bigger gears than Ian I went up faster and crested the summit after 45minutes 18seconds. Ian was about 3-4 minutes later and looking considerably more relaxed! We had done it though and felt excellent! So onwards and back down towards Soller (after another 5km of climbing at about 5%). This was followed by 15km of descending (which I found a trifle scary as my headset became disctinctly wobbly as the descent continued!)

At the bottom there wasa quick call to Dad who gave me a quick fix and then it was off to climb Soller again from the other direction (7.2km at 5.7%ish). Ian clearly felt good up here and he powered off. I tried to keep pace but watching the heart rate I backed off and saw him at the top after what was a very pleasant climb. Lots of hairpins, plenty of shade and very quiet roads. We stopped breifly at the top before dropping back down and into the village of Bunyola where we stopped for more food.

This brief respite was followed by the last climb of the day of about 8km at about 5% out of Bunyola towards Orient and Alaro. This was a spectacularly beautiful road and little used as there was a much quicker route between the two villages. It descended between two enormous rocks which looked to me like volcanic plugs of some sort but I'm no geologist - they were pretty spectacular either way!

It was again home along our fast route from Inca and a well earned beer (or two) and rest followed by watching an awesome display from the British Cycling Team in Manchester.

110.65miles in 7:39:54 at 14.4mph average.

Day 6 - Thursday

This was our rest day. I got up at 7:30 (more sort of wobbled up due to the feeling in my legs actually) and my kit had not dried from being washed the previous night so we couldn't go out. It was hence back to bed and an enforced rest day was the result. We drove out to Santa Eugenia and had a very simple Menu del dia followed by an easy walk in the coutryside around the village to ease off the legs.

We had an easy evening that day and I planned a monster 140miler the next day to take in the Easternmost point of the island (Cap de Capdepera) and the Southernmost point (Cap de ses Salines) before returning up the North of the island.

Day 7 - Friday

It was up early then and off through Can Picafort and Arta to the easternmost point. This was a smooth if busy road with a few brief gentle climbs to wake the legs up before we reached our first goal after 30 miles. This had been fairly easy so we had a quick photocall and off we toddled to head to the South. This took us through some nasty developments along some splendidly made roads (pain and pleasure!) to the beautifully located Cap de ses Salines. We had managed the 78 miles there in a 17.2mph average. We basked in the glory of the sun before turning unwillingly back into what we anticipated would be a very strong headwind.

We were very glad to be proved wrong, however, and continued along at a fair old pace back to Felanitx (96 miles) where we stopped for another bite to eat (our first stop having been after 48 miles in the very plush Porto Cristo). On continuing from there I completed my fastest ever 100miles (5:49:00) and we carried on cranking up the pace as the legs got stronger and stronger.

On arriving back we both looked at each other thinking "Well that was easy" and thinking that we'd come a long way in the week and that our training was paying dividends.

Last day: 128.00miles (I didn't read the map properly the previous night) in 7:19:25 at 17.5mph average.


An excellent week. We've both come out of this with the confidence that we can complete the Tour if we pay close attention to diet and heart rate. These are going to be the key things to watch.

Anyway, keep the support coming - we've just reached £1,500 today in sponsorship - and we can definitely do this!!

The next 14 weeks will fly by now!