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

Friday, 16 May 2008

And After A Long Time in the Wilderness...

OK, so I appear to have stopped cycling judging by my lack of update here. This, unfortunately is partly true.

I did another stunning 200km down in the Borders a few weekends ago shortly after we got back from Majorca and I was toddling along quite nicely with a couple of guys from the local club (Gala CC) and went past them coming down a very steep (20%) hill which I had ridden over in the other direction about 6 weeks before. Much more pleasant going downhill (or so I thought)!

I came a bit of cropper coming into a sharp right hander at the bottom, where, despite all my best efforts I went careering over the top of the handlebars and ripped all my nice new gear I'd bought in Majorca. The folks I was riding with kindly stopped and enquired as to my injuries (they hadn't much option as I took up most of the road as I lay there legs akimbo staring into a sullen and rather mocking grey sky!). I checked myself over and set off again, only to stop shortly after when I realised the handlebars were pointing off into the distance at about 30 degrees to the direction I was wanting to travel.

Straightened out, we carried on to the second check of the day in the village of Moffat. The ride was named the Moffat Toffee 200 after the eponymous (and supposedly famous aforementioned sweetie). I, however, was in considerable pain and pedalled on my way to get it all over with. I'd crashed after 40 miles and still had 85 to go so just wanted it over and done with.

From Moffat I found myself all alone and in front of the rest of the riders. I did stop in a very pleasant cafe by the side of St Mary's Loch (I'd recommend a trip - 'tis lovely) for a quick bite and some of the other front runners stopped just as I headed off on familiar roads covered in the Dave Harris Memorial 200 a few weeks earlier. Needless to say (as I'm a bit of a moany so-and-so) I was feeling sorry for myself and kept up a brisk pace to Hawick (one of many smal towns in the Borders which is notorious for the game of rugby - a sport I'm beginning to reconsider - it never hurt this much getting sat on by 15 stone hairy thugs, and it smelt considerably better too).

Out of Hawick a short 25 mile hop to the finish. The road was irritatingly undulating and I kept looking over my shoulder awaiting a troop of guys overtaking me. They never came. I began to think I was going to come in first - a first (if you see what I mean). With 5 miles to go though I turned a corner to see a familiar top from earlier struggling up a climb and thought: "I might as well go after him!"

I screamed past him up the last climb of the day and thought first dibs at the awaiting soup and cakes was assured. Little was I to know he was going to take a shortcut and beat me back. I claim a moral victory however.

I didn't want to hang about though as the pain was returning so I drove the 85 miles home and waited to my arrival to strip off and reveal a very grazed and cut right knee, thigh, elbow and shoulder and a throbbing left thumb. :-(

I'm a hardy soul though and off to work the next day with the excitement of a week's stay in Dundee.

Anyway, I was out the next Saturday with the intention of a trip on a previously tackled route to Linlithgow. I got as far as Ruchazie (not a place to be seen in Lycra, I can tell you) before realising that having to release the handlebars every time I hit a bump due to the pain in the left thumb probably meant there was something wrong. Off to the local hospital for me! After the quickest stint in A&E ever (40 minutes) I was assured there was nothing wrong as the x-ray appeared to show. Four weeks later it is still fairly sore however - but not enough to keep me off the bike though - I told you I was (fool)hardy!

The next two weeks were, to be frank, rubbish. Work has got in the way. I managed a half-hour on the bike before my folks came up to relieve the tension which work had built up in me. A very relaxing weekend with Ma, Pa and Dog (that's an actual dog, not a nickname for an ugly sibling) and a 75 mile ride with my Dad (that's Chris for those familiar with Ian's blogs) left me feeling much more perky.

However, I then had a four week away job in the Scottish Borders (the arena of my footballesque hitting-the-deck antics) to contend with. The bike was loaded into the back of the car though and with the Scottish summer come in May I took advantage with 40 miles on the Monday-Tuesday before work caught up again.

That first weekend saw me helping my friend Kirsten move into her new (third-floor) flat on the Saturday. So with sore arms I set out to do the mammoth ride (which Ian has earlier mentioned) on the Sunday. It was a 180 miler taking in three ferries, an island, the Mull of Kintyre (all sing along) and some brutal climbing.

The timings of the ferries meant that some hard riding was required at points and so off I set at 7:50am (5 minutes later than planned). It was a wee jaunt of 30 miles to the coast at Ardrossan to catch the 9:45am Brodick ferry to the Isle of Arran. A road closure gave me a few problems but a brisk tailwind solved those and a made it with 5 minutes to spare.

There was a glut of cyclists on a jaunt for the day, including rival clubs, the East Kilbride Road Club and the Johnstone Wheelers. The Johnstone Wheelers are a club I'm considering joining and they were helpfully going in the same direction as me so I caught a wheel and had a wee chat before the road went uphill and we were scattered apart. A thoroughly friendly bunch of all abilities who reminded me of the atmosphere I used to experience at the Charlotteville CC in Guildford has persuaded me to join up with them so that's a job for this weekend!

Anyway the ferry at Lochranza (to Claonaig -no idea how to pronounce that!) split us apart and I set out to bask in the sun on the 30 minute crossing to the Mull of Kintyre. The next bit was the tough one. After 45 miles of cycling I now had a brief 11 miles to cover in 45 minutes over 300m of climbing. I knew it was going to be close but also didn't want to take my heart rate into the red as this ruins the legs for the remainder of the day. I pedalled and I pedalled, all the while working out distances to go and average speeds required (I'm a big geek), and cursing every rising piece of tarmac. I arrived into Tarbert and follwed the signs to the ferry. I'd checked my map and thought the terminal was only just round the corner...time was running out...I had one minute to go and still no ferry terminal...I rounded a left hander and there it was..but that sound was one of a soon-to-be-departing ferry! I looked pleadingly at the man on the bridge and he waved me on as the ramp began to rise behind me - I kid you not - I made it by about 10 seconds. I tell you it was exciting stuff (well, relatively speaking!)

On the ferry I met a very friendly chap who cycles around Scotland in his spare time (see his website here - he's more eccentric than me I think!). We went our separate ways come Portavadie, which was where I discovered why the trip to Ardrossan had been so easy (15 mph easterly - oh bum!) I still had 125 miles to go into this with some ruddy big hills. I followed the route round to Ardlamont and Tighnabruich - two very scenic little villages on and around the Kyles of Bute (I take many visitors here in the car as it is simply stunning!)

Here I stopped and reassessed the chances of getting home in the daylight with enought ime to eat, iron and prepare for the next week down in Melrose, rapidly concluding it wasn't possible. I determined to follow my route forthe next 25 miles before diverting to Dunoon and the ferry back to the mainland.

This 25-30 miles was VERY hilly and windy (if not a little bit absolutely beautiful!) and I enjoyed and cursed in equal measure. I was a bit knackered by now after 95 miles and actually fell asleep on the ferry home before jumping on the Gourock to Glasgow train home and a rapid ride back home. So a shortened ride of 97 miles - but the most enjoyable for months - and I stayed on the bike.

Anyway - that's me caught up. Apologies for the epistle and hope you ain't missed me! Now that work is under a little more control I should get to update this bad boy a little more!