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

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Cotswold Challenge 160km Randonee and The 28th Stonehenge 200km

A busy weekend. After getting on well with the "new" bike last weekend I thought it was time to test it out of some long distances. So sliced up Coke can wedged between the saddle pin and seat tube to act as a shim to stop the saddle slipping down again, I was ready to test it out.

Up at 5am on Saturday for the drive up to Meriden near Coventry for the start of the Cotswold Challenge 160mk (100 miles). The forecast was poor, depressingly as the week had been gorgeous. Highs of 12C and heavy showers.

From the start I rode to the front and rode with a friendly chap from West Bromwich who, it turned out, had ridden a couple of 24 hour time trials in his time. This is literally as it sounds: ride as far as you can in 24 hours ie through darkness non-stop. Having completed a 12 hour myself a few years I can't say the idea appeals to me! A gorgeous lumpy ride to the first control at Hapton Lucy and then on to Ilmington and Chipping Campden. Unfortunately the route sheet was a little ambiguous here and I went off course, the brummy chap having stopped for mechanical problems. Back on course after a 3 mile detour I overtook a group of riders who had previously been behind me and I continued to the next control at Batsford Arboretum after a 1km descent down a muddy track, praying that my tyres would cope with the off-road. Luckily they did nd I joined up with a group of four riders. Not bothering to stop, I continued with this group dropping 2 riders.

On through Moreton-in-Marsh, Todenham and Great and Little Wolford I cycled with a local chap called Stephen and another rider on a very expensive looking carbon-fibre Bianchi bike. In Brailes, Stephen persuaded me to stop at a bakery and I scoffed a Goats cheese and leek flan and absolutely gorgeous almond coissant! Refueled we carried on to climb up to Edgehill and up through Burton Dassett Country Park. At the next control at Harbury we found we were only just behind the the guy who carried on at the bakery and the West Bromwich chap from earlier. He seemed to be in a rush and as we sat down for a drink he upped and left to push on for the finish. There were a lot of riders at this control because there was a 100km event going on at the same time.

Pushing on from this control we overtook a large number of 100km riders and right at the finsih caught the guy from West Bromwich. We had averaged 16.4mph over this hilly 100 mile route. I have to admit when we saw the guy up ahead towards the finish I initiated the chase, which was a little foolish as I was supposed to be pacing myself for the next day's ride. Thanks Stephen for the company and also for your kind sponsorship! We never did see the guy on the Bianchi again and he hadn't got to the finish before us.

A 4.30 am rise on Sunday to drive to Elstead, Surrey for the West Surrey Stonehenge 200km (28th anniversary). I have ridden this 125 mile route several times and on a good day it is one of the most picturesque rides I know. The forecast was execellent and the sun was coming out as I drove the monotonous M4.

At the start it was a shame only to see a couple of faces I know: Jeff banks and Clive Richardson. I originally planned to ride with Clive but I got separated from him at the start and found myself cycling on my own through Farnham and out to Well/Long Sutton. here, a three-man group including Jeff Ellingham (whom I had ridden with before) overtook me so I got on the back of this group and we set a cracking pace out to the first control at Overton of 17.5mph average. I paid for my efforts soon after and found myself struggling to keep up with them through Upton and dropped off the back. My heart rate would not lift above 150bpm no matter what I did so I decided to take it steady and hopefully catch them in Amesbury at the lunch stop. I got myself back together with plenty of energy bars and drink and felt good as I cycled past Tidworth oval to Amesbury. The route had changed from when I last did it. You used to go along the A303 past Stonehenge but this was no longer the case and you don't get to see Stonehenge any more.

A large lunch at the fantastic Friar Tuck Cafe in Amesbury and I continued with the group who had dropped me. Feeling much better I pushed on with Jeff and the other two (Chris and Mike) and dropped Chris up a big hill near Porton. Mike dropped back too and caught up with us again a little later. My three-man group pushed on at a great pace along the gorgeous, undulating Hampshire lanes to the next control at the Midhants Railway (Watercress line) station at Alresford. By now the wind had really picked up and we were overtaking riders who were doing the 150km and 100km rides. After the last hill 25km through Ropley, Farringdon and West and East Worldham, we reached the finish in 8hours 12 minutes (easily the fastest time I'd done round this route). Jeff told me he'd once done it in 7 and a half hours. We had averaged 16.7mph which I was very pleased with considering the 100 miler I'd done the day previously. Good to see old cycling buddies Geoff Smith, Rico and Chris Jeggo at the finish.

Overall, a solid weekend. 225 hilly miles at over 16.5mph average. (And the saddle didn't slip down this time!!)