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, 4 June 2008

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct 175km

After a wet weekend where not much was done cycling-wise I made up for it this week with three training rides.

Thursday I headed out with Dad from Portishead and we negotiated our way across the Avonmouth bridge by way of the cycle path and headed across the old Severn bridge into Wales. A gorgeous day in the Welsh lanes through Caldicot to Caer-went and then back through Shirenewton and across the bridge back to bristol. 60 miles.

Saturday necessitated me dragging myself out of bed at 3.45am to drive 3 hours to Snowdonia for the start of the Pontcycyllte Aqueduct 175m Audax. After initially questioning why I do these things and driving extremely cautiously through thick fog, the weather improved dramatically along the M5. Unfortunately, part of it was closed due to a bad accident a couple of hours earlier so I cut across country. In fact I made good time and got to the start half an hour early.
This ride has to be one of the most beautiful rides I have done. Starting out past the aqueduct and across the A5 it headed straight up an 18% hill (Methodist Hill) before heading up a long drag over the North Wales Hills. Dropping down near Berwyn and across the river Dee the route then headed up the long and spectacular Horeshoe Pass. A section of this was reportedly 20% though I didn't think this was the case. Maybe I'm just getting strong on the hills. I rode most of the way with a couple of lads, Julian from Worcestershire and Phil who was local. Obviously very strong riders as I really struggled to hold them on the 4 long climbs of the day.

I made the mistake of heading out to fast on this ride and in the hot conditions I suffered and found myself riding on my own through Corwen and soon after that it all went wrong! I took the wrong left turn and instead of a nice descent towards Llangollen for the last climb up the Panorama pass and home, I went over something very hilly and down the other side and found myself on the Chester-Corwen road, obviously off-course. Carrying along here I reached a roundabout which was the one I crossed earlier on the fast descent off the Horsehoe Pass! So there was no alternative but to ride back over the Horseshoe Pass in reverse. Luckily this way is a shorter climb but steeper. I stopped for a bite to eat and a Coke at the top absolutely drenched with sweat before enjoying the long descent to Llangollen.

Back over the Panorama Pass, where I was in bottom gear and really suffering, as well as having to negotiate sheep, I headed back to the finish. The finish was at a community centre a little way from the start and I knew there was a long climb back up to the carpark where I was parked. Luckily, as an alternative, I was able to walk across the aqueduct and enjoy really spectacular views.

A great ride resulting in 113 hilly miles. I would have done it under 8 hours if I hadn't gone wrong and this is a respectable time which they suggest people planning to do the Etape du Tour should aim for.

Rather than driving 3 hours back to Bristol, I drove back to stay over with Chris and Paula (Matt's parents) in Hereforshire. On Sunday Chris and myself got out for a good 48 mile ride around the Herefordshire lanes and did part of the Iron Mountain Sportive route which Chris is going to do in June. This was a really nice, lumpy ride but I really felt my legs after the day before. We averaged 15.7mph.

So, overall, 220 miles in the week. Saturday really proves you need to pace yourself and especially in high temperatures. Something we really need to be aware of in France!

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