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

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Stage 1: Brest - Plumelec 197.5km 7/7/08


After a very rough crossing on Saturday night, we drove down from Roscoff to arrive in Saint Renan, near Brest yesterday afternoon. Most of the afternoon was spent snoozing after a really tasty lunch in our hotel, catching up on disturbed sleep from the crossing. A brief walk around the village revealed what felt like a ghost town. There was nobody around but that evening we found a really nice pizzeria where we stocked up on high carbohydrate food (pizza!) and some beer.

After a good night’s sleep we woke at 6.15am to uninspiring weather, overcast with rain in the air. After packing our kit into the car Matt and Paula popped to the local Patisserie for some croissants which we scoffed on the way to the start of the first stage in Brest. We had checked out the start yesterday so that we knew where we needed to be.

We started on one side of the old bridge in Brest parallel to the new road bridge. Crossing this we really felt the cross wind and saw sailboats speeding on the water demonstrating the strength of the wind. Sticking to the route, we passed through Plougastel Doulgas and Loperhet and then proceeded to turn left rather than right at a crossroads. Luckily we realised our mistake and turned round to continue to Hopital Camfrout and La Faou to the start of our first climb of the day, a 4th category called Cote de Ty-Jopic. Categories of climbs range from 4th (easiest) to Hors category (outside category – hardest). They are based on the gear that an old car would need to be in to get up it. 4th category-4th gear, HC climbs such as Alpe d’Huez are so big that a car would not have been able to get up there! Our first rendezvous with Chris and Paula was at Lannedern after 49km and we stopped for a banana and to restock on energy drink, energy gels and flapjacks.

On to Gourin at 90km after our third 4th cat climb of the day (Col de Toullaeron) and we met Chris and Paula just in time to jump in the car before a huge downpour! After munching on a ham and cheese baguette we were ready to continue. On our way to Plouray along the D1 we found a French cyclist hanging on to our back wheels. This guy overtook us, dropped behind us, crossed over to ride on the wrong side of the road and then rejoined us! Not entirely sure what he was up to but he seemed friendly enough and was impressed by our tour. Luckily he lived in Guermene sur Scorff where we passed through and hew was able to show us the way which was lucky as the route was not at all obvious there. Around here the heavens opened and I have never cycled in so much rain. We got absolutely soaked but luckily it was warm rain and we carried on in this for around half an hour before it eased up before our last 4th cat climb of the day (Cote de Guenerve). A quick rendezvous with Chris and Paula just after Remungol, which we reached half an hour before schedule, and we pushed on through Locmine and Bignan. Chris and Paula very helpfully showed us the way through these towns by overtaking us and waiting at the side of the road for us. The trouble with the published tour route is that it is not always clear where it goes through little villages where road signs are scarce and the TDF signs from the race are taken down/stolen as souvenirs straight after the stages. The last 7% climb up to Plumelac after a sweeping right-hander over a narrow bridge had us struggling a little, in contrast to the sprint finish in the real Tour.

We completed the 197.5km in 7hrs 36 minutes riding time at just under 27kph average.
Alejandro Valverde won the stage two days ago in 4hrs 36 minutes at a 42.1kph average! A great day’s riding over a rolling course. Let’s hope for better weather tomorrow!

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