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, 24 July 2008

Stage 10: Pau - Hautacam 156km 16/7/08


This was a fairly early starter as we had our first two Hors Categorie (above categorisation) climbs – the most climbed Col in the tour – the Tourmalet (2,115m) and then the Hautacam (1,520m).

As we had overhit the distance the previous day, we decided to start a little way from the real start (about 10km in) in the small town of Rebenacq - very close to the pleasantly named Reataurant La Bastarde, which is what we thought of the Tour route organiser!

Straight from the off we had a short sharp little climb which really made us feel where we had put in the effort the previous day. So, both feeling very sluggish we pottered on through some rolling countryside over two 3rd Cat climbs which took us across a couple of valleys and through the “tat-central” town of Lourdes, which was over-stocked on dosey tourists wandering around in the middle of the road. Having negotiated the dopey buggers, we continued on to and through Bagneres (where we were based for the three nights) and to the small town of Beaudean, where we stopped for a shaded lunch stop 25km shy of the summit of the Tourmalet (or 10km from the base of the climb proper).

The road climbed up the valley through Campan and Sainte-Marie de Campan before the climb proper started at a gentle pace before beginning to kick up through a couple of tunnels and into the trees and some very welcome shade. Team Kate was once again present to furnish us with drinks, gels and bars as required and provide moral support, including letting us know we were going at least as well as some other people on the climb. I (Matt – so Ian doesn’t get in troubleJ) caught up with a woman mountain biker whom I have to admit to slipstreaming for a little longer than was necessary! You have to find some way to make these climbs easier, you know!

As the tree line thinned the ski-resort town of La Mongie appeared in the distance and the road kicked up to an evil 10%+ in stretches. Indeed as you climb these cols, there are markers at the side of the road telling you how far to go, your current height, and the average percentage for the coming kilometre – this doesn’t often make for pleasant reading!

La Mongie I have rechristened La Mangy as it is one of the most hideous eyesores ever constructed on the side of a mountain and ruins a beautiful view back down the valley. Eejit constructors!

The arrival of La Mongie heralded the last 4km and these were twisty-windy to the top and ever steepening with increasing numbers of Tour riders’ names adorning the tarmac – some dating back many years (Fignon, Virenque, Jalabert) – this really is an epic climb.

Team Kate were there to meet us at the top with fresh drinks, food, warm clothes and plenty of encouragement. The feeling of cresting this massive climb was, once again, staggering and all the effort appeared worthwhile. We had our photos taken at the top of the climb with the statue of Octave Lapize (the first Tour de France cyclist to crest the summit in 1910, who famously labelled the bystanding timekeepers as “assassins” before heading off down the mountain). Conditions on the road have considerably improved in 98 years and while we were fairly all-in, I don’t think either of us was about to keel over, thank goodness.

The descent was a fast one as always and Ian and I regrouped in the village of Saint Luz to tackle the more gradual descent through the gorges towards Argeles and the foot of the climb to Hautacam. This would be a spectacular road to cycle, but for the constant stream of traffic, which of narrow roads with overhanging rocks, makes for an altogether more nerve-wracking experience!

The foot of the climb found and we dumped all the gear we could with the girls and headed off up the climb – 13km of climbing to rise to 1,520m at the ski station of Hautacam. This climb has been the site of several recent tour spectacles, including Bjarne Riis’ attack on Indurain in 1996, and more recently of Lance Armstrong in 1999(?).

The climb was an odd one consistently flattening and then steepening which took away any rhythm from the pedalling and we probably looked like we were being controlled by some manic puppeteer as we sat down and then sprang back on the pedals only to relax back down again with head almost resting on the handlebars and with shoulders swaying to get as much force into the pedal stroke as possible.

The day had cooled down considerably and constant water supplies were not as necessary – though Team Kate continued to help out with cheers and such. The summit of the climb came surprisingly quickly (after the longer ascent of the Tourmalet, this isn’t a surprise) and a last minute dash of the line for both of us left us feeling that we had well-earned our rest day the following day!

10 days in the saddle without a day off was quite some amount of cycling to do! We had completed the stage in 7:23:05 (with 10km off at the beginning – so add about 25 mins) at an average of 12.404mph compared with L Piepoli (Ita) in 4:19:27.

The first 10 days had seen us cover 1,090.49 miles in 70:35:38 at 15.447 mph average compared to Cadel Evans (Aus) 42:29:09. We felt good – but very tired!

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