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 11: Lannemezan - Foix 167.5km 18/7/08


It was to be on this stage that we were to meet up with our final support team (Ian’s parents - Peter and Liz) and so we all carted into the van for the last time and headed off for the outskirts of Lannemezan. A small town lying just in the foothills of the Pyrennes. The ride headed due East today so we always had that nagging feeling from the mountains on our right hand side. You were always concerned the road might take an unexpected right hand turn and you’d end up back in them!

So, feeling nicely refresehed from our rest day, we set off and agreed to meet 74km up the road in the village of Cazavet. On the way there we passed through some really gorgeous little villages which had pleasantly relaxed feel to them – at one point we passed through a market and had cheese almost thrust upon us by one stall-keeper – I wish I’d stopped now!

At about 20km we rounded a slight turn on a gradual descent and through the trees caught sight of a magnificent church on a hill with quite remarkable buttresses. The church was set high on the hill above the village of Saint Bertrand de Comminges and was built wholly from stone other than the upper portion of the tower which appeared to be wooden. As we passed below the walls, this was another place I was thinking that I’d like to return to.

We passed more scenic villages with sharply rising and dipping roads, tight and sweeping bends, moving in and out of woodland as we travelled towards and away form the foothills, until we met up with support teams 2 & 3 in the village of Cazavet as planned.

A quick catch up for everyone (I hadn’t seen Ian’s parents since before I had left Surrey – so about 6 years before!) and a hearty lunch and Ian and I set off towards St Girons and so to another 1st Category climb and one that would truly see us out of the Pyrennes.

The road followed a tranquil river valley through the village of Riverenet and the narrowed and steepened as the climb of the Col de Portel approached. It was so narrow that in order to let the van past, we actually had to stop at the side of the road – I hate to think how the Tour entourage would have got up the climb! Team Kate’s handling of the van around the bends was impressive! The views back down the valley as we occasionally popped out of the trees were splendid (as always!) and the summit came with Ian about 45 seconds in front of myself after some very strong climbing – he’s obviously found his legs!

We all stopped and had a rest at the summit (drivers and passengers included – pretty hair-raising stuff!) and surveyed the view which was pan flat to the North (obscured by plenty of haze and such) and rolling wooded valleys to the South.

We let everyone else off first to get pictures of our supreme descending skills and when I saw the photgraphers positioned I adopted an appropriate cornering pose, scoped out the corner, cranked the bike over to hit the apex, only to discover that the corner continued and tightened up and that I was going to fast and had to sit up and pull on the brakes! Fortunately the photos don’t show this last part, and we both look totally professional!

The road descended all the way to Foix, but this wasn’t the end – oh no! The evil organisers took us out North of Foix and up another 3rd cat climb and back in from the North East.

104.91 miles covered in 6:43:00 at an average of 15.619 mph compared to the K Arvesen (Nor) who managed it in 3:58:13.

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