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 15: Embrun - Prato Nevoso 183km 22/7/08


We woke up for a 7am breakfast, nervous about today’s stage and its early-on HC climb (Col d’Agnel) that would take us over the border into Italy. Christine put on a great spread and we felt fuelled up for the stage.

Rather than drive to the start, we decided to cycle from our accommodation as it would only add a couple of miles to our ride. The first bit was along the busy N94 that heads to Briancon (we will be following this road on stage 17 to Alpe d’Huez). We took this section easy, allowing our legs to warm up and putting up with traffic hurtling past us. After 10 miles of this, the route turned off this road and became lumpy through Guillestre, heading through a nice gorge and tunnels cut through the rock. Rounding a hairpin bend and passing a memorial to Charles de Gaul we saw Liz and Peter at the side of the road at Chateau-Queyras where we refilled with water. A few kilometres further on we turned to begin the ascent of the Col Agnel, a huge climb up to 2744m, the highest I had been on a bike. The climb started gradually enough and I watched Matt ease ahead as I purposely kept my heartrate down. Matt having slightly higher gearing meant that he had to go faster or fall off! Through little alpine-style villages, the road steepended quite noticeably before levelling again. I could see Matt opening up the gapo ahead but I felt comfortable and maintained my pace. I overtook several riders but at one point some professional looking bloke cruised past me on his big chainring at a considerably faster speed. Towards the end, the climb began hair-pinning to allow us to gain height quickly. There were some very tired cyclists on this part and it was a nce feeling overtaking them. As I approached the summit, Matt was there taking photos and the view was spectacular. I finished the climb about 7 minutes behind him. We had a photo taken in front of the border sign.

The descent had been beautifully tarmac’d for the Tour and was considerably drier than when the Tour had come down it two days before. Pereiro had a nasty fall, his bike tumbling over the side of the road. Matt reached 79.5kph (49.5mph) on the descent, I was happy taking it slower and enjoying the gorgeous views and caught up with him somewhere around Casteldelfino at 78km.

Navigating was a little tricky as Italian road numbers are not on the signposts and sometimes signposts for the same place point in different directions! We met Liz and Pater for lunch at Rossana (115km) and by now I could feel a little cramp coming on. Food and rest helped and we cruised on through Cuneo and got slightly lost in Chiusa di Pesio where it wasn’t clear which road the Tour had taken! A radio call to Liz and Peter confirmed our route and they contacted Malcolm Brammar, who we were to stay with that evening near Cuneo. He had seen my article in the Bristol Evening Post and very kindly offered us accommodation for our two nights in Italy. Over the 3rd cat Colle del Morte (Hill of Death) and on the ascent we saw Malcolm and his friend Carl. We were going to stop and say hello but they waved us on as we were going at a good pace.

On to the climb at Prato Nevoso, a ski resort. This climb started off quite gradually with Matt and me keeping together but with 5 miles to go Matt opened up a lead and I hung back strictly keeping my heart rate low. By now the day had become very hot and we were going through a lot of water. I took my crash helmet off halfway up as I was overheating, and after a few hairpins made it to the top 3 minutes after Matt. Prato Nevoso is considerably more aesthetically pleasing than La Mongie had been on the Tourmalet! A few photos here, we put the bikes on the car and drove back to meet Malcolm, his wife Steph, and their friends Carl and Sue. A good days riding and we were ready for our rest day!

We completed this 120 mile stage in 8:18:24 at a 14.4mph average compared to S Gerrans (Aus) in 4:50:44

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