A long one to finish…..

The final day and a very unsociable 6.30am transfer to the start, meant we were up at 5.15am. Apparently you get used to it (sort of, in an auto-pilot kind of way) but ramming down bread and cooked meats that early isn’t pleasant. I really don’t envy the lifers who have to go through this every day, and wash clothes and pack, and ride, and eat, and all the other unseen things about life on tour that cannot be understood until you’re there doing it.

The day started with a nice roll into the first climb of the day, a cat 1, 9km at 6.4%. Nowt stupidly tough, up in a one-er, less than an hour, decent start.

The next section was, however, brutal. Undulating terrain across moorland, heavy rain, freezing rain, the waterproof came out but with 50km to the next feed, it was very much a war of attrition. I felt like I was in the moors of Northumberland on a sportive, ticking down the miles on the Garmin until some respite. It’s times like these a companion is essential, Neil and I battled on and rolled into feed two freezing.

There were freezing bodies everywhere, bumped into Michael, who at first I didn’t recognise! Blankets, changes of clothes, many broken spirits. I think because I’m carrying 16 years worth of pints around my midriff, the cold hadn’t affected me as badly as the others, but I certainly noticed the drop in energy levels when trying to power through the wind & rain. Quick change of top, visit to the WC for a much needed clean slider, and we set off towards feed three.

The weather had fortunately settled down and the scenery turned to rural France. A gentle 10km of uncategorised climbing followed up through forested areas, descending down towards feed three. This was where I think this year’s training really came into its own. Taking turns, Neil and I powered down the descent and the rolling terrain pulling into the feed just as the heavens opened again. Seeking refuge in the trees, the rain timed itself perfectly again and stopped as we rolled out.

This was then the most enjoyable/scenic section of the whole 3 days, a slight drag up to an amazing descent into the valley before the Col de Peyra Taillade. The roads have just been resurfaced, the water vapour rising from the tarmac as the sun beat down follow the deluge, we swept deep down to the valley floor, stopping for photos of what faced up on the other side.

The final cat 1 of the three days was 8.3km long at 7.4%. New to the tour, it had a 2km midsection with 14% slopes. Neil headed off into the distance and I meandered up in the now blazing sun, conscious of the sting in the tail. I stopped for a cheeky energy gel just before the 14% signs, and ploughed on, passing weary legged riders who needed to take breathers. The 14% went on for what seemed like a eternity, heart rate bouncing off your max, legs burning hotter and hotter with no end in sight. And just when you think you have to pull over, you see a rise in the distance, a house, with a driveway, an opportunity to stop, drink, recover and go again. I nearly fell into a little fire the resident had set by the side of the road as I unclipped! A few minutes later, I set off again, only 10% this time, relatively easy. Determined that there’d be no walking on this one, I saw Neil at 1km to go, and the back of the stage had nearly been broken.

Feed four was brief, and a long descent back towards the hotel before a couple of harsh uncategorised climbs and a cat 4 finished us right off.

So….day done. 120 miles. 11 and a half hours out on the bike. 3600m of climbing a really tough but an amazing day.

As it’s the last blog….a few observations (probably echoing what I said last time, but I don’t care):

An updated (and clean) version of the gradient analysis:
5% and less – flat, easy
6% – steady away
7% – yeah, it requires effort
8% – tough
9% – very tough
10% and over – rock
Anything steeper than that for over 200m will have you crying.

If you get the chance to do something like this. TAKE IT. You won’t regret it. And the charity aspect is obviously important.

Anyone can do something if you put your mind to it. Anyone. A fat lad from Dunston cycling round the Pyrenees and the Massif Central. Cycling 25000 feet in 3 days. Howay man! It’s all in the mind. Break it down. Bitesize chunks. You can do it.

Au revoir. Big thanks to the organisers, the charity, Neil Matthews for dragging me round and showing me how it’s done, Michael Leather for the opportunity in the first place and good luck to him for the remainder, an incomprehensible super-human effort.

The Quest to Become the Knightside Chris Froome has been completed…..for now….

A tale of two halves!

I think we were spoilt by the scenery yesterday in the Pyrenees as today was much more reserved. I’m sure it was lovely but staring down the barrel of 181km, there wasn’t much time to take in the sights.

An 8am roll out from the hotel, Neil and I managed to get on the back of a little train of lifers, and we nailed through a pretty uneventful first 80km to the second feed station. Having not really rode in large groups before (I’m a mountain goat…) I definitely felt the benefit of drafting. Flying along, nice bit of chat with fellow riders, energy conserved for the second half.

Man flu still showing its teeth, I really struggled between feeds two and three, undulating terrain, energy sapping heat, having Neil for company was a godsend. The man is in his late 50s and was absolutely beasting it! He took the lions share of the lead and danced up the climbs.

Between feeds three and four, we tackled the only categorised climbs of the day, cat 3s, both just under 3km long, 7% gradients. Manageable but with well over 100km in the legs, hard enough.

The final blast to the hotel after feed four took into another uncategorised climb, I reckon was about 4km long and between 4-5% gradient. I was wondering why it wasn’t categorised but the pros will probably lash up in 5 mins or something. I took nearer 20….

In many ways, a really tough day, struggled at times, mental strength needed to keep the faith for future energy bursts. Mostly enjoyable though.

Tomorrow promises a mixture of the first two days, cat 1 climbs and 190km. It’s gonna be tough.

The Quest to Become The Knightside Chris Froome continues….

So after a very smooth journey to France, Neil and I rolled into Peyragudes excited to get started. However, the transfer from Toulouse airport meant we had to get to the ski resort via the final climbs of Thursday’s stage, a monster 215km day. Explaining to Neil that the climb we were going up in the bus is like what we’d have to do twice the next day…didn’t go down too well!

Briefings done, dinner over, we finally saw Michael at about 10pm. For a man who had been in France best part of two weeks, and had just done a 12.5 hour day on one of the hardest days the tour de force has seen, he was actually looking in fine fettle! Some riders didn’t get in until after 11.30pm. Madness.

Friday morning transfer to the start of the stage, meant a 6am alarm and only 4 hours sleep. Man flu but not helping, fair to say, I wasn’t feeling my best.

Neil and I headed off first of the c100 riders, to ensure we got to the first feed at a reasonable time. A nice stretch to the bottom of the Col de Latrape and it was time to test the legs.

Neil was away in the distance, I followed soon after, a little livener to get started. First feed was neutralised so after a half hour wait, we were descending towards the Col d’Agnes.

That was tough, gradients kicking up to 8, 9, 10%. Noticeably more difficult than the first climb and at close to 10km, 5km longer. Neil went away again and I struggled up. A few stops (for photos…..) and Neil greeted me at the summit. Short descent into the second feed station and we fed our faces with wraps and ice cream. By now the sun was blazing and I was running low on gas, really struggling with the man flu. Being in the red for most of the climb had really taken it out of me.

A cheeky descent and we were onto the lower slopes of the Mur de Peguere. This was the hottest part of the day, like a furnace and my head was pounding. Neil had ploughed on and I got to the 6km mark, ready to tackle the final 3.6km one lane track to the summit.

I cannot convey how mental this section of the climb was. 18% and 16% for best part of 2km. I’ve tackled steep climbs in the UK but they last for a few hundred metres max. I’m not ashamed to say, the shoes came off and I walked the steepest parts. Even that had my heart rate racing into the red. Eventually, I summoned enough energy to hop back on and cycle up the final 1.5km.

Again, Neil was at the top, we tunnelled a few fizzy pops and set off on the 28km descent. Must say, a tricky descent as the road surface is quite loose, watch out for the pros stacking it in the real TDF.

No gags in this blog, just a synopsis of an amazing day. The Pyrenees are awesome, the scenery feels so much more dramatic than the Alps and the gradients reflect the aggressiveness of the surroundings.

This promises to be an explosive day in the real TDF, short, sharp, brutal gradients, lively descents.

Saturday promises a flatter 181km route. A “recovery” stage apparently…..

The Quest to Become the Knightside Chris Froome continues…..

And so, after what feels like 5 mins, but at the same time 10 years of training, The Tour de Force is upon us.  As I post this latest update, Michael is currently on the short flight to Dusseldorf, this year’s host city for the Grand Depart.  Dusseldorf is great place, friendly locals, thousands of bars, thousands of local beers to sample, karaoke etc etc.  Perfect way to ease yourself into 3 weeks cycling over 110 miles a day in the extreme temperatures (see photo above of the cyclists relaxing before the start)……..anyway, for those of you who aren’t interested in ale-tasting, I hear Suzie Wong is a very hospitable lady, housed in the red building a few straßes East of the Hauptbahnhof……

 

So what have I been up to in these critical final weeks of training?

 

I’m still the same weight I was three months ago

I’m not any faster than I was three months ago

I *think* I’ve got more stamina that I’ve ever had……..hard to tell in this heat though

My clothes are getting a bit slacker

My beer belly is still there

I *think* my legs are more muscular but it’s hard to tell through the winter coat (no, I don’t shave them and don’t plan to)

 

Hopefully, I’ve got sufficient reserves to get me round my three stages.  Speaking of which…..

 

The organisers of the Tour de France, for some reason, do not release fully mapped and categorised routes of the stages until the completion of the week-long warm up event, the Criterium du Dauphine in early June.  So this morbidly obese Dunstoner has been sitting contently, thinking that his stages will be “just like doing a hard sportive in the UK”.  Yeah, he’s seen the stage profiles, yeah, he’s seen the length and gradients of the climbs.  But until they get categorised, it doesn’t really hit home….

 

Sheepishly, I approached Neil’s desk to give him the good news:

 

“So Neil, you know when I said it’ll be fine in France……well on the first day we’ve got three category 1 climbs, the second day is 115 miles, sort of undulating and the final day is 115 miles with another two category 1 climbs”

“Ah”

“Yeah, ah”

 

To be honest though, now the time has come, I’m really looking forward to it.  It is something to be embraced and enjoyed.  We’ve done the training, we’ve got a reasonable level of fitness, hopefully we can get some great photos so everyone can see how amazing it all is.

 

The final sportive took place last weekend, the Virgin Cyclone 106 miler.  An absolute scorcher of a day, brilliant weather.  However, the headwind for three-quarters of the ride was both a nightmare and a life-saver.  Without it, I would probably been best part of 45 minutes faster, although I might’ve melted into the tarmac before the finish line.

 

Another cheeky ride this weekend, maybe a run, keep doing my core exercises to refine those sculpted abs of mine, and before I know it, I’ll be lashing around the Pyrenees.  The bike travels next Friday, I travel the Thursday after that.

 

Good luck to Michael and all the riders starting the ride this weekend!

 

The Quest to Become the Knightside Chris Froome continues……

I’ve just realised it has been a month since the last update so thought I’d best do a blog.  A month is a long time in cycling terms, you can make great strides if you get the training right.  Especially at this time of year, the weather should mean you can get out on the road and work on those razor sharp cycling tan lines.

 

Updates

 

First off, just wanted to pick up on a few things I promised to touch on last month, which are an inspiration to me in times of cycling need:

 

Anthony Joshua – what a specimen.  KO’d Wlad in a fight reminiscent of the final showdown in Rocky IV.  With all the training I’ve been doing, I actually look like Joshua these days.  Ripped to shreds me….

 

Rafa Benitez – was it ever in any doubt?  He is on my list.  He is already a Geordie hero.  7 points behind Brighton with 3 games to play?  Not a problem for the man who masterminded a Champions League win after being 3-0 behind at half time against one of the best teams in Europe in the last 20 years.  Here’s hoping he’s around for many years to come.  Those proclaiming he’ll be off at the first sniff of more money simply haven’t got a clue about what motivates him.  And he motivates me.  I love him.

 

What Else?

 

Oh yeah, those of you fortunate enough to secure a ticket at the Leathers LLP Charity Sports Dinner at the Falcons in early May, were one of the privileged few to see an early preview of my debut 2018 Edinburgh show, entitled “Straight Outta Dunston”.

 

Standing up and trying to entertain people is not as easy as I made it look.  Ditching your notes and freewheeling it probably isn’t recommended either……but I think it went down well, no swearing, a few laughs……was a bit like an out of body experience, couldn’t sleep that night!

 

But a great night was had by all, a big thanks to everyone who attended, loads of money raised for the charity and it was an honour to meet Dame Sarah Storey.  A genuine Olympic legend and inspiration to millions.

 

Training

 

As I’ve said, the weather has been getting better so there have been plenty of rides.  A few solo, a few with Neil.  I’ve been feeling strong, definitely ahead of where I was in 2015.

 

But nothing is ever straight forward……this weekend Michael and I rolled up to Richmond to take part in the 5 Dales Sportive.  118 miles, 11k feet of climbing.  A serious undertaking and a journey into the unknown for me.

 

Preparation was not ideal; having taken two days off prior to get some training in, I really wasn’t feeling good.  Zero energy, dizzy spells.  In the heat, it was uncomfortable.  On the day I felt slightly better but I had no idea how I’d get on.

 

One thing I feel compelled to mention is the level of dedication it takes to be a half competent cyclist.  I’ve been training quite hard.  But looking around at the other sportive participants, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were all pro’s or semi pro’s on bikes which cost more than my car (yeah, the 2004 Fiesta F ME isn’t worth much, but you know what I mean).

 

And then there’s the physiques.  The bulging, glistening, calf muscles, smooth as silk and tanned like Caramac (mmmmm, Caramac).  Muscles on muscles.  Muscles the size of my head.  And that was just the ladies……it must take years of training to get that level.  In the grand scheme of things, I’m only a novice cyclist and when you’re struggling up a 2% incline in the granny ring, calf-jealousy can rear its beautifully toned head.

 

However, I must say lots of these guys are genuinely supportive when they’re dancing past you on the hills.  A simple “good morning” or “alright” can actually lift the spirits.  Cycling is tough.  I think everyone in the peloton on these sportives understands that.

 

So to the ride itself, I knew immediately I wasn’t on my best form, heart rate was way above what it should have been.  The headwind between the first and second feed station (coupled with a Garmin malfunction) made my mind up that I’d drop down to the 85 miler (no mean feat in itself, I must add).  By 54 miles I felt like I had nothing left.  Didn’t want to take the chance doing another two huge climbs in the middle of the moors, not knowing if I’d make it back.

 

Having rested for a good 20 minutes, I set off for the final 30 miles, over Buttertubs, and a long descent through the valley towards Richmond.  And then, from nowhere, the body started to feel ok again, heart rate dropped to normal levels and as I went up the climb to Grinton Moor, I felt the best I had in days.  Luckily, I could put a decent effort in to get back to event HQ, timed perfectly to miss the thunderstorms by seconds.  Michael, who had tackled the full route, wasn’t so lucky and was caught right in the middle of it.

 

Anyway, taking the positives, I shaved 45 minutes off my time from 2015.  There’s still a month or so left to squeeze in plenty of training so the next sportive is the Virgin Cyclone but I might have a deeks for some more before then.

 

One final note is reserved for the Giro d’Italia winner Tom Dumoulin.  Cracking racing throughout the three weeks, and up against some very underhand tactics from the more established GC riders, he overcame adversity (“nature” stops) to take the maglia rosa.  Held his own in the mountains and beasted the field, Miguel Indurain-style, in the time trials.

 

There’s a new player in town…..but for now, The Quest to Become the Knightside Chris Froome continues…..

This week the bike had to be taken in for a much needed service. Cables snapping, worn chain, worn brake pads, loose fixings. Safety first ahead of the big push towards France.  While I sit waiting for the bike shop to call, this is an ideal time to look back and reflect on the progress made, not only since training began in January but also on the past 12 months, as I enter year number 34……

 

Much like the bike, it was me who had been in need of a service recently……2016 was a tough one from a personal perspective, mentally challenging, soul searching, and probably too much time to think!  Anyone who knows me well will testify that despite the random blogs and slightly controversial statements (made for comic effect rather than representing my actual views), that I’m naturally reserved, very rational, a speak-when-spoken-to kind of person and I could happily spend two weeks locked away playing Metal Gear Solid without any human interaction (best holiday ever…).  When I’m not feeling my best, it’s easiest to revert to type and walk my own road.

 

Michael has touched upon this in previous blogs/articles but it’s hard to quantify how much of a positive effect cycling (and exercise in general) has had not only on the body, but also on the mind.  Without wanting delve too much into The Darkness of James (or seek any sort of sympathy whatsoever!) I wanted to share a few thoughts about the improvement in my mental state because of the cycling.  A happier, more relaxed Barry is good news for everyone!

 

Cycling for hours on end may seem boring and time consuming. It’s not for everyone. It’s hard to comprehend how you’ll sit on the bike for 5, 6, 7, 8 hours at a time. Turbo trainer, aye, that’s tough, 1 hour and you’re done.  If you’re not bored to tears, it’s because your notcha has gone numb.

 

But outside, riding along, I find that time flies by (podcasts also help!). The mind almost goes through a de-fragmentation process. Thoughts are compartmentalised and rationalised without realising. Yes, on tough days, you can go to some dark places but it only makes you stronger. Coupled with the physical exertion, for me personally, it’s the best medicine for the blues.

 

So in the months since January, I’ve spent a substantial amount of time cycling (and running), mostly alone (but the rides with Neil have been the most enjoyable!), resetting and rebooting. The oscillations of emotion endured in 2016 have subsided to a calm, gentle wave and I feel more in control over my thoughts and, as a consequence, my actions.  A big help is having a goal, something to focus on, and the Tour de Force and the desire to once again raise life changing sums of money for the WWMT is a huge motivation. Perhaps I’ll need to keep setting goals once I’m done to maintain this contented state (marathon next year, anyone?)!  Obviously, for Michael’s benefit, throughout this period, I’ve been fully focussed on my work, my love for the tax never wanes……

 

Whilst I’ve done my best above to make it look like I’m a lone wolf, I’m not really, friends, family and colleagues are all there for me if/when I need them. However, I’m very conscious that not everyone is as fortunate as me and that’s why the work done by charities like WWMT resonates so much. Giving people help and hope when previously there was none.

 

Anyway, hopefully people can see the positives in the above. To paraphrase Jerry Springer, take care of yourself and each other…..and get out on your ******* bike.  The less serious blogs will return next time, more than likely featuring Rafa Benitez, Anthony Joshua and HMRC.

 

The Quest to Become the Knightside Chris Froome continues…..

We’ve now passed the halfway point in the training regime, and the first major test of the legs had been in the diary for a number of weeks – the inaugural MoD Rocker Sportive on Easter Sunday.  67 miles over the climbs in the Otterburn Ministry of Defence ranges, on roads closed off to the public.  A bit of nice weather and it would be a treat.

 

Before we get to that, I have to set the scene.  I always find Easter weekend a strange time of year.  Of course it’s nice to have a few days off but it does go pretty quiet.  Not like the May or August bank holidays which are usually heavy sessions, but Easter is a time for chilling, I think.

 

So, what better way to chill than a Good Friday evening kick off at St James’ Park, Newcastle versus Dirty Leeds United.  With Rafa’s juggernaut to automatic promotion spluttering towards the line, a nice comfortable home victory would be just the ticket…………despite the best home performance since before Christmas, the brain trust that is Newcastle’s defence conspired in the last minute to gift Chris “Cart Horse” Wood acres of space in the box and a fully undeserved point.

 

It’s fair to say I was slightly annoyed, and in this glorious age of bars which open past 11pm, I may have sank a few pints and let off a bit of steam.  Nothing too much of course, being mindful of the Sunday ride.  Guinness?  Only a couple, I’m riding on Sunday.  Vodka and lemonade?  Only a couple I’m riding on Sunday.  Single malt whisky?  Only a couple, I’m riding on Sunday……

 

Whilst I didn’t have a proper hangover, I was incredibly tired.  An awful night’s sleep followed by an equally awful night’s sleep on Saturday night…..I was up at 6am on Sunday ready for the sportive.

 

The MoD Rocker Sportive

The morning began as all other mornings before rides do……porridge, banana, breakfast bar, fluids, get the kit together, electrolyte drinks, chamois cream and out.  Then an hour long drive to the start at Clennell Hall (up past Rothbury) for an 8.30am start.

 

Registration, nee bother.  Get a number, lash it on the bike, nee bother.  And wait.  In the cold.  And look around.  Look around at the more expensive (and obviously much lighter) bikes.  Look around at the bulging calves and heaving thighs on men half my weight.  I’m totally up for this like….

 

Staggered starts in groups of 10, I eventually rolled out at 9am, only after realising that I had put my number 86 on upside down.  This was to be a theme….slowing down at every checkpoint to say that it’s actually 86 not 98 wears a bit thin after 6 hours in the saddle.

 

I didn’t realise at the time, but the first 12 miles were actually a long drag upwards towards the foot of the first (and biggest/steepest) climb of the day.  Given the lack of sleep, I nearly chundered a few times but managed to keep it together.  Fortunately I could see the climb looming in the distance, with the strewn bikes/bodies zig-zagging their way up.  I stopped at an appropriate juncture, necked an energy gel and tackled the climb.

 

It was one of those so steep that your front wheel was coming off the floor. Heart was pounding out of my chest, legs were burning……but this was where the experience comes in, pace yourself, keep turning the pedals, don’t try and go too fast, you’ll get there.  See action shot.  Easy man.

 

That climb actually woke me up for the middle third of the ride, which I must say was really enjoyable.  Quiet, smooth roads, great views, decent enough weather.  Plenty of climbing but I didn’t mind.

But at about 35 miles two things happened:

 

  1. The heavens opened – flying downhill, in the wind and rain at 35/40mph soon puts a freeze on your baldy heed. I got soaked (see pic 2).

 

  1. My saddle came loose – riding up hills (or down) with a loose saddle isn’t really ideal. Balancing something between your cheeks whilst undertaking quite strenuous exercise (not a euphemism) is very difficult.

 

So, I made my way around the rest of the circuit, wet and tired without too much drama (except the saddle).  The second feed station was at Rothbury, but by this time, knowing the road to the finish being only 13 miles, I cracked straight on and got the job done.

 

67.8 miles, 6877 feet of climbing, 5hrs33mins, not bad day out really.  I got a nice pale ale the goody bag, which was decent.  Shoutout to all the volunteers and organisers for giving up their time for cracking event.  Another shoutout to the idiots who stopped to take selfies next to tanks on the ranges.  Let’s hope their behaviour doesn’t jeopardise future editions.

 

However, more training needed.  Hill reps will commence soon.

 

The Quest to Become the Knightside Chris Froome continues…..

The nights slowly get lighter, it gets a bit warmer, the motivation to get out of the house on the bike increases; in many ways, March is where it all begins in earnest.

 

Key achievements:

 

1 stone barrier reached…..but not breached. Weight loss has stalled, but fitness continues to improve. Even taking a tactical approach to weight measuring (in a morning and after a visit to the bathroom…..) it hasn’t pushed past the stone barrier. Persistence though.

 

100km ride……blasted out on a Saturday morning before the match……the Fulham match, where Newcastle royally had their pants pulled down. Don’t worry though, in Rafa we trust.  Still, I was in negative pints so I tipped in 4 Doom Bars afterwards as consolation. Very sensible.

 

Saddle sores…….never experienced these before but, they are not cool. Not only do they look like you’ve poured boiling water onto your no mans land regions, they are incredibly uncomfortable. So I did the only thing a man could do……I marched straight into Boots for some wet wipes and sudocrem. Did the job no bother. More chamois cream needed in future though.

 

First trip up Crawleyside……..on a beautiful Saturday morning, Neil and I took a nice ride down to Stanhope and back over Crawleyside. Not easy, manageable…..but it is steep. Very steep. A confidence builder though.

 

I’ve also taken to watching the spring classics on Eurosport on Sunday afternoons.  250km days, cobbles, short sharp climbs reaching 25% gradients, crashes galore.  It’s addictive and inspiring.  I like to think of myself as Tom Boonen, in terms of riding style and looks, obviously (sans beard, the older Tom Boonen looks like me I reckon).

 

The first sportive on Easter Sunday is looming.  I can’t quite think of a tedious Easter/Jesus/cycling/climbing gag to crowbar into the blog so I’ll just say I’m looking forward to testing myself on the Ministry of Defence ranges.  Plan is to get myself into at least 8 negative pints so I can fully enjoy the Easter break like everyone else.

 

Have a good one, The Quest to Become the Knightside Chris Froome continues…

 

 

January is like a black hole, there is no light, it is dark, damp, depressing and you wonder whether you’ll ever escape it. As us tax advisers know, it’s difficult month! It’s always cold and windy, and actually quite dangerous to take the road bike out.

 

It’s been over a month since the last entry, but fear not, despite the opportunities for excuses not to bother, training has been going well. I’ve even managed to squeeze in a couple of sessions (drinking sessions) without it affecting the regime too much.

 

A quick update on the weight loss……8lbs in the first month, pushing the stone mark now, all helps with getting up those hills…..

 

So, to the cycling.

 

Turbo sessions have consisted of, hour long endurance (incredibly boring) and threshold sessions (incredibly hard). Been getting in about 3 a week. Trick is to watch a programme that lasts about an hour to remove some of the boredom and take you mind off your numb crotch. However, do not do a turbo session whilst watching a Newcastle match, whether it’s watching Paul Dummett chase the ball around like a puppy, or Jonjo Shelvey dish out his own brand of definitely not racist sledging, it’s impossible to keep the heart rate consistent.

 

I’ve been out for a couple of runs. Surprised myself. Actually made it back home and completed the loop. My house is up this massive hill…..so the first mile is quick, the last not so much.

 

And I’ve been out for two rides. The first was the local loop, c30 miles taking in the Col du Kibblesworth and Busty Bank, amongst others. Was tough, pace was down but good to get it in.

 

The second was the first “proper” ride of the year. Me and Neil cycled along the Tyne (ish) to Corbridge, then tackled the drag up past Slaley and to Derwent Reservoir (see above). Timing it perfectly for the wind to be behind on the way back, we clocked up speeds of 45mph before nailing the climb back up into Burnopfield. Neil headed off back to Washington and I psyched myself up for the Birkland Lane climb back to Sunniside.  58.1 miles, speed decent, a cracking position to work from.

 

Nothing much else to report I’m afraid. Looking towards doing a few sportives. First up is the MoD Rocker, which goes on Ministry of Defence roads up past Otterburn. 65miles, 1800m of climbing. Perfect way to spend an Easter Sunday. Now, where’s that registration form…..?

 

The Quest to Become the Knightside Chris Froome continues……


So, after taking a year off the cycling in 2016, Michael has managed to convince me (and Neil) that doing the Tour de Force again would be a good idea.  What else am I going to do?  I can only worship at the altar of Rafa Benitez every other week, and the football season finishes in May, plenty of time to train for it.  Properly this time, obviously.  Last time, let’s just say it was blagged to an extent. Memories of the sweeper van stalking me on Alpe d’Huez still haunt me.

 

Embarrassingly, except for two Great North Run training rides, the road bike didn’t actually hit the road from the day I stepped off it in Paris on Sunday 19 July 2015 until Saturday 7 January 2017.  Quite a decent rest.  And quite a decent increase in weight.  Reckon I put on over 1.5 stone in that time.  An Achilles injury didn’t help, but still, not cool.

 

Anyway, in the knowledge I would be hitting the training hard in the New Year, I was very well behaved over the festive period – haven’t touched a (proper) booze since Xmas day.  I watched quite a lot of the PDC darts; realising that Michael van Gerwen could quite easily be mistaken for me (less the beard) both in terms of darts prowess and physique, I was in no doubt that the first week back to work after New Year, I’d be on it, training and eating much healthier.

 

And you know what.  I’ve done just that.  It’s taken some time to turn the oil tanker that is my weight around, but it’s now going in the right direction, the turbo trainer sessions have been getting nailed, I haven’t been tempted to go and see Mrs Gill at the local chip shop (for CHIPS, before anyone says anything…) and I’ve been out on my bike.  Actually out of the house.  On the road.  In the fresh air.  On my bike.  What a hero I am. Well done Barry.

 

So, to the first ride of the year. Knocked up a cheeky route on Strava, just over 50 miles, Dunston to Bolam Lake and back. Not the hilliest of routes, but should be a decent barometer of where I’m at.

 

Up early on Saturday morning, new helmet on, new overshoes on (the best invention ever by the way) and away I went. A damp day, but pretty calm. Along the quayside, along Scotswood Road. And then a sharp right on the Walbottle road climb. Yeah, I remember now, the gradient, the heart rate, the burn in the legs. The gears get flicked, 23….25….28…..32? 32? 32?! The messing around I had been doing with the front derailleur and cable tension meant I had left my beloved dinner plate behind! Not to worry though, I trundled around, endurance pace. But definitely felt it on the way back into Ponteland, maybe 10 miles too far for the first one.  The whole point was that I enjoyed it. I’m slower than I have been, but some residual endurance remains.

 

The thing about cycling though is that you have to factor in a bike clean down after a ride, especially in the winter. Whilst it might seem like a nightmare, it is critical otherwise the faithful Cube will turn into Trigger’s Broom before long, at a hefty expense.

 

Then to cap off a delightful little week of training, I managed to fully index the gears on the bike. All 22 of them. Running like a dream. Random people on YouTube, I thank you. One day I’ll return the favour and show you how to complete the best tax return ever.

 

Check back in for more riveting blogs throughout the year.  I’m just off to the doctors to see what TUEs I can get away with.

 

The Quest to Become the Knightside Chris Froome has commenced…..

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