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Stay in touch with all things Tour related right here. From an overview of the start of training, to the latest partners, we’ll be keeping you bang up to date throughout the months leading up to the start.

Stage 19: Embrun – Salon de Provence

July 15, 2017, 7:17 pm

Pro prediction: Bunch sprint: set up for a fast day.

 

A lumpy climby start to the day on legs with two days of Alps saw a very quiet neutralised start…. followed by a 30km gentle descent run off at speed…. by this point both the heat and the headwind had intensified and cycling on my own to FS 3 I certainly felt weary; but a bonus coffee and ice cream stop and getting in a group made the ride through lavender fields and gently rolling Provence fields and rock valleys an enjoyable ride- that was until we hit the flat roads with headwinds in excess of 20km/hour….. but a good day.


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  • July 15, 2017, 7:17 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Stage 18: Briançon – Izoard

July 13, 2017, 7:05 pm

Pro’s Prediction: GC

A fantastic iconic Tour stage; with Col de Vars as a leg warmer. I found it a long hard but satisfying day; the only way I can sum it up was a long uphill ascent; and I was rarely able to take any advantage of flat riding….. The Izoard is a fantastic climb and the moonscape on the top is as ethereal as they suggest.

 

Col de Vars

Col d’Izoard

 


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  • July 13, 2017, 7:05 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Stage 17: La Mure – Serre-Chevalier

July 12, 2017, 8:16 pm

Pros: A GC battle; and a super quick descent to the finish line.

 

A deeply satisfying day; albeit long…. the video says it all


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  • July 12, 2017, 8:16 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Stage 16: Le Puy en Velay to Romans sur Isere

July 11, 2017, 7:00 pm

This is set up for a pro bunch sprint; wide sweeping roads at the finish preceded by a flattish 50km through the Cotes du Rhone vineyards.

No transfer today; weather forecast to be cloudy/ sunny- as we rolled out from Le Puy what did we get: absolutely lashed it down: no rain cape- wet again but slightly warmer but a nice start up the gentle Cat 3; coffee in a cafe at FS1….. onto a drying rolling road… pastureland, to pine trees…. all at about 1000m… lovely…. FS2 and on to the descent through the Ardeche down to the Rhine and 50km later on a transfer bus into the heart of the Alps…. two big days await us……

 

Start of the descent

Halfway down

River Rhone at the bottom


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  • July 11, 2017, 7:00 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Day 3 (Stage 15): Laissac-Severac l’eglise – Le Puy en Velay

July 9, 2017, 8:12 pm

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….


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  • July 9, 2017, 8:12 pm
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  • Category: barry
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I overtook Michael – twice!

July 9, 2017, 7:00 pm

Thursday 6th July

Early morning start to pick up Barry at Chateau Dunston and a very easy check in and transfer in Dublin. Decided to have a snack in Dublin just to keep us going. Arrived on time at Toulouse and had a wonderfully scenic journey to our overnight ski lodge. The climb up to the hotel was awesome and I’m so pleased I didn’t have to do it like Michael had to.

Eventually retired to bed at around 11.30pm.

Friday 7 July

Another early start – up, packed, breakfast and on the coach for 7am. A two hour drive to our start point and we were off – Barry and I leading out the Tour. I’m sure we would have been first up the first climb – the Col de Latrape a short Cat 1 climb of only 5km with a 7% gradient – if we hadn’t stopped to take some photos but we’ll never know! Anyway onward and upward to Col d’Agnes. This was a testing Cat 1 of 10km which we managed without too many problems.

Then we came to the biggest challenge of the day – the Mur de Peguere. Another Cat I climb of 10km but with ‘short’ pitches of 16 and 18%. I’d like to question the person who described them as short pitches as I don’t think 1km is short!!!! Like Barry, and quite a number of others, I failed to make it to the top. Excuses – old age, unfit, tired but it was the cramps I got in both thighs which isn’t good when clipped in to the pedals! I’ve never been more relieved to see the sign saying next km – 10% – a piece of cake!

Anyway a very difficult day in hot weather. Highlights – the scenery – breathtaking and passing Michael on the  Col d’Agnes – it only took him a minute to realise what had happened before he cranked it up and went past me – I never got near him the rest of the day.

Saturday 8 July

This was supposed to be a relatively easy day. Well it was in comparison to yesterday but it still had two category 3 climbs and an uncategorised climb towards the end – what it was uncategorised I don’t know – possibly because it wasn’t 7% or so but it was a tough climb nonetheless. I cycled most of the day with Barry which I really enjoyed – he’s not a bad lad really lol.

It was only 112 miles today but thankfully the sun was only briefly out and although still humid it was bearable.

Highlight of the day – passing Michael again on the first little climb but again after the feed stop I never saw him again as he blasted off into the distance.

Funniest moment was when I was cycling in the lead group of 10 to the first feed stop and Uri (Ulrich) from Germany dropped back and said in a polite way ‘do they never stop taking, I can’t put up with it anymore’ referring to a number of the lady riders who were upholding the fact that women talk a lot.

The sad thing is that Barry and I shared a table at dinner with two of them tonight. Just ask Michael!

Anyway, an early start tomorrow- breakfast at 5.45am and on the coach for 6.30am. Another tough day ahead with rain forecast.

Sunday 8 July

The final day dawned with a 5.15am alarm call and breakfast, case and day bag drop offs and on the coach for 6am.

Arrived at Laissac Severac and set off around 7.30am. First stage a 30km ride to the top of the first category 1 climb. A steady 8.6km at an average ascent of 7%.

The second stage was a bit longer and it started with a category 3 climb followed by a lumpy ride. The weather turned. It started raining hard and when I arrived at the feed stop I was greeted by a lot of riders wrapped in blankets and shaking with the cold. Michael had suffered badly from what he has said and I was also. Wet down. I couldn’t get warm. Started to have negative thoughts.

Anyway the weather dried up and Barry and I set off on stage 3. It was a relatively easy stage but the were a few climbs. Luckily we arrived at feed station 3 just as the heavy rain returned. Fortunately there were trees to shelter under as we ate our rations. At one point I thought that the rain wasn’t going to stop but it did and we set off on the next, and final stage.

This stage was a nice downhill ride until the last category 1 climb. Another 9km at an average of around 7%. Gareth the lead rider did say there were short pitches – a couple of hundred yards of 10% and 12%. Well he was wrong again! The pitches were 14% and 11% and 1km long. A tough ask after 93 miles but with grit and determination we both made it to the top.

A steady ride to the finish we thought – no a couple of nasty little uncategorised climbs to overcome but we crawled up and arrived at the finish at 7pm.

A tough day of 120 miles with 10,500 feet of climbing through some amazing countryside, valleys and very picturesque villages.

A fantastic three days of hard cycling but an experience we’ll never forget.

I know one thing for sure – I won’t be signing up for another!


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  • July 9, 2017, 7:00 pm
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  • Category: neil
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Stage 15: Laissac-Severac L’eglise to Le Puy en Velay

July 9, 2017, 7:00 pm

Pro prediction: one for the breakaway; just enough to escape the bunch.

Wow what a day; starting with a Cat 1 climb; we knew the weather was un-certain and all was ok-ish at the re-group point at the top of that first climb- it had been a 5.15 start/people are tired…..

The next c40km were like being in the UK but that wasn’t only the scenery…. almost Yorkshire-moor style roads and landscape with driving torrential rain at an altitude greater than Yorkshire saw riders roll into the next feedstop frozen to the core; I don’t think I have seen that many cyclists wrapped in blankets…..

As the day progressed the weather got better then worse and better again… un-veiling the most stunning scenery.. along rock lined river valley bottoms leading to the final climb.. with yet another Wall to climb….. …. then just when you think it’s all downhill from there, the Tour throws in a couple of bonus climbs…. anyway a real sense of achievement as I rolled into Le Puy en Velay.


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  • July 9, 2017, 7:00 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Day 2 (Stage 14): Blagnac – Rodez

July 8, 2017, 7:10 pm

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….


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  • July 8, 2017, 7:10 pm
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  • Category: barry
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Stage 14:Blagnac to Rodez

July 8, 2017, 7:00 pm

Pro prediction: Bunch sprint

A funny kind of day on the road; the weather plays such a large part in its contribution to the Tour; and we generally think of sunshine- this was just a grey day where the majority of riders had two days of climbs in their legs….. Any other day this may have been a lovely stage flirting with the gorges moving again from the built up towns etc to countryside… for me… the small ring just didn’t work… legs too spinny (if that’s even a word) and the big chain ring brought into use with a relatively quick time…..


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  • July 8, 2017, 7:00 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Stage 13: St Girons to Foix

July 8, 2017, 6:30 pm

Pro- prediction: what a fascinating stage; I will enjoy watching the highlights of this- very difficult to call… the shortest tour stage ever….. a solo attack!!

It is impossible to explain to anyone not riding that this is NOT a holiday; people having buried themselves up to the ski station then awoke at 5.15ish for a two hour transfer to Saint Girons…… everyone was tired…. the first Cat 1 was rode  as a neutralised ascent- job done; the second not straightforward Cat 1 demanded that little bit more and with a draining heat no-one was wholly comfortable…. Feedstop 2 saw a welcome free ice-cream (I am ignoring in my Blog; Neil’s attempt at a cheeky overtake)….

And the final climb up the Mur de Peguere to the Col at the top…… was enough to drive a large number to either stop for breathers or walk…. and it isn’t in a gloating way I rode up the climb…… And I say it because at the end of two days being on the two stages including stops of say in total 19 hours… to climb that wall hurt but in an achieved way… the only sad part was that I had to pedal for about three minutes on the final fast 20km descent to Foix.

I do this to raise money for the William Wates Foundation; the giving details are on our website and on my Twitter profile page…. and after listening last night to a v brief presentation by a charity called Chaos Theory… it is worth supporting this charity. But it does on occasion hurt!!


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  • July 8, 2017, 6:30 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Day 1 (Stage 13): Saint-Girons – Foix

July 7, 2017, 8:35 pm

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…..


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  • July 7, 2017, 8:35 pm
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  • Category: barry
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Stage 12 Pau to Peyragudes

July 6, 2017, 7:00 pm

Pro prediction: Simply put one for Chris Froome… something and everything for the GC but a nice one for the Palmares as he crests the 007 runway.

For mere mortals a stage that was a lions stage dressed in lions clothing; the saving grace from my perspective being a fairly flat (it’s all relative) and quick first 100km with the climbing starting after that Col de Ares a gentle introduction; Cold de Mente less so…. and into Port de Bales….. there are often km signs on the climb giving you the average gradient for the next km; on Port de Bales… you would get a sign for 5% gradient and the road would go to 1 or 2% and you would immediately know you were in for a 12/13% section… so much for averages….. and then finally up the climb to Col de Peyragudes… the quick descent and the final climb up to the ski station…. the scenery is stunning; the mountains they invite you in…. relatively I was an early finisher but a 12.5 hour including stops made for a long demanding time….

But still the scenery; the majesty of the mountains-snow covered in places wins out….


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  • July 6, 2017, 7:00 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Stage 11: Eymet to Pau

July 5, 2017, 7:00 pm

Pro’s will eat this route for lunch and spit it out fairly shortly thereafter: bunch sprint. 

 The Pyrenees are here; as you approach Pau they line the skyline waiting to ensnare the unsuspecting cyclists who would dismiss them…. but more of that tomorrow….. 

 … I am hard pressed to tell you of an interesting fact or view on today’s route; it was hard unrelenting cycling into a hot headwind; the good news was again my legs were working and I finished within the first few…. a real novelty for me giving me time to go and buy strawberries for a treat and even because I know this now will be news another packet of Haribos- so then unusual culinary events of the tours  – trip to McDonald’s in Vesoul and buying Haribos!

 


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  • July 5, 2017, 7:00 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Stage 10: Perigueux to Bergerac

July 4, 2017, 7:00 pm

Pro prediction this will be a bunch sprint; but as I sit typing Sagan has just been dq’ed and Cav is out!

 

What a fantastic route; absolutely a sprinters race- this for the pro’s overall will be run off in a super fast time and I mean fast! But as a route it has everything caves, rock formations, stunning little villages and grand chateaus- truly stunning route…

 

And we had unending blue skies with the benefit of trees to shade parts of the route; this is the second time I have done the Tour and all of the stages this was by far the quickest and that was including the opening 40km of neutralised riding…. a good day on the tour


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  • July 4, 2017, 7:00 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Stages 7,8 and 9: The lows and the highs of doing the Tour

July 3, 2017, 8:26 am

The word on the street is that we have in the last nine days done half (distance wise of the whole Tour).

So then Pro prediction:

7 bunch sprint

1 GC day

1 Tour winner

 

The last three days have seen (stages 7 and 8) some of the most brutal weather imaginable with a rolling stage into St Nuits run off into a brutal headwind with torrential rain but with an underlying warmth that made the whole day manageable; my day had been impacted by a puncture at the first feedstop discovered as I came to leave leaving me with that sense of chasing on into the wind; pedalling like fury on the downhills but day done.

 

The following morning saw an early transfer to Dole; we knew the weather wasn’t going to be good but in broad terms at feedstop 1 I added two more layers at feedstop 3 I changed clothes and ending up with 7 layers; the combination of wind and rain and cold saw a number of riders in severe difficulties. As a route and on the right day; pure Tour magic and potentially stunningly beautiful… but just difficult.. I found gaining braking adhesion on the technical descents increasingly difficult and slightly troubling… it is a known fact I like going downhill… final descent of day saw me roll into the final feedstop with a barely inflated front tyre…. resulting in new inner tube and tyre with glass embedded in the tyre; three punctures and two tyres in seven days. The final Cat 1 was uneventful…..

 

Stage 9 another early transfer into wet and murky cold conditions; early climb followed by a technical and sketchy descent….. long and short of it… a loss of confidence and at first feedstop… decision taken ( which has left me feeling v flat) to miss the descents off the Biche and Grand Columbiere)…. I know it was the right decision mentally, having completed every km in 2015… to miss two of the top climbs of the Tour is gutting…. lots of lessons to be learnt… Mont du Chat is a tough climb…. sadly I can’t say about the others…. anyway Tour goes on and I am typing this on the coach as we transfer across the width of France….


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  • July 3, 2017, 8:26 am
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  • Category: michael
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Stage 6: Vesoul to Troyes

June 29, 2017, 7:00 pm

Pro prediction: Nailed on sprint day but if the wind blows then De Gendt from the breakaway- long day even for pros.

 

Story of the day: wind rain hail and every feed stop at least half of us made the wrong clothing prediction from winter jackets to sun cream to gilets and as a consequence a long day of 225km including the ride to the hotel.


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  • June 29, 2017, 7:00 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Stage 5: Vittel – La planche des belles filles

June 28, 2017, 7:00 pm

Pro Prediction… a classic GC stage off the back of a tough climb that the commentators will talk about the final ramp but where the real mischief is in the early kilometres…. a GC contender.

 

Forecast was for rain and thunderstorms; fortunately the rain held off until we were on the coach to Vesoul for tomorrow’s stage

 

A lovely but tough stage in the Vosges…. the Cat 3 was one of those climbs that kept giving or is it taking even after it was past the marked section…. tired tonight!


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  • June 28, 2017, 7:00 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Stage 4: Mondorf-les-Bains – Vittel

June 27, 2017, 7:00 pm

Pro prediction: one has to think it’s a bunch sprint; but some interesting cross wind opportunities just before the Cat 4 climb.

 

Weather has been v mixed today; not an awful lot of photo opportunities and v much a transitional Kms under the belt.

 

Torrential downpours and early rain diminished the photo opportunities; but Frank Schleck joining us for Breakfast (see below) and the Tour de Force appearing on Luxembourg TV brought a different feel (watch the video here: http://www.rtl.lu/sport/1050826.html)

 

Frank Schleck – Luxembourg professional cyclist, 5 times national champion, Amstel Gold Race winner, multiple grand tour stage winner and third place overall in the 2011 Tour de France

 


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  • June 27, 2017, 7:00 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Stage 3: Verviers to Longwy

June 26, 2017, 7:00 pm

Wow what a stage; I posted last night on Twitter; my Garmins analysis of c3000m of climbing- a strongman’s day in the Tour; and really difficult to call but I’d put money on a GC contender being caught out- these first three days are far from giveaways.

 

So a 5.30 start; 6.30 transfer from Liege to Verviers… cool and moisture in the air but sun later. This evening saw most riders supporting the most amazingly precise tan lines- it was at times incredibly hot!

 

Let’s say from my perspective a day of mixed blessings; including a surprisingly safe blowout on a reasonably quick descent- fortunately no snaking of the back wheel but it did impact my time out riding (or not as the case might be)!

 

The pros have on occasion have to stay in rubbish hotels and after relative luxury in Liege; tonight’s accommodation makes Düsseldorf’s look positively palatial- but it wouldn’t be the Tour otherwise; and by Tuesday night, we will have covered over 650km- not sure what that equates too- three days of the Coast to Coast back to back (for the avoidance of doubt- that is full Coast to Coast in one day x3)

Pictures:

Summit of the Cote de Wiltz – preparations for the Tour underway

 

 

Town of Esch-sur-Sure, at the foot of the Category 3 Cote d’Eschdorf


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  • June 26, 2017, 7:00 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Stage 2: Düsseldorf – Liege

June 25, 2017, 7:00 pm

There is no doubt that Germans have a sense of humour; I haven’t always understood it (but that is more a reflection of my strange sense of humour- possibly). But I have to wonder why a roundabout is put in on a long straight flat road…. is it the fact that the crosswinds will play havoc in Germany on the flat and the introduction of a seemingly insignificant roundabout creates a major opportunity for echelons. And the roundabout just makes the humorous point!!

 

On a day everyone thinks will be a sprint – a day for a classics rider or echelons tearing the race apart with an unlikely GC candidate emerging.

 

So then the story of the day is a double whammy of fresh legs and strong winds; what was going to be a day of easing myself into the tour; riding conservatively was dictated too by the conditions, not helped by fresh legs pushing too hard on more than one occasion and as a consequence every emotion under the clouds has passed through my mind from bad to good…but 202km under the belt; the Belgian cat 4 climb was a proper gentle climb; and some of the uncategorised digs were on occasion more of a question.

But talking of Belgium approaching the Ardennes was fab; I have a real soft spot for the country and wouldn’t think twice if circumstances allowed; the views are subtle but amazing; some of the houses are stunning architectural creations but sit so comfortably in the landscape so nice to be back (Will I still be extolling the virtues of The Belgian hills tomorrow I have been to Spa on a bike before……. So job done; kit washed, and other than a niggly quad; what is this European fascination (and I include the UK in this for traffic lights- accelerating from light after light gets a little irritating)!

 

Oh and finally a big shout out to the Belgian village of Olne; who despite having a fair in the village closing the Tour route for the day not only allowed us through but stopped me and asked what we were doing and offered encouragement for the coming days!

 

 


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  • June 25, 2017, 7:00 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Stage 1 – Düsseldorf

June 24, 2017, 4:00 pm

I walked some of the course this morning; the cross wind off the open expanse of the Rhine could cause havoc next Saturday; there is no such thing as a giveaway on the Tour- even the easiest (!) stages can cause a surprise.

 

So then, Düsseldorf and the tour 2017; would like to say I am not apprehensive but I am! The last month’s training was swamped by work commitments but everyone is keen to say they’ll be slowest; and from experience this is about me using my “matches” when I need to….

 

Having said that a slightly surreal hour spent going round the TT course; German law prevented us riding over one of the bridges so it was done via the cycle track; but by the same bizarre logic, a moving bike peloton is treated as one vehicle so provided we nosed through a light on green everyone was able to ride on through red!!

 

But it is good to be started; the drizzle in the air made you wonder whether it will be wetter than expected tomorrow but having ridden nervous energy has been damped; and after the last month I am hopeful my body will again understand the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. It is surprising how the majority of riders were expressing a need for food- funny what 13km can do to the body!

 

The important thing is that we are riding for others; this charity deserves support… and to pinch the Storey RT hashtag #bestversionofyou (me)


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  • June 24, 2017, 4:00 pm
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  • Category: michael
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Auf Wiedersehen, Michael…..

June 23, 2017, 1:01 pm

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……


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  • June 23, 2017, 1:01 pm
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  • Category: barry
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Training – May & June

June 9, 2017, 12:12 pm

7 May 2017

Set out on what was supposed to be a long ride up into the Northumberland countryside but got 3 miles into the ride to Birtley when it started to rain! I don’t do cycling in the rain, or I try not to, so I quickly turned around and headed down away from the clouds towards Seaburn. It became apparent that the weather was closing in and so the ride was curtailed at a meagre 45 miles and not much climbing. Very disappointing as I had built myself up for a long ride only to be defeated by the rain again.

13 May 2017

This was a tough day for me. Met Barry early in Newcastle with the intention of doing some serious mileage and climbing. Everything seemed to be going well but after heading up to Corbridge, Slaley and then Blanchland I was drained. We had intended doing the drag up from Edmundbuyers towards Crawleyside but the wind, coupled with my lack of energy resulted in us returning the easy route home via Shotley Bridge and Medomsley. It must have been disappointing for Barry but it was just one of those days. I just hope I don’t suffer on the actual tour with a day like today! Still managed 69 miles with 5,300 feet of climbing.

14 May 2017

Following the disappointment of the previous day I took the view that I needed to get out and do some riding, not necessarily a long or tough ride, but just to get a few more miles under my belt. As a result I did my usual nice easy ride to Seaburn and back of 31 miles, returning in time for a nice big Sunday Lunch! Not sure that was part of the plan but it was nice anyway!

21 May 2017

I met my biking buddy Barry in Newcastle at the usual 8.30am start time and we headed up on a relatively easy ride up into the beautiful Northumberland countryside. We ventured to parts I’d never been before and at one stage I was so disorientated that I thought we were heading in the wrong direction despite the fact that Barry said we were on our way home! I’m sure the sign said Jedburgh the way we were going and the other way was Newcastle. It’s a good job I had Barry with me. I really do enjoy the countryside up North of Newcastle. The roads are always quiet and you actually see more cyclists than cars. I have also spotted a few decent country pubs on my travels which may well be visited at some time in the future.

27 May 2017

Billy Nomates was out again as Barry had some pressing engagement – a little easy ride in Richmond apparently! I therefore stuck to the tried and trusted route up to Stamfordham, Corbridge, Slaley, Blanchland and on to Shotley Bridge via Edmundbuyers. When I arrived in Shotley Bridge I was feeling relatively good and instead of turning left and going towards Medomsley I decided to go right towards what I thought was Lanchester. Wrong! The road actually climbed up to Consett and it was a steep climb and to make matters worse it started to persistently rain once I eventually got to the top of the hill. As I had no waterproofs I took the decision to stop for shelter and take in some food and drink before heading down towards home.

Disaster struck on the way down towards home. I was following two other cyclists on the C2C route and they crossed over a road in Annfield Plain using the ramps, not the way I normally go, but I decided to follow them and when I got over the road one of the riders decided to do a u turn and head back towards me. I was in the process of mounting the pavement and had to turn more sharply than I had intended to. At this point my wheel caught a raised manhole cover and off I came. Not much damage to me I thought but when I looked at my hand there was blood and a bit of a gash. I picked myself up and headed home to get cleaned up. The result is a badly swollen little finger, not sure if it’s broken or just some muscle damage but it’s still painful 10 days later and struggling to grip without pain. Still, it could have been worse!

Total mileage was 75 with 5,300 feet of climbing.

3 June 2017

The big day. I intended to do 100 miles and I did. The weather was good and I caught the sun. All in all an excellent workout and I felt good. It was the usual route but I headed up towards Crawleyside rather than go to Shotley Bridge when I got to Edmundbuyers. At the top of the moors I pondered whether to go down to Stanhope and do some climbs but knew if I did that I wouldn’t do the 100 miles I targeted. I therefore took the CTC all the way down to Seaburn where I met my wife and youngest daughter and celebrated with a large 99 ice cream – just what was needed. By the time I got home I had done 103 miles and 6,168 feet of climbing.

It feels like it is coming together at the right time. The physiotherapy has loosened the thighs and my back is no longer giving me severe pain. I just hope it continues for another 4 weeks!


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  • June 9, 2017, 12:12 pm
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In the bulging calves, just about to burst, there’s a quest for answers, an unquenchable thirst…….

May 30, 2017, 4:05 pm

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…..


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  • May 30, 2017, 4:05 pm
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  • Category: barry
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Training to Date

May 4, 2017, 8:07 am

Following my decision to take part in part of the Tour de Force in October I dusted down the turbo, got the mountain bike off the wall in the garage and installed them in the cold conservatory – an incentive to pedal a bit harder to get warm on the cold winter nights!

During late October, November and early December I got back into my old routine of an hour on the turbo every night in order to try and get the weight down a little. I had lost some 2.5 stone during my last foray on the Tour but, surprisingly, I had managed to reclaim 1.5 stone in the 18 months following. This had been a gradual increase and something that I worked hard on – drinking and eating as I used to!

In January, the weather was relatively mild and I managed to get out on the road doing a couple of gentle rides of 21 and 30 miles respectively up the Coast to Coast to Stanley and along to the Coast at Sunderland – my usual easy routes.

In early February the weather continued to be good to us and I completed another 24 mile ride into Newcastle with a couple of sustained climbs (well they were for me) just to see if I could still climb hills!

I had got back into the swing of things and was starting to enjoy it again.

18 February – first toughie!

Barrie, my new cycling buddy, and I decided to venture out on a longer ride and met up in Newcastle early in the morning. A 64 mile ride followed along the riverside at Newcastle to Corbridge, up to Slaley, along to Burnhopefield, Tanfield, Stanley and back home to Washington. A bit of a tough ride for the old man with almost 5,000 feet of climbing but also a pleasant ride in beautiful countryside and Barrie and I had plenty of time to solve the world’s problems as we chatted throughout the ride.

5 March – another venture out up the Tyne Valley

A 57 mile ride on my own in to Newcastle, along to Stamfordham, down to Stocksfield and back along the riverside to Newcastle and then home. Not quite as tough as the previous ride but still a lengthy tester with 3,500 feet of climbing.

18 March – soaked!

The weather forecast was supposed to be reasonable so up early and was just about to head into Newcastle to meet up with Barrie when it started raining. A quick text to Barrie to say it was persistently raining(!) but that I was still up for it and I waited to see if it did stop raining. Unfortunately it didn’t but, given the weather looked brighter towards Newcastle, I put my bike in the car and drove into Newcastle where I met Barrie. We set off and about 400 yards along the Quayside it started raining. It continued raining and after about 18 miles we concluded that it was not going to get any better and so we turned around and headed back into town. Not the best workout and it reconfirmed my views that cycling should not be done in the rain!

25 March – Crawleyside

An executive decision was taken on the Friday afternoon that Barrie and I would give Crawleyside a shot to see if our legs were up to it. A pre-arranged rendezvous was made at Burnhope and we set off down into Lanchester, along to Tow Law, down to Wolsingham and then on to Stanhope for a drinks break and gel intake before the climb up Crawleyside.

We weren’t 100% confident but we managed to grind our way to the top without too many issues – a real confidence booster and well worth the trip out. We then headed across the moors down to Edmundbuyers – Barrie stormed down the hill leaving me for dead (and I just about was!), before heading to Shotley Bridge where we separated and went out separate ways.

By the time I got home I had done 62 miles and over 5,500 feet of climbing.

1 April – Back to a gentle ride

No buddy to cycle with today so went off on my stock ride to Sunderland and North up the coast to South Shields and back. Nothing terribly exciting but a very pleasant and easy 50 miles.

I then headed off skiing for a week when a bit of the hard work I had achieved was undone with a lot of eating and drinking which pushed my weight back up a little bit.

23 April – Back in the saddle

A 60 mile ride up the Tyne Valley with a few diversions. Everything was going well until I arrived in Wylam to find the road up to Close House was closed. I therefore decided to follow the diversion which took me South over the river towards Ryton. I then followed the road to Clara Vale, a place I’d never been to, and not likely to again, and then over the nearby golf course. Unfortunately I did not notice it but I set off across the golf course just as someone was teeing off towards the green which was literally a few yards away from where I was cycling. Needless to say I went a bit quicker when I realised what was happening. A few minutes later I was cycling behind a couple who were obviously not golfers. The path was running parallel to the golf course and there was a fourball about to tee off just ahead of us. I thought that the couple in front would stop but they didn’t and so I took the view that I would continue right behind them much to the annoyance of the golfers – there were a few expletives!

Certainly getting there but still a bit of weight to come off and the thighs to build up a bit more. I am beginning to worry about the challenge ahead but I’m sure that I will get there and will, in any event, give it my best shot.


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  • May 4, 2017, 8:07 am
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Mallorca 312 and the Tour de Yorkshire

May 3, 2017, 4:07 pm

 

A tenuous connection perhaps; but two things that amaze me…. The crowds in Yorkshire supporting the pro races (mens and womens) and the crowds of people out in Mallorca watching 6500 amateur cyclists doing a sportive around the Island …. Cheering and applauding until late in the evening… with feed stops in Lloseta and Arta… seeming to involve the whole town having a party…. And I can understand why the Pros love riding in Yorkshire because anyone cheering you on gives you a silent boost; everyone cheering you on gives you a fantastic boost.

And did I need it….any boost was a good thing!

Mallorca 312 was conceived as a day ride around the island on open roads (ie Traffic as well); it is is now a closed road event and follows the mountain range from Pollensa in the North down to Andratax and back in the foothills to Campanet before turning through the old roads to Manacor/Arta and back to the finish- a total distance of 312 kms (194 miles or the equivalent of Newcastle to Wetherby (and back) with c 15000ft of climbing thrown in!)

So the day begins at 5.. banana and Weetabix (eaten out of a cup- I’d manage to smash the bowl I’d borrowed from breakfast the previous night)… a 15km ride pre-dawn to the start… the 45 minute wait to start.. and your off…. The mountains were lovely (to look at) but not to climb… the roads are good and that helps… descending is more akin to kamikaze stunts – I don’t hang around descending but some of the Spanish guys were simply mental….50mph plus!

You climb through the mountains… across to Andratax.. you climb again… you do some descending.. and your at halfway…  legs ok but road quality not as good… you get to the point where people doing the Mallorca 225 turn for home and you carry on..legs ok-ish but the mind goes a bit suddenly the group of 15 becomes 2.. the roads are narrower, you’re not sure where you are, the landmarks aren’t as familiar…. You arrive in Manacor ( I thought I was in Arta- and ready for final straight)- you go back onto the decent roads and do the drag into Arta… Arta at last and then my garmin dies… no time indication/speed etc…

I loved the final 10k whether it was frustration or whatever… the roads are at a gradient that suits me including the lumpy ups and downs… I put it in the big ring and went for it… so exhilarating so go down the final straight at speed…… it was a long hard day in the saddle, I was disappointed with my time…I had lost an hour or so based on my expectations… but to finish 1073 out of 1701 finishers I’ll take that….

And then I cycled back to the hotel… my first 200 mile day!!


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  • May 3, 2017, 4:07 pm
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The Lone Wolf…..

April 30, 2017, 8:14 am

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…..


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  • April 30, 2017, 8:14 am
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Training in Mallorca at Easter

April 24, 2017, 3:47 pm

A quick look on the BBC weather app for the week ahead, revealed rain/poor weather in the North East of England for Easter weekend; by comparison, the weather in Mallorca – basically sun (and a little bit of cloud) and a good 10° warmer – so within 24 hours – a quick burst of training was organised (in spite (or is it despite?)) of the fact, I was due in Mallorca at the end of the month for Mallorca 312.

 

Mallorca and cycling to me are synonymous; and I love being on the island; it has my favourite climb – being Lluc (the wiggly side) (not sure, I like the idea of it being called the Garage Climb)!

 

And with my quick training break, I get to visit some of my favourite haunts:

i) Petra (and the town square) – where it is obligatory (under all circumstances) to stay for coffee;

ii) Col de Soller;

iii) Sa Calobra;

iv) Randa; and as a first for me;

v) San Salvador – but now I can’t work out why it took so long to find the climb (see picture).

 

But one of the many things, I enjoyed was scrolling back through the memories of my first cycling camp in Mallorca (2009).

 

If I said I was heavy that would be an understatement; before I left home in 2009 I marked out a 3% gradient and thought I could do that (not realising that it was an average and cycling just doesn’t work like that)!!

 

So random memories:-

 

  1. Having my bike pushed (with me on it!!) on the incline between Llubi and Sineu by Tim Lawson (@Secret Training).

 

Mind Secret Training is still giving me the push I need; and absolutely loving their new juice bars and the banoffee tasting banana recovery training drink!

 

  1. Being raced up Lluc by Denise (Lawson); no race it took me hours (and I didn’t see her after the first bend!).

 

  1. Climbing Col de Soller with Andy Cook (@Andy Cook Cycling) and deciding to stay on the training camp for 4 more days.

 

I love climbing; I wish I was lighter (even now), faster at it and generally better.

 

  1. The first time up the Randa Monastery climb……..

 

And when I compare those memories to the current training rides; I now get, how and I’ll use Tim as an example he could cycle to San Salvador; and then do Lluc (wiggly side) as a dessert for the day….. (a ride I’d now recommend)!

 

So I’ll follow up with the story when it has happened of Mallorca 312 – roll on the 29th.


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  • April 24, 2017, 3:47 pm
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  • Category: michael
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I can (cycle) for miles and miles and miles and miles……

April 21, 2017, 3:50 pm

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…..


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  • April 21, 2017, 3:50 pm
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  • Category: barry
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Sudocrem and Negative Pints

April 13, 2017, 12:43 pm

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…

 

 


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  • April 13, 2017, 12:43 pm
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  • Category: barry
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Ride like the professionals

April 10, 2017, 9:02 am

If you are going to do the Tour (one week ahead); then (in my head) you do a training camp (or two) to get the miles before the Tour itself.

So in the midst of a little bit of comment – such as “Not another holiday”, it seemed like a good idea to go and do a little altitude training week in Tenerife (well we can always pretend).


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  • April 10, 2017, 9:02 am
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  • Category: michael
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Black Holes and Revolutions…..

February 20, 2017, 12:23 pm

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……


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  • February 20, 2017, 12:23 pm
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  • Category: barry
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2017 is the new 2015…..

January 13, 2017, 12:12 pm


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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  • January 13, 2017, 12:12 pm
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  • Category: barry
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On the 24th June 2017, the Tour de Force riders will start cycling from Dusseldorf. Whether cycling two or more days, this is a heroic undertaking. It will hurt!

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