Monday, 31 May 2010

How to Be Stronger...

...even if you're not?

A bizarre conspiracy theory is doing the rounds that suggests the great Cancellara could be utilising some electrical assistance.

His acceleration and power are uncanny, but that will be that mysterious thing called talent. Still, while he wouldn't get away with using this ingenious technology, maybe I might. Could be handy in the Alps...

The technology is certainly clever - and completely invisible on the bike.

Not that I'm really tempted. Not at all.


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Sunday, 23 May 2010

More Miles Added, and Off-Road, Too

I've had a quiet week since our Cotswolds weekend, but the weekend itself was a great success.

When John wasn't trying to brain himself on various doors and items of door furniture he was impressively strong on Saturday in almost keeping up with John 2, who was on his unladen Trek road bike. Meanwhile, JR was cycling down from Nottingham to join us...

I tagged along behind, as usual, with the usual excuses - heavier bike, fatter tyres, advancing years, lack of training - but not so far behind it was actually any more embarrassing than usual.

Sunday was a little tougher than I expected, although a late night, some beer and a little whisky might have contributed to that. I don't know why, but I didn't anticipate any hills quite as steep as the fourteen percenter we met about a third of the way round. Anyway, we all made it up that one in our various ways, my head had cleared by the time I got to the top and I felt pretty good the rest of the way round.

By riding to the start and back from the finish, John and I added ten miles to the route, while JR added another thirty or so as he headed back to catch a train home.

That made our total for Sunday fifty miles, to add to almost forty the day before, while JR did over 180 miles in two and a half days!

A busy week meant I didn't ride again until yesterday (Saturday), and the same was true for John, although he had been running. A family get-together at High Lodge in Thetford Forest was all the excuse the two of us needed to do something a bit different in the form of the black run. I put the old knobblies on my bike and John switched to his MTB and we set about it.

It's been notably dry lately, even though it's been cold, and the forest trails were all either dusty, sandy or rutted and set like concrete. While my legs felt fine (and much stronger than last time we did the route) my wrists and hands were aching after just a few minutes of this unfamiliar treatment. John has front suspension, so I had my usual extra excuse in place. After a while, though, the aching went away and I was up for a second lap when we got round the course faster than expected. This meant some more runs down 'The Beast', which was fun.

John lost his tool roll at this point and had to go back to retrieve it while I headed for the finish and the food and drink. The two circuits amounted to about fifteen miles. John's extra loop added another three. Probably add about fifty percent to that for the extra effort in riding quite fast off road.

After the drive home I headed out again on the road for another fifteen miles. With the knobbly tyres being quite soft, this was a decent workout, too. I averaged near 16 mph, which isn't bad.

But even allowing extra for the off-road session it still amounts to under forty miles for the weekend. I need more miles, simple as that.

It's the Norwich 100 in two weeks. Will I be doing it on the mountain bike (with road tyres), or not? I'll let you know.

A week after that, Bury St Edmunds has its own event, also with a 100 mile option. Now that's the kind of thing I need to be doing to get my mileage up. Two centuries in two weeks might sound quite tough but remember we'll be stringing together two solid weeks of metric centuries (while crossing at least three mountain ranges) in less than four months' time!


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Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Definitely Paris to Venice

Apart from riding a few miles in the Cotswolds and sinking a few beers over the weekend, we also looked at the route for September in more detail.

It does look like it will be a real test for a not especially talented cyclist like me. Which is what we all wanted, of course. No point going all that way and being bored because it was easy!

The latest version of the route has us covering 905 miles at an average of 70 miles a day, which means we'll need to do much more in the earlier, flatter stretches, because 70 miles in the mountains, several days in a row, is a different story altogether.

So we have a two days around 90-100 miles early on and a couple of 40 or so in the Alps. That schedule will get us to Venice on the Friday evening, giving us a day to spare for mishaps on route and maybe some sightseeing time.

The route takes us through Fontainebleu, Colmar and Freiburg, past Lake Constance and into the Dolomites at Cortina, among other wonderfully evocative places. We should even see a bit of Liechtenstein, as well as France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.

But it will be 70 miles a day...



Sunday, 9 May 2010

A Good Two Weeks and More to Come

It's now two weeks since we got back from Yorkshire. Life can't be bad when even training gives you memories to treasure, but that's the truth of it for the four of us.

We enjoyed the Dales so much that we're working out how we can fit in another training weekend in that glorious countryside. We certainly need to keep up the training momentum.

Next weekend we'll be in the Cotswolds. The official British Heart Foundation event is on Sunday, and we'll be taking that in, plus we'll no doubt put in some good miles on Saturday. I may also ride across to Newmarket on Friday, as I did two weeks ago. That takes an hour off the driving for John and gets us to our start point at a reasonable time.

Two weeks ago I navigated to Newmarket by the sun, having failed to memorise the route as well as I thought. Luckily, it's due west from Bury St Edmunds! Stay south of the A14 and you can hardly miss Newmarket.

Since then I've only had three rides, totalling a mere 60 miles, but my fitness level is definitely up on three weeks ago. Another ride early this week, plus the Cotswold weekend, and I'm sure I'll be another step nearer the level I need to reach by September.

More miles would have been good but I'm confident we're all progressing and we'll get to Paris in good enough form to make the trip glorious rather than torturous!

Either way, it will be one to remember for a lifetime. We'll be able to bore people for decades!


PS. I'm still looking for that sponsored bike! Here I am with the one I've been using so far. I'm wearing the jersey that Shutt VR kindly sent me. The soft toy is called Charlie, and he'll be busy fund raising for St Nicholas Hospice Appeal this summer, although he might come along for the ride sometimes. His website is at

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Reflections on a Great Weekend

Hard to believe it's a week since we were deep in the Yorkshire Dales, but about this time last Saturday we would have been finishing lunch at the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes, having just made one of the most exciting descents ever.

One of our team touched 52 mph, although we all chickened out and used our brakes (in my case, frequently) on our way down that amazing hill. The only descent I've done that came close was the one into Nenthead (the highest village in England), on our last two coast to coast rides.

Of course, there will be some bigger 'hills' come September, when we cross various mountain ranges between Paris and Venice, not least the Alps and the Dolomites.

It's the climbs that count, though, and although the hills in Yorkshire are amazingly steep in places, we will be testing our endurance as much as anything on those long ascents this autumn.

So we plan to go back to the Dales in July to seek out some of the longer, steadier climbs. That's only about ten weeks before we set sail for the trip itself. We also have a weekend in the Cotswolds in two weeks' time and I'm planning two 100 mile rides in June, the Norwich 100 on the 6th and the Bury St Edmunds event on the 13th.

Those 'one-hundreds' will be good for stamina-building, although I don't yet know what bike I'll be riding. Last time I did the Norwich 100 I used my road bike, but it's not really comparable with a loaded tourer, so I may still be on my mountain bike, with panniers. John plans to do the Norwich event on the tandem with his wife, so I'll probably be riding alone, which will be interesting.

If a kind sponsor would like to step forward with the offer of a more suitable touring bike, I'll be very grateful! But I already have my first bit of corporate sponsorship from Shutt Velo Rapide, who kindly sent me one of their very tasty marino-mix jerseys. When I get a good picture of me wearing it I'll post one here.

Anyway, more on our training plans and progress later!