Wednesday, 29 September 2010

A few Memories While I Gather my Thoughts!

We started training for the trip in earnest sometime in the spring after one of the coldest and iciest winters in years.

That meant none of us had done much cycling for several months. I, for one, felt pretty rusty and lacking strength. The others reported similar feelings, although all these things are relative!

I also set out with the intention of equipping myself with a good touring bike for the trip and ideally for most of my training. It's very difficult to switch bikes just before a big ride and it increases the risk of injury when the pressure is on.

So I was reluctant to get stuck into training on my old mountain bike, but I needed some basic fitness, so I decided I just had to get on with it.

Within a month or so of starting fairly regular rides around my Suffolk home, we arranged a trip to the Yorkshire Dales. This was a big step up. It meant carrying some luggage for the first time and taking on hills bigger than anything I'd seen since our coast to coast last September.

That was a wake up, but I survived. Some of those Yorkshire hills are steeper than anything we would meet in the Alps (or so I was told), but much, much shorter.

Getting the miles in was my biggest problem. John and JR managed to do more, but we all felt we needed more time on the bikes. Our wives didn't necessarily agree...

Most of my rides were 20-30 miles. I added one 60-miler and did the Bury Wheel, a 100 mile circuit around Bury St Edmunds in early Summer, but apart from the training weekends I wasn't managing consecutive days on the bike, let alone big distances.

Anyway, with another two trips to the Dales, one to the Cotswolds and only rolling Suffolk hills to test my legs in the meantime, I joined John and JR in Paris on 4th September.

The plan (mine anyway) was to build our fitness further during the first few 'easy' days as we followed the Seine southeast then eastwards from Notre Dame.

In fact, after the first stop-start day out of Paris to a 'closed' camp site, we then faced two days of strong, persistent headwinds, and then the hills started, JR's gears broke, we ran short of food and the weather took a definite turn for the worse...

And we were beginning to fall behind our very testing schedule.

But more on all that next time!


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Saturday, 25 September 2010


Seven years ago, four friends decided they wanted a cycling adventure. One year later, in 2004, the four did Le Jog - the famous Lands End to John O'Groats ride.
The ride came in at a fraction under 1000 miles.

Three years later, three members of that group plus one new member wanted to try something a little more challenging, so they rode the length of the Pyrenees, from Atlantic to Mediterranean in two weeks in September 2007. This time the ride was 'only' around 600 miles but with a few more 'hills' in the way. This was the famous 'Le Knees' expedition.

In fact, their total climbing amounted to around three Everests! At the last minute, I was given the opportunity to be their back up driver for the first week, and I jumped at the chance. I was training for The Great North Run at the time, hence my orange MS Society running vest in some of the pictures.

This time, I'm one of the four cycling, and this time we're combining distance (almost 1000 miles) with climbing (the Alps, for example) as we cycle from Paris to Venice in two weeks for L'Express. We'll also take in the Vosges, the Black Forest and the Dolomites.

And this time there will be no support vehicle, we'll be camping most nights and we'll be carrying all our own kit.

Well, they do say, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!'

We're all doing it for great causes, as well as for the sheer fun of it. My sponsor links are on this page. You can find the others on the L'Express website.

This is a great adventure for us, but we're mindful of how lucky we are to be able to do it. Not everyone is so fortunate in life and the recipients of your generous donations are among the most deserving people we could find. Please give generously.

Thank you! Here's that L'Express website again.


PS. I'm going to get my excuses in early - starting with the fact that I'm ten years older than the oldest person was on that first ride. With experience does not come wisdom!

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