As the title will tell you, it’s just over three weeks until I step on the plane bound for Toulouse and the Pyrenees and what promises to be an epic if somewhat challenging day out.
I am riding Stage 8 of the Tour de France, but riding from Lourdes not Pau, so our route will be slightly shorter at 148km in total. We are riding as a group of 42 to try and raise £25,000 for various charities.
My charity is The Christie – who provide such a wonderful service to the cancer sufferers of the north west and beyond. I have friends and family who have been affected by this horrible disease and over my sporting life I have always tried to support the work they and others in this field too.
With the ride just three weeks away, please visit my page and stick a donation on, even if it is just £5 – every donation helps to make such a difference to people and maybe even for you and your family at some point in the future – my page is here:
We are riding the stage the day before the race does, the day before the professionals complete the stage, so it will be a tremendous thing to experience.
Stage 8 of the Tour de France covers four mountains:
- Col du Tourmalet (HC)
- Hourquette d’Ancizan (2)
- Col de Val Louron-Azet (1)
- Col de Peyresourde (1)
It will be the biggest challenge I have faced on a bike, bigger than Ironman, and I have done 5 of those rides, but this is the Tour and this is the Pyrenees – I am scared and excited in equal measure at this point in time.
The positive things I can take out of the build up to the event is that I have trained, and I have trained consistently. Looking at my current stats for 2016, Strava tells me:
Total Rides (including commutes): 94
Total Distance (including commutes): 1,959km
Total Ascent (including commutes): 14,377m
Could I have trained more, yes of course I could, but running a business, running other smaller concerns, raising a family with three sports mad boys who play football and compete in athletics means that your time is restricted and sometimes plans just fall to pieces. But one this that Ironman has taught me, is that you can do what you can do, and what you don’t do is beat yourself up about “what if’s” – plus when it comes down to the day, then experience and attitude count for a whole lot.
The distance doesn’t scare me, the mountains don’t really scare me massively, they will hurt but I can cope with that … the only unknown factor in all this is the weather. It can be scorching hot and humid at that time of year but as you climb it can be cold and even raining too … planning the kit list for this event is very tricky indeed, but I have chosen and I have hopefully covered all bases.
Yesterday, I rode my 27th specific training ride for the event and I tried something different this time. Both a mental challenge and also a climbing specific one. So what was it all about?
Close to home there is a loop that I slightly extended (to take in another hill) that covers 6.5km and contained within that loop is a climb of 250m (with gradients of 7-8% rising to 9-12% at the top) – further on in the loop is the bigger climb which goes on for 1.4km in total with again gradients of 7-9% at the bottom, going into the main bit where gradients rise to 11-13% in parts before gradually easing off.
The fact that the loop went past my front door would be the mental challenge really – would I ditch early. I set off wanting to complete at least 10 loops and also wanting to make sure I rode at least 100km for the day.
I have to admit that 10 loops did start to get a bit boring and also became a little more difficult to achieve consistency as the traffic built up, but the encouraging thing was that I tackled the hills with great strength and calmness.
I assessed my diet during the course of my training and noticed a lack of iron intake, so over the last few weeks, I have started taking some ZipVit multi-vitamins with iron and whether that has helped or not I don’t know but I really felt in control during this ride – I also practised more on my nutrition eliminating a couple of products and choosing others.
After 10 loops I headed off for 35km of rolling terrain and this was a nice little change … it did mean that I would have some climbing to do to get back home and that was the really defining moment for me. The hills home aren’t big or long, but they have ramps of 7-9% in them and usually at the back end of a ride I will be spinning away in the little ring … yesterday I held the big ring up them all and with some comfort too – that really did give me enormous encouragement.
One thing I will take to the Tour with me, is the final element of my tattoo which was completed last week. You have all seen the cycling themed ones on my chest, back and shoulder, but the latest one is again something very special to me and something I have wanted for a while now.
Each star represents one of my boys, the largest for Jonny, the medium one for Matthew and the smallest for Dan – I wanted them on my arm, on show for me and the world to see.
As I sweat and toil up those mountains next month, I will glance at my arm and smile at the three superstars at home and I won’t back down, not one inch.
I recently listened to some old tunes and this lyric from a James track has stuck in my head:
“The price of loving life is not so steep, Climb out of your well it’s not that deep, no such place as hell ….”
I’m taking that to the Tourmalet with me …..