Three weeks to go …

Three weeks to go …

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:


  1. Col du Tourmalet (HC)
  2. Hourquette d’Ancizan (2)
  3. Col de Val Louron-Azet (1)
  4. 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.

ride summary

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.

Stars on Arm

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 …..

Forming a plan …

With the arrival of the new bike, I can now start to plan the training as I step up from the preparatory phase into the increased volume stage.

I have spent the last few weeks, building up the frequency of rides, commuting and riding at lunch, starting to lay a foundation on top of my winter 29er riding, getting the body ready for the long miles ahead of me.

I have to say that I am feeling great at the moment physically (probably the kiss of death) but I have no fatigue after rides, no aching lower limbs, no gluteal cramps and I like it. I just feel like I am getting stronger and stronger each time I go out there and ride.

The new bike got its first ride this weekend:

TREK Domane 4.3 .

I have read lots and lots about how the Domane was developed, a joint enterprise between TREK and Fabian Cancellara and I have read all about the technology that was used in its design and I was hoping for a jaw-dropping laugh out loud experience and guess what I GOT EXACTLY THAT !

It was just so comfortable, so responsive, so smooth and a joy to ride – over rolling terrain, I rode for 75mins as I didn’t want to do much more than that due to the tattoo still healing (more in a minute on that) – I even rode over some cobbles just to see what it felt like …. and that in itself was amazing … smooth and very different to the experience on the FELT.

I chose one small hill, a 500m effort of 4% average, so nothing that difficult, but I pushed on and crested feeling like I had ridden it quite well … later on, I found I had achieved a PB by 3 seconds and the fastest I had ridden it for 3 years !!!

I mentioned the tattoo earlier, it is scabbing up nicely now and looking just amazing:

First Piece

And all that leads me nicely on to the plan that is forming for the next 3 months of training as we head towards the Tourmalet.

The commuting has up to now been on the 29er, but all that stops now and the Domane takes over – when the weather is suitable, I will ride into the office and home but also at lunchtime .. I did it a couple of times last week and added about 70km to the weekly output – so it all adds up nicely. I can only manage it a couple of times as meetings and other stuff get in the way, but that seems an easy winner to me.

The weekend will revert back to my Ironman days, with rides starting at around 2-3hours and gradually building each week – so about 50km building to 80km over the next month and then we will start to introduce the hill work.

I will take a few days off work in the coming months, to have really long days in the saddle, 8 hours or so, just to get used to the big days ahead, so if anyone fancies a day out in the week, drop me a line … slow people only need apply !

That kind of plan, combined with a bit of gym work, physio every couple of weeks should see me in good form for the challenge.

Remember, I am raising money for THE CHRISTIE and you can sponsor and donate to the cause HERE 





My new tattoo …

For as long as I can remember I have wanted a tattoo on my chest, but for loads of reasons, I just never have got around to doing it.

Last summer I sorted it out in my head and got an idea of the design that I wanted and started to look for some artists who might be able to do it for me. Had chats with several and they ranged from pretty clueless to fairly good.

I then got a message with a recommendation for a chap called Malcolm Brown and so I got in touch. Malc works from his home address in a purpose built studio at the back and I could not have chosen a better man for the job.

You can see a bit more about him HERE

Anyway, such is his quality that he was booked up fully from last year through to Spring of this year, so I have had to wait to see him and last night was my first sitting.

Now this isn’t my first tattoo, back in 2007 when I completed my first Ironman I got the “M-Dot” logo on the top of my arm and I couldn’t really remember whether it hurt or not, so I was a little apprehensive, but excited last night.

The sitting took 2 hours and the piece isn’t finished yet by a long way – I have 5 more sittings to come, so lots more detail, shading and improvements ahead.

This is the result of the first session last night:

Tattoo - First Session

and this morning after a great nights sleep it looks even better:

Tattoo - Day After

The teeth of the chain ring, all the chain links and the “wounds” are the next thing to be done in the next session, then we need to exit the chain out of the back of my shoulder and fix it onto a cassette on my back … then we tackle the M-Dot with some other additions … it will look amazing when it is completed.

Thankfully, I was fine with the pain, in fact, I found parts of it quite relaxing and maybe “nice” is the wrong word, but certainly not unpleasant !

When I came out, I checked my phone and to my delight I had received 4 donations to start my fund raising campaign and that’s now 9% of the target raised which is excellent.

Remember, you can sponsor the #TourmaletTank by clicking HERE


Day to Day ….

One of the things I have started to do during the last couple of years is to enjoy my #SocialCycling … you know those times where you just get your bike out and ride to work, or ride to the shops or trundle around the village.

It is such a nice break from training or competitive cycling … I always record every ride I do on my Garmin and upload it to Strava, so my stats are often skewed in terms of average speed, as some of my commutes are in heavy traffic and I tend to just sit up and roll with it rather than “ride” if you understand.

Well maybe this little snippet I took will explain more … and before all the “he’s not taking care there, or looking at the road” crowd come along, let me assure you this was on a traffic free route away from all hazards, so all good there !

I am fortunate enough to be close enough to the office that I can nip home and drop back into work on two wheels — I can use the car for my meetings and stuff and then once they are out of the way, I can squeeze in a ride to work and then extend it out on the way home … managed this twice last week and gonna try to make it three times a week over winter, but weather conditions will dictate that … it needs to be dry really doesn’t it.

Got some fantastic stuff going on with work in relation to cycling and all that will become apparent too – you will see the little Bikmo+ logo on the left hand side of my blog – just have a click to see what it is all about … there are some very exciting things happening with this project and I will be able to announce a bit more soon.

Looking at events for 2016, and I seem to have settled on this one for the latter end of the summer:

circuit days

I have raced duathlons on Oulton Park before and I have taken photographs there too and I really like the circuit – the challenge will be a tough one to do solo as you need to complete it within 6 hours but smooth tarmac and no traffic or lights should mean it is well within my capabilities.

All good at the moment and all moving forward nicely !


A City Break …

After a great weeks training it was a very different time this week as me and my wife jetted off to Amsterdam for a very short city break.

We managed to find some mega cheap flights and so it was as cheap to have 24hrs in Holland as it was to spend them in Manchester and when you have a city committed to cycling then for me it was heaven.


However, we didn’t really spend a great deal of time on two wheels or two feet as we toured the City’s pubs and clubs enjoying the laid back atmosphere and general sense of happiness.


I do like the continental beers and there were lots on offer, but not even I could manage a full barrel of these, but I gave it a good go !


The travel was pretty straightforward and we really did enjoy ourselves and hopefully there will be plenty more of these type of trips to come in the future:


On Yer Bike …

Well, I did give the knee a little bit of a test and it wasn’t as good an outcome as I had hoped for …. all changed and ready to run, but after about 500m I could tell that it just wasn’t stable and to have carried on would have been silly. I guess more rest and the physio may very well be needed now.

So, not wanting to waste an opportunity, it was out with the road bike instead:

Felt Road Bike

The knee gives me no issues when I am riding as I guess the movement is all in one plane and with no impact … maybe my old body is telling me something now eh ?

It wasn’t a particularly pleasant ride, given it was only my second road ride in 2 months, but I have to say it did re-kindle my love of riding a bit … not that I had lost it but two months with virtually no proper riding is a long time for me.

I always capture the ride on my Garmin and the data that came back from today was interesting:

morning ride

I chose a very urban route, one that had quite a bit of traffic, numerous traffic lights and the occasional section of road works … so the average speeds are always slower than when I ride out into the country – I always reckon if I can ride easy and average around 24km/h for a ride like this then I am doing ok.

It was a chilly morning with a little breeze, so not ideal conditions but I felt generally ok … even pushed on a little at the end with a short blast up the “Ashfield Strade Bianche” .. a short stretch of unadopted road which has a very uneven and gravelly surface. Its name after the Strade Bianche race in Italy although it hardly compares !!! My second ever fastest time up this hill with little training and on the back of a night’s worth of beer and wine … I’m pleased with that.

The encouraging news was that there was no knee pain when I stepped off the bike, so clearly cycling isn’t going to cause it any harm and so until it feels right to run again, I will be back on the bike to keep the fitness levels up.