I’ve got what it takes to ride the Tour of Britain

Or so it says on the t-shirt I was given at the end of Sunday’s Tour Ride. My immediate reaction it has to be said was one of shock – do that again? and for 8 successive days? You must be joking! So Sunday was the big day. It was a long time in the making and the days leading up to it did seem to drag. The ride was hard. But I’m glad to say I did it.

Ready for the off - Pensive & Laidback

Paul and I lined up under clear but cold skies ready for the 8am off.  I didn’t sleep well the night before and the early start never helps me relax. We were first out of the park gates at the head of the VIP group and despite Paul suggesting otherwise, we seemed to lead this group for a good couple of miles.  Once out onto the open road though the perils of bunch riding were brought back to me as people passed us on climbs and then we re-overtook them on the descents.  The upside was a very quick pace for the first hour with almost 20 miles ticked off. In fact I was surprised at how quickly we reach Uttoxeter.  And then the work started.

At Uttoxeter not only did the wind blow in our faces for the first time (the reason for and the obvious downside of that fast initial pace becoming obvious) but the hills weren’t far off.  Added to this were the joys of the Alton Towers traffic: boisterous, inconsiderate and downright dangerous. At Ellastone the road hit the first of the day’s main climbs, the second category King of the Mountains climb to Ramshorn Common. I did seem to find a rhythm up here, slow though it was.  However, the climb itself didn’t finish at the prime but carried on. And on. And on.  This was to be the pattern for a good portion of the ride from here on.  The climb over Hollinsclough Moor was relentless too and kicked like a mule at the end, the point at which I first had to stop but thanks to encouragement from other riders I slowly got going.  Even the descents up to this point were hard, straight into a head wind and no respite, continual pedal strokes to keep up momentum.

Every pedal stroke is one nearer the end

I’m not usually a fan of fast descents but I have to say I was pleased when we hit the Leek-Buxton Road, a tail wind pushing us along the top at a fast lick and ono the descent past the Roaches, the point at which I hot my maximum speed fo the day.  With a brief lunch stop at Tittesworth it was onto Gun Hill, by this point I was truly suffering. I also felt cheated by all those riders telling me I was near the top – I wasn’t. However, this was meant to be it. The climbs I was worrying about were meant to be behind me, the run in was, I thought, all downhill. Oh how my childhood memories failed me. Undulating is how some might have described it, I’d like to think of it as torture along the lines of waterboarding. Each up brought more pain. And just to spring a surprise the organisers threw in a stinger of a climb with 2 miles to go to the finish line – they even took the family ride up it!

Crossing the finish line I had mixed emotions – yes I’d done it, I was glad to have stuck it out and finished but I was disappointed I’d lost my brother in the final few metres and we didn’t cross the line together (I think tis fair to say we both struggled in our own ways and I couldn’t have got through it without him) and I didn’t feel any overwhelming success or elation at having done this. In fact as the evening wore on all I could feel was the aches and pains of the effort.  At first this worried me (it still does to some extent) – why can I not recognise accomplishments. But as the week has worn on the success has slowly sunk in and now I do feel proud of what I have achieved: 100 miles in 6hrs 47mins over sharks teeth. I know its taken almost a week to post this blog but that’s part of the process and probably for the best.

Finished and Prized

So a year on from my breakdown I’ve reclaimed part of the AbandonedBicycle.  Like Sunday it’s not been an easy or straightforward ride. At times I’ve gotten off the bike, at times I’ve taken wrong turns and at times progress has been slow. Ultimately though I’ve reached milestones that I should make more effort to recognise and celebrate. So what’s the future? There’s a lot more miles left and I’m going to enjoy cycling more for knowing I can meet new challenges. Bike-wise I’m riding from Oxford to Cambridge on Sunday. Life-wise who knows – I guess you’ll need to keep watching this space!

Coming, ready or not

Days to the 2010 Tour Ride: 1

I think that says it all.  Hopefully I’ll update from the start line tomorrow but who knows.  I’m full of nervous energy right now and just want to get it started.  Roof rack fitted, bike ready and kit almost in the bag.  Only thing left to do is carbo-load tonight.  My dad once told me of the time he went to see the acclaimed – and some might say flawed – Himalayan climber Don Whillans.  At the talk someone asked him when he began training for an expedition up a particular Nepalese peak.  His answer: “When I leave the last pub in Katmandu.”  I mention this as a) I will not be spending tonight loading with those types of carbs and b) because tomorrow’s route goes very close to Rock Hall, Whillans tiny climbing hut at the base of the Roaches.  It makes you think though.

Come in Number 22….

Days to the Tour Ride 2010: 2

So this morning (or should I say yesterday if only the postman had bothered to let me know the package was with my neighbour) my Tour Ride number and timing chip arrived.  As you can see below, I am number 0022.

Did I really sign up that long ago?

So my dear readers, you have been with me almost ever step of the way now from sign up to the event itself.  Make a mental note of that number.  What was it again?……. That’s right, 0022.  And what are you going to be doing this Sunday? Did you say you’d be heading out into the wilds of the Staffordshire Moorlands to cheer me on one of the many tortuous and unforgiving climbs?  That’s very kind of you.  Oh, but you want to know where those climbs are? Funny you should mention that as I have a map of the route right here for you – the hills are those little spiky symbols, but I can’t see any pubs:

Joking aside, it’s quite a strange feeling to be this close to the ride.  My nerves have gone now the logistics of the number are out of the way I’ve got a strange feeling of calm descending over me. And again I must thank all of my very kind and generous sponsors – my VIP start is down to the fact that I was one of the first 80 people to raise over £500.  Without you it wouldn’t have happened.  You’ve given me the boost (and the early start) I need! And so this afternoon I cleaned the bike in readiness and now the steed is looking pretty good.  So if you are out on the route on Sunday remember number 0022 and here is what you should be looking out for:

Is that Olympic Champion Samuel "Sammy" Sanchez?

Looking and feeling good – for once.  Long may it continue.

And so today I’m going to leave you with some preparation tips from David Schneider, oh and some bloke from a professional cycling team who’s recently been on the telly too.  I could have put Kristian House’s official tips but they aren’t as fun.

Ye reap what ye sow

Days to go to Tour Ride 2010: 7

Its harvest time here at Chez AbandonedBicycle.  Mrs AB and I have spent a productive and, for once, relaxed morning on the allotment. Its been a bumper harvest this year.  For weeks we have been munching our way through a glut of variously sized courgettes and are quite glad that these have come to the end for another year.  The runner beans have been in full swing though today seemed to be the end of them and as I type, Mrs AB is de-stringing and topping-and-tailing several bags full ready to freeze.  We have enough spuds to keep a small Irish village through any future famine.  And our Squashes have been prolific.  All in all we have plenty to keep us going as the nights and weather draw in for another year.

Also drawing in is the big day of the Tour Ride.  7 days to go, not including today.  By the accounts of the many training plans I’ve seen I was meant to get in one last long ride this weekend.  Well, cest la vie, it’s not happened.  Whilst I could get (and in all honesty have got) worked up about this I am trying my best to resist.  In fact yesterday was a day of continual fluidity as plans changed constantly, partly in response to the ineptitude of Halfords to provide correct information both on their website and in their store, and partly down to our old friend the weather.  Looking out of the window it is meant to be raining. With that forecast I went out yesterday to avoid the wet yet again.  Needless to say it isn’t raining now but it sure did yesterday instead.  And after a confrontation with tweed wearing, fancy 4×4 driving, “country sport” middle-aged man on mobile phone (yes, I said on Facebook and Twitter yesterday and I reiterate it again toady – 2 fingers to you too!) it wasn’t the best. But nor was it the worst.  It was 30 miles more under the belt and its amazing how I seem to tick of those miles with more ease.  That in anyone’s book is accomplishment.

And so to my news from last week.  With my charms and the good looks of my brother I have wangled a VIP start at the Tour Ride.  So a huge thank you to Sara from the organisers, Paul and I now have maximum daylight hours to complete the route.

In the next few days I’ll provide some more details of the route and following discussions with the other half of the team try and work out the times we will be at various points.  There will be no excuses for not coming out to see us! ;o)

Its the final countdown

Days to go to Tour Ride 2010: 10

Okay, I couldn’t resist the obvious musically inspired title for this post but at least give me credit for sparing you the video of 80s mulletted rockers belting out the most overused track in New Year and Advertising history!

Yes, its only 10 days to the Tour Ride.  And don’t I know it.  Having said that I had a nice spin on the bike today.  Despite the gusty and ferocious wind I felt good, did a nice speed and managed the hills with comparative ease.  I’m not even going to cast a cloud over it apart from the say that the implicit gloating of poor weather for a certain ToB photographer (you know who you are) came back to haunt me as the rain did damped things a little.  But who cares, it was mainly sunny.

And in other news: the cameras have now come out of intensive care in the airing cupboard and seem to have made a full recovery – much to the relief of my bank account.  So anyone wanting a photographer can start getting back in touch.

So, it’s now almost 9 days to go.  A couple more training rides to squeeze in before the big day and plenty more thoughts to share.  Tonight I received a very nice surprise but I’ll leave you waiting to hear what that was until later in the week.