One week to go!

Nearly there, just one week to go (Until I leave for the Vendée, that is).

I’m slowly getting all the kit together. There’s only been one slight problem which has been resolved thanks to Zyro.co.uk, the importers of Altura panniers. A little while ago, I bought a Altura bar bag with the intention of using it on this trip. The trouble is that I no longer have the receipt and have never used it until now. It comes complete with a Map Flap which is sealed by the use of velcro strips which have come away from the plastic pocket. A quick phone call to them and they have very kindly agreed to put a new one in the post for me, at no charge. So, thanks again Zyro.co.uk. Continue reading

My Week in Training – Week 31

Date Kms Time Type Avg Speed (KPH) Links
Tue, 2nd Aug 2011 78 2:45:11 Road 28.5 Strava – Garmin
Sat, 6th Aug 2011 84 2:59:40 Road 28.0 Strava Garmin
Sun, 7th Aug 2011 84 3:03:14 Road 27.5 Strava Garmin

Tuesday was another still, hot day in the Massif Central. I had previously mapped out a ride taking me part way along Stage 9 of this years Tour route (Issoire to St Flour). This section runs from Lempdes to Massiac, along the Allagnon River with a very slight uphill gradient but the roads are fantastic. Most of it had obviously been resurfaced for the Tour with such smooth Tarmac, the reduction in rolling resistance was really noticeable. Continue reading

My Week in Training – Week 30

Date Kms Time Type Avg Speed (KPH) Links
Wed, 27th Jul 2011 39 1:30:09 Road 26.1 Strava – Garmin
Fri, 29th Jul 2011 39 1:26:37 Road 27.1 Strava – Garmin
Sat, 30th Jul 2011 39 1:24:23 Road 27.7 Strava Garmin
Sun, 31st Jul 2011 73 2:50:08 Road 25.7 Strava Garmin

I’m in France for 2 weeks of considerate drivers and good road surfaces. What with a tiring drive down to the Massif Central, my first day on the bike was Wednesday. This was a great ride with a 12km climb up into the hills up to a village called Champagnac le Vieux. The climb takes you through some really nice pine forests up to an altitude of 1000m. The descent, on the other side, was quite fast with a good road surface. Continue reading

My Week in Training – Week 29

Date Kms Time Type Avg Speed (KPH) Links
Mon, 18th Jul 2011 40 1:32:55 Road 25.6 Strava – Garmin
Tue, 19th Jul 2011 84 2:42:46 Road 30.9 Strava – Garmin
Fri, 22nd Jul 2011 92 3:18:11 Road 27.8 Strava Garmin
Sun, 24th Jul 2011 33 1:55:12 Road 27.6 Strava Garmin

View from Burling Gap

View from Burling Gap

The weather forecast is awful for this week. Today, the westerly winds are really strong and blustery. It also looked like rain. I decided to take the Trek out today and go around Beachy Head, taking the camera with me, as the photo opportunity would be quite good at Burling Gap and Beachy Head.

Continue reading

Rule #24

According to Velominati, the Keepers of the Cog, Rule #24 of Cycling Etiquette states that “Speeds and distances shall be referred to and measured in kilometres“. They go on to say that “This includes while discussing cycling in the workplace with your non-cycling coworkers, serving to further mystify our sport in the web of their Neanderthalic cognitive capabilities.  As the confused expression spreads across their unibrowed faces, casually mention your shaved legs. All of cycling’s monuments are measured in the metric system and as such the English system is forbidden.Continue reading

My Week in Training – Week 24

Date Miles Time Type Avg Speed (MPH) Links
Mon, 13th Jun 2011 25 1:32:54 Road 15.8 Strava – Garmin
Tue, 14th Jun 2011 57 3:21:11 Road 17.0 Strava – Garmin
Wed, 15th Jun 2011 25 1:21:35 Road 18.0 Strava Garmin
Sun, 19th Jun 2011 25 1:22:29 Road 17.8 Strava Garmin

Monday brought quite strong winds again, from the SW. For a change of scenery, and because of those winds, I decided to do the Beachy Head route in a clockwise direction, getting rid of the headwind early. After just a few miles, I realised that I really didn’t have that much energy. Thinking back, it’s was all down to the lack of carbs from the meals of the 2 previous days. Continue reading

Start Date – 27th August 2011

I have finally decided that my Tour de France or Bust trip will start on Saturday the 27th August 2011. With that in mind, I can now plan the finer details of the trip such as accommodation and mode of transport from stage to stage.

Hotels or Camping?

Do I really want to carry a tent and sleeping bag with me around France, erecting it after hours in the saddle and dismantling it every morning? I don’t think so. If the trip was a leisurely cycling holiday then maybe, but this will be a 21 day trek following a daily schedule.

For a start, I’d miss out on the all-you-can-eat hotel buffet breakfasts. Secondly, I should really give myself something to look forward to; a goal. Somewhere warm and dry to recover after 200+ kilometres of cycling. Somewhere to wash and dry my clothes, with electricity to recharge my phone and Garmin GPS. Somewhere with Wi-Fi (hopefully free) to update this blog.

The only camping related accessories I may take with me are a camping saucepan set and a single compact CampingGaz burner. These’ll be for those occasions when I can’t find the types of foods I want/need at any given time. I’ll have to have an emergency supply of tins with me for when those needs arise.

In France, there seems to be plenty of relatively cheap hotels such as the Premiere Classes, Kyriad, Etap and Formula 1 chains, situated mainly on the outskirts of most towns. They all have en-suites (apart from the Formula 1s) and are all clean, comfortable and cheap. They also offer those all-you-can-eat buffet breakfasts which will be indispensable in order to start the fuelling process for that day’s activity.

2011 Tour de France – My First Impressions

Tour de France 2011

Tour de France 2011

Although these are my first impressions of the route of the 2011 Tour de France, they aren’t necessarily my first impressions in relation to the race as it will be ridden by the peloton during July 2011. These are my first impressions in relation to me, riding the route, on a day-by-day basis, during September 2011. I’ll be riding the route on my own, all 3471kms, which include 6 mountain stages and 4 summit finishes, as well as climbing the Galibier twice, without a team car or any other assistance. Therefore, I have to think about how to get from one stage finish to the start of the next, which will obviously add extra kilometres to some of the stages, as well where I’m going to sleep, eat and upload to this blog.

Stage 1 – Passage du Gois to the Mont des Alouettes. No prologue this year. Straight into it with a 191km first stage. The second half of the stage could be good as it hopefully will be riden with a tail wind. The start is on the Ile de Noirmoutier, which is connected to the mainland by the Passage du Gois, a flooded causeway only accessible twice a day at low tide. The Tour last started there in 1999 when there was a crash in the peloton upseting the standings from the start. Obviously, this causeway is wet most of the time therefore, will have to be negotiated with care. The last thing I want is to crash on day one. The actual start time will depend on which day I set off due to the tides. I’ll have to check the tide tables nearer the time. If the tides are at times which turn out to be inconvenient, I may have to consider missing out the causeway and starting from the mainland. I don’t think I’ll be criticised for shortening the stage. I’ll probably make up the mileage cycling to the hotel at the end of the day anyway. The hotel will be near the finish of Stage 1.

Stage 2 – Les Essarts to Les Essarts. I’m glad that the second stage is a short stage. This is the 23km Team Time Trial where I should be able to recover a bit from the mileage of Stage 1. From the hotel to Les Essarts, it’s about 25kms so there won’t be any problem riding there. Once I’ve done this short stage, I’ll then ride to the start of Stage 3 which should be about 50kms. Therefore, the likely total for today could be as little as 100kms.

Stage 3 – Olonne-sur-Mer to Redon. 198kms in a northerly direction, following the coast which could prove quite windy. Not sure yet how I’m going to get to the start of the next stage. It’s a distance of 120 kms to Lorient. Might have to check out the local train lines or get a hire car.

Stage 4 – Lorient to Mûr-de-Bretagne. This stage is 172 Kms in the heart of Brittany. The finish includes the climb of what is locally known as the Alpe d’Huez of Brittany due to it’s long steep straight climb to the finish. It’s 50kms to the start of the next stage. I may have to find a hotel half way and cycle there.

Stage 5 – Carhaix to Cap Fréhel. This stage is 158kms. I’ll hopefully have a tail wind for this one. It’s 40kms to the start of the next stage so, same as at the end of the last stage, may have to ride and find a hotel on the way.

Stage 6 – Dinan to Lisieux. This is the longest stage of the Tour at 226kms going via the Mont Saint-Michel. Hopefully I’ll have a tail wind for this stage also. From the finish, I need to work out, again, how to get to the start of the next stage in Le Mans. At 150kms, I may have to check out the trains or get another car.

Stage 7 – Le Mans to Châteauroux. A flat stage of 215kms. From Chareauroux, it’s 45kms to the start of the next stage so again, on my bike to find another hotel.

Stage 8 – Aigurande to Super-Besse Sancy. 190kms of medium mountains. It’s just 35kms from Super-Besse to Issoire for the start of the next stage.

Stage 9 – Issoire to Saint-Flour. 208kms through the Massif Central with the climb of the Puy Mary, a 4.4km gradient of 8%. Thankfully, the next day is a rest day and as it’s quite close to where my family are from. Who knows, I may possibly get a few home cooked meals, baths and a comfy bed (Bliss!!!).

Issoire to Saint-Flour - 208 km

Issoire to Saint-Flour - 208 km

Rest Day #1

Stage 10 – Aurillac to Carmaux. Relativelly short stage at 161kms. Just 5kms from Carmaux to Blaye-les-Mines, the start of the next stage so no problems there.

Stage 11 –  Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur. Hilly stage at 168kms through some of the most beautiful villages in France. Last day before the Pyrenees. 45kms to the start of the next stage.

Stage 12 –  Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden. 209kms with 3 mountain passes along the way, finishing at Luz Ardiden, where Lance Armstrong famously crashed after getting tangled up with a spectator’s bag. From the finish, it’s 65kms to the start of the next stage at Pau. Don’t know what the profile for this is but hopefully, it’ll be downhill.

Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden - 209 km

Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden - 209 km

Stage 13 –  Pau to Lourdes. Just one climb on this 156kms stage, the Col d’Aubisque. The last 50kms should be good. From Lourdes, it’s 75kms to Saint Gaudens.

Pau to Lourdes - 156 km

Pau to Lourdes - 156 km

Stage 14 –  Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille. 168kms with 6 mountain passes;  the Col de Portet-d’Aspet, the Col de la Core, the Col de Latrape, the Col d’Agnes, the Port de Lers, and the finish on the Plateau de Beille.

Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille - 168 km

Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille - 168 km

Stage 15 – Limoux to Montpellier. 187 kms through great wine country. This stage is followed by another rest day. This will make it a bit easier in order to get to the next stage.

Rest Day #2

Stage 16 –  Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Gap. 163kms of uneventful riding without too many difficulties.

Stage 17 –  Gap to Pinerolo. First day in the Alpes, 179kms straight across into Italy. Again, a few long downhill stretches.

Gap to Pinerolo - 179 km

Gap to Pinerolo - 179 km

Stage 18 –  Pinerolo to Galibier Serre-Chevalier. 189kms. Nearing the end now but not until the assent of the Galibier which makes this the highest ever stage finish in the Tour’s history at 2645m altitude.

Gap to Pinerolo - 179 km

Pinerolo to Galibier Serre-Chevalier - 189 km

Stage 19 – Modane to Alpe-d’Huez. A short 109kms stage but one with a sting in the tail. The 21 hairpin bends of the Alpe d’Huez after going over the Galibier for the second time, from a different direction.

Pinerolo to Galibier Serre-Chevalier - 189 km

Modane to Alpe-d’Huez - 109 km

Stage 20 – Grenoble to Grenoble. This is the one and only individual Time Trial of the tour at 41kms. To get to Creteil, I’ll need to research the trains.

Stage 21 – Créteil to Paris Champs-Élysées. Last one. It’s 160kms but that’s with 8 laps of the Champs-Elysees. I think I’ll just do one lap only. After all, I’m doing the route, not the whole race. I think I can be allowed to cut this one short.

Conclusion – I must admit that now that I have seen the route, with the distances involved and the profile maps, I am quite worried at the enormity of the task ahead. The other problem is getting from one stage finish to the start of the next one all on the same day. This is important if I’m going to ride the route on a day to day basis. I’ll have to make sure that all hotels are booked in advance and that a detailed itinerary is prepared for each day’s cycling. Hotels need to be cheap but have Wi-Fi in order to blog on a daily basis.

 


How many miles can I cycle day-in, day-out?

The Société du Tour de France regulations stipulate that the total mileage of Le Tour must not exceed 3,500 km (2170 miles), spread over 21 days of racing, which includes 2 compulsory rest days, during which the distance of 225 km (140 miles) cannot be exceeded more than twice. In preparing for this trip, I have often wondered whether this sort of mileage is achievable by a non racing amateur on a touring bike with panniers. Obviously, the TDF riders do this in one go, without stops. I, on the other hand, have all the time in the world. If I plan to set off each day by 8am, I could conceivably take 12hrs in which to complete that day’s stage. If you include stops totalling 2hrs, this reduces the actual ride time to 10hrs, giving an average speed of 22.5kph (14 mph) for a 225 km (140 mile) stage or, for the average 180 km (110 mile) stage, 18 kph (11 mph).

Personally, I think this is achievable, even though these sort of distances will have to be covered on a pannier laden touring bike day-in, day-out, for seven consecutive days. Currently, because of work commitments, I only train twice a week. If I do a road training session, it’s generally a hilly 25 mile route which I can easily do in one and a half hours at 18+ mph. My Heart Rate for these rides generally averages 168 bpm. Obviously, this is done on a lightweight road bike without panniers. Given the greater distances than my usual training rides, by lowering my effort/Heart Rate, I’m quite sure that I’ll be able to do that sort of mileage on a daily basis.

My only real worries are the long Alpine stages. Taking the 2010 Etap du Tour as an example, the181 kms stage from Pau to the Col du Tourmalet includes 3 Hors Category climbs: Col du Marie-Blanque, Col du Soulor and the 19km-long (with an average height difference of 7.4%) Col du Tourmalet. 10,000 amateur riders of varying standards started this event with just 6,888 riders finishing before the time limit. The fastest rider this year completed the stage 50 seconds short of 6 hours.

Etape du Tour 2010

Etape du Tour 2010

I’m hoping that by the time the Alpine Stage come along, I will have had a whole week of intense mileage under my belt, which should put me in good stead for these stages. I might be clutching at straws but for every climb, there’s a descent. Ultimately, I won’t know if I can do it until I actually do it……..or not!.

If anyone has any views on this, please comment.