Monday, 11 June 2012

The Gold Standard

The past three weekends have seen the Tour de Mercredi out in force, and the results of the Winter training are beginning to show.

First off, Mr Lover Man has completed the epic Lands End to John O'Groats cycle ride for his given charity. Having been there, I can appreciate what he has put himself through. Whilst there are no medal standards for such a ride, I can state with certainty that he deserves a "Big Brass One" to go with the two he already has.

In terms of Sportives, the TDM hit the Wheel Heroes in force with 6 riders out. 5 of the 6 came back within the fastest 20 times of the day, with The Rhino lagging behind in 30th place having wrestled with a puncture on Edge Hill.

With no medal times on offer for the Wheel Heroes, it would have been interesting to see how everyone rated, but the training is obviously paying off well. Not only that, but everyone appears thinner and lighter than at the start of the Winter, and this is also being reflected in the times.

So, onto the Circuit of the Cotswolds, some 102 miles of quite the best countryside the centre of England has to offer. And Bushcombe Lane as well.

With posted climbs of Lark Stoke, Saintbury Hill, Bushcombe Lane, Corndean Lane, Brockhampton, Compton Abdale, Yarnworth and Northleach, together with lots of rolling stuff in between, this ride is a fat bloke's nightmare. Not all of the climbs are steep, some just seem to go on forever, but Bushcombe Lane is evil. Posted as being 25%, it seems much steeper than Mow Cop, which also claims that gradient. What's certain is that it is 25% for much longer, and much further into the ride.

Consequently, of the three riders from the TDM out on COTC, only two rode up Bushcombe Lane, the Rhino resorting to his usual less-than-brisk walk. By that point, Brett and Marcus were long-gone, already some 12 minutes distant by Winchcombe, half-way through the hilly stuff. With cramp an ever-constant companion, the elderly Rhino was comparatively going backwards by this point.

By the time the final feed came around, and having seen few riders since walking up part of Corndean Lane too, the Gold Standard, some 40 kilometres away, required an average 25.5kmh. Some 1 hour and 25 minutes later (an average of 28kmh) the Rhino's first Gold was in the bag. Marcus and Brett had already been back for a beer's worth of time, their bottles almost empty.

Thankfully, like the Etape, COTC recognises age bandings, otherwise Gold would have been impossible for me to achieve, but I am almost old enough to be Brett's dad.

At this point it is worth noting that the other two also achieved Gold, Brett posting the day's fastest time ahead of even the Team Zappi's riders, who had paced each other all the way round. Brett had done it all on his own, including pulling the group to the first feed station for considerable distances. CHAPEAU!!

The Medals Table

Tour De Mercredi  - Gold 3    Silver 0      Bronze 0

How chuffed am I?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Not all rides are good ones

And thus it proved today at the Etape du Dales.

It's no secret I have long been targetting this one as my real 'sighter' on whether I'm ready to go to France, so it was with great anticipation that Brett and I debunked to the Dales late on Saturday for the early morning start.

The weather, for the first time in 4 years, was benign. No rain, hardly any wind, but a bit chilly early on. Just about perfect really, couldn't have wished for much more.

We got going early, found an early group, and got into a good rhythm. Miles passed quickly, and the Dales countryside was utterly stunning. Langstrothdale, up to the bottom of Fleets Moss was an absolute picture. A better few miles cycling you will not find.

At the bottom of Fleets Moss, I found myself in unfamiliar territory (i.e. still in the group I started with). This was indeed a surprise, but a good one.

I was targetting 7:59:59 for a Silver Medal, meaning I had calculated my times required for each section. The first section, to Hawes, I had been quick on in 2008 when I posted 8:30:13 overall. Thus my calculations had me needing to beat my 2008 time to Hawes by just 2 minutes. By the bottom of Fleets Moss, I was feeling strong, not out of breath, and not having been pushing particularly hard. I was also just over 7 minutes up on my 2008 time! All things considered, I was assuming that the Silver was achievable already.

By the time we got a further 2.6km (and 133 metres of climbing) further up the climb, the advantage was up to nearly 9 minutes.

And then it all went wrong.

5km earlier as we crossed the river at Deepdale, there had been a metallic "clang" prompting Brett to ask "was that your chainset". "Yes" replied I, noting it was not the first time today I'd heard that noise.

Wrong again. Just before I reached the cattle grid at Nethergill, the noise came again, much louder, but with no obvious detriment. Until I took the pressure off the pedals, and the pawls in the freehub retracted, never to be seen again. No gears, nothing, freewheel both ways. 28.5km done, and another 140+ still to do, on what was now effectively a very expensive carbon-fibre kick-scooter.

There was no option, the choice made in seconds, turn round and go (walk) home.

I'm not particularly happy with the complete failure of an 8 week old set of wheels, but will be ensuring they get replaced. Take note Ribble Cycles, you will shortly have the opportunity to show how good (or otherwise) your customer service is.

Sometimes "stuff just happens" and there's nothing you can do about it.

I'm afraid my woes took the gloss off Brett's excellent performance as he returned having "left it all on the road" to get back in 7:02:17, less than 3 minutes outside Gold Standard. Chapeau mate!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Plan Your Ride!

The first view of the official route with its elimination times is up on the Etape web site, and can be seen here.

Clive's Initial In Depth Analysis:

We will be starting in the middle of Albertville, on Avenue Joseph Fontanet, beneath the Olympic Flame from the Albertville Winter Olympics.

The riders start at 7:00, though it will take about 30 minutes for all riders to clear the start. The Broom Wagon starts after us at 8:00.

Broom Wagon Speed to Feissons-sur-Isere (21.5km) is 25.3kmh we should all make up a little bit of time here. As the group bunches up toward the lower slopes of the Madeleine, we may possibly be forced to walk a bit, but the Broom Wagon slows to 13kmh from Feissons to the turn at the bottom of the Madeleine. Thus we have to cover 23km in 58 minutes to stay equidistant to the Broom Wagon. In a peloton (without mishaps) this should not be difficult.

The Madeleine starts steep, and is initially difficult through a half dozen or so hairpins. The broom wagon will be doing 14kmh on this section as far as the first feed some 13km up!

Fear not, this includes the flatter and downhill section after 6.6kmof the climb. It breaks down as:

The first section of 3.2km at an average 8.75%
The next section of 2.8km at an average 5.75%
A gittish 600 metres at 8.3%       
3.8km of rolling stuff at an average of just 1.5%, you WILL need to get the hammer down here, it is not a rest section.
The last 2.8km at 6.8% to the feed station.

The broom wagon will stop for 10 minutes at the feed station. Then do the next 10km to the top of the Madeleine, a section at an average gradient of about 6% in 43 minutes. An average speed of 14kmh!!!

It looks like they are trying to weed out the 'weaklings' early this year, but this is not going to be a problem, even for those of us looking just to complete. If we assume that we get over the start line in 30 minutes this gives us 3 hours and 15 minutes to get to the top of the first climb. If pelotons go at 30kmh (they actually go faster), we will reach the bottom in 45 minutes, thus giving 2:30 for the 25km climb, (ie 10kmh). This is slightly faster than usual but not unachievable for anyone in our group.

After a 5 minute stop at the liquid refreshment stop at the top, the Broom Wagon rattles down the 19km descent in just 29 minutes. Again, don't worry, this is only 39kmh, and we can all go faster than that, even with the hairpins.

With another 10 minute stop at the feed in La Chambre, there will be further opportunity to eke out a lead, before the wagon then does the next 9 kilometres at 25kmh. This is on the valley floor and there should still be people around to drag you along.

The next climb starts properly after 74km and it is 10km to the liquid feed on the climb itself.  The average gradient here is 6.2%, but flattens in the last kilometre before the feed, so the bottom will feel harder. Average broom wagon speed is 12.5kmh, so they are still expecting you to get a wiggle on.

Wagon stops at the feed for 5 minutes, which is just as well, because from here to the top of the Glandon is pure evil.  Gradients of up to 12% will assail you, and the wagon will be moving inexorably at 10kmh. Prepare for a struggle. This is the one point on the ride where most riders will be swept up. The best tip if you are struggling is just to dig in and stay one step ahead of the melee. If the timing car cannot reach you through the mass of walking 'riders' then you cannot be eliminated.

You get no respite at the top of the Glandon, so push on to the Croix de Fer (still pursued at 10kmh) though there is a short downhill here. At the top of the Croix de Fer is a feed station where the Broom Wagon will halt for another 10 minutes.

The descent from the Croix de Fer is the most technical (ie dangerous) on the ride, and this section needs to be done at an average 27.5kmh to stay ahead. Sensible!

The Col de Mollard is, apparently, 5.5km long (everywhere else thinks it's 6) and needs to be tackled at 11kmh.

After that is another liquid refreshment stop (5 minute wagon hiatus) followed by 9km of downhill with a required speed of 25kmh. This might be generous as, despite the initial hairpins, the last 4km to the last feed are dead straight (and an opportunity for 70-80kmh!!!)

With a 10 minute break here, the wagon then grinds its way to the finish, some 25.5km distant, at 13kmh.

Overall, if you cross the start line 30 minutes after the gun (this would normally be the case for those drawn at the very very back) you therefore have 10 hours and 24 minutes to complete L'Etape. I will, at this point, refer you to the "Everything You Need To Know About L'Etape Document" in which I predicted a time allowance of.................10:24. I'm a bloody genius, I tell you!

The problem is that the climbing is now a bit more keen than I expected, the descending a little more relaxed. Plan accordingly.

Your key milestones:
Start:  7:00
Top of the Madeleine by 10:46
Top of the Croix de Fer by 14:16
Top of the Mollard by 15:32
Cross the finish by 17:54

A long day for sure, so get your head right before you start. With the miles we cover, it would normally be demoralising to read just 98 kilometres on the speedo from, say, 6 hours on the bike. In this case, such stats would mean you had an hour in hand!

Final Observations:
Getting to the start earlier (ie getting up even earlier to cycle 30km, downhill, to the start) will give you more time, as you will cross the start line earlier.
The need for the 'less ambitious' to draft other riders is paramount. Do it mercilessly!!!!!
To stay ahead of the wagon, we will need to put in some serious climbing effort. There is not really a 'sit there and twiddle' option.
Once over the first summit, we should gain time on the descents.

If you reached it this far n the post, congratulations! You undoubtedly have the stamina to succeed.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Official Route

Here it is boys, your first look at the official route from ASO.

Points worth noting:
First Feed station is at Celliers, halfway up the Madeleine. (Take enough food with you, that one will be rammed)
Drinks station at the top of the Madeleine (essential to stop there and refill)
Second feed at the bottom of the Madeleine at La Chambre (fill up there before the Glandon/Croix de Fer)
More drinks halfway up the Glandon, further feed at the Croix de Fer (fill up there but don't even think about eating much on the descent, its too winding)
Drinks station for more refills at the top of the Mollard
Final feed before the start of the last climb.

Nice to see the route, which is slightly different to my first guess. We come down the more minor road off the Madeleine (more hairpins, yippee). Make your own minds up, but I think we should not plan to stop at the first feed. Experience says it will be chaos, and the road is quite narrow there too, so getting going again might be problematic. The issue will be, can we get all the way to the top of the Madeleine on just the water that we carry from the start?

First Feed,6.421208&spn=0.00006,0.066047&t=m&z=15&layer=c&cbll=45.479987,6.421107&panoid=ZVChvIa79v-nvzE1bWsQ6w&cbp=12,179.84,,0,0

Just before a few steep hairpins....nice!

Elimination times should be up in 4-6 weeks if previous years are anything to go by.


Ride Reports have been moved to their rightful place, over on the right hand side. Keep those ride reports coming boys.

Our Just Giving page is up, but not quite running (I think Just Giving are doing some updates at the moment). When they're done, the icon on the right should be working.

In any case, there are now a number of ways for people to donate:

1. Click the icon over on the right
2. Go to
3. Text LTDM £ and the sum you want to donate to 70070

Get encouraging those friends and colleagues, only £7000 to go!


Wednesday, 22 February 2012


Here's a nice little update for us, the route is now 152km long. Apparently this is initially due to the fact that we will be making our start proper from within Albertville (taking the plaudits from the assembled masses as we do), whereas the professionals ride neutralised out of the town, and then drop the hammer big style once out on the open road.

Additionally, there is going to be an extra 5km added at the bottom of the descent of the Madeleine, because they will be digging up the sewers in La Chambre and we can't cross under the motorway as a consequence.

The detour can be found on Google Maps here. The good news (if an extra 12 kilometres can be considered good news) is that the extra distance is in the valley bottoms, and will therefore be mercifully flat (in comparison).

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Fundraising Events

Due to my ridiculously busy diary over the last couple of weeks I am still yet to meet up with Griz from Cyclist Fighting Cancer (CFC) to discuss our plans but I don't think this should stop us putting some thoughts on the board around potential fund raising events. I have listed a few suggestions, but as always I welcome your input on these plus any other events you might have in mind.

1.) Pub Quiz - March                                                                                                                      
Lets be honest this is something fairly easy we can organise as I know a good quiz master and I'm pretty sure we could use our sports & social club facilities (FISSC) to host this event for a minimal fee, or possibly even free. I was thinking something along the lines of teams of 4-6 with a £5 entry fee each or if that's too much, say £10 per team? We will have prizes for the top 3 teams, not forgetting the wooden spoon! We generally get a lot of interest for these at work so I am confident we can have a sell out with the rest of you getting involved and opening it up to the wider audience.                

2.) Charity Bike Ride - May                                                                                                             
We tried this a couple of years ago in aid of our corporate charity (Make-a-Wish) and it was a great success. We made sure the event was a "light" bike ride so it suited all abilities and basically encouraged anyone who had a bike to bring it along and cycle circa 20 miles. We started from Mickleton in groups of 10 with a designated bike lead, that's where you all come in to play and take responsibility for your group! Groups finished at the Butchers Arms in Mickleton and they put on some food afterwards (for free I think) as they probably made enough on the beer that was drank! My opinion is why change a winning formula, we don't have to pick the same location but does everyone like the concept and rough outline? I am sure with the amount of miles we have cycled around the local area, we can find an appropriate route that is reasonably challenging and rewarding, but just to set the standard we won't be going up Ilmington or Edge Hill!

3.) Leg Wax - June
I know this is the one you have all been waiting for (!) so I suggest we put this off until we get close to the Etape event so those legs will be looking pristine at the start line! My suggestion would be to ask for donations for taking part in this crazy event, but as an added bonus we can charge people say £5 to pull a strip off. I am sure we can persuade a local beautician company to donate the materials, and their time in aid of the local charity. I don't think we should even contemplate doing this ourselves.....we don't trust each other that much do we!!!

I see all of these events taking part midweek so please let me know any weeks we need to stay clear of and I will do my best to please the majority.

Don't forget any other suggestions you may have i.e. do we want to do something during the Stratford Bike Festival which is the same weekend as the Wheel Heroes ride, 26th/27th May? Would have to be the Saturday as assume most of us are riding the event but it could give us access to a lot of footfall?

Food for thought..............

Brian "CFC Fundraiser" Camembert

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Urgh pour homme

As we're starting to share our feelings on training I thought I'd chip in with my tuppance.

After losing fitness and gaining weight, considerably, on the "New York Plan" I've come back freshly determined to make the tarmac my beeatch which due to weather has then become making the exercise bike my beeatch and scaring the nice ladies to venture near that area. I'm currently up to 180 watts over the hour but the bpms on the high side and it tends to tail off dramatically so an enormous amount to do yet. On the plus side I've nearly crashed an exercise bike so there’s something for the memoirs.

Having had the first 100k under my belt I've got all giddy and signed up for several more including the over the malverns and the white rose classic. I have to admit seeing the pictures after signing up I may have had a sense of trepidation if I'd known what I was getting into but lets face it if I can't do that then I there’s no point in boarding the TDM Chick Plough bound for France.

Looking forward to getting the Tour De Mecredi convoy up and running this year. Ironically after all the training I will still be at the back. Rubbish!!!

Ah well in the immortal words of Micheal Ironside in Starship Troopers "Everybody fights, Nobody quits!"

Friday, 3 February 2012

Training Update (or a lack of it)

As the far flung member of the group up in Leeds, I thought I’d give everyone an update as to how things have been progressing over the past few weeks, especially as I’ve been fairly quite since leaving Stratford back in September.

It’s safe to say that I haven’t made as much progress with the training as I would have liked (the same can be said for my dissertation!). Although I managed to get to the gym everyday over Christmas, exams last month meant that I did very little training during January. Because of the weather, most of what I have done has either been on the turbo trainer or exercise bike at the gym. My standard session at the moment is weights (squats, deadlifts and calf raises), followed by an hour bike.

Unfortunately my student loan doesn’t cover the cost of a power meter, but according to the exercise bike at my gym, I’m putting out about 210-230 watts for an hour, which is a lot less than I was doing in the summer. A slightly ‘excessive’ first term back at uni means that I haven’t been this unfit for several years!

However, despite a questionable diet (as recently as Wednesday I got through three pizzas in an afternoon!), the weight is finally starting to shift. As one of my friends kindly pointed out, I weighed “10% of a ton” before Christmas, but I’m now down to 95kg. I’m going to aim for ~83kg by July. I could probably go even lower, but I think anything below 80kg will have a detrimental effect in terms of endurance.

I really need to get out on some longish rides before I can start thinking about which races to do, but the Etape du Dales is likely to be right in the middle of my summer exams, so I may have to give that one a miss. I’ll definitely be up for the White Rose Classic though (if I’m not doing anything with the family for father’s day), and by that point there’s likely to be a couple of spare rooms in my house in Leeds, so people are welcome to stay.

I am yet to have been out on decent bike ride this year, but on Sunday I’m planning on venturing to the edge of the dales -

View Larger Map

I thought I’d put the ride up on here to give me a bit more motivation to do it. It’s only 40 miles but it’s -5 at the moment which is far too cold for a long ride!

Roll on summer I say!

Sam “Polka Dot” Worsley

Monday, 30 January 2012

Mr Tony's First 100

Being stir-crazy after three weeks off the bike, I was not going to be denied the opportunity of riding the Windrush Winter Warm Up in the balmy three degrees centigrade forecast for last Sunday.

Tony's training seems to be coming along well too, so he signed up as well, together with my wife and Geoff from Tamworth CC.

Thus the four of us arrived in the temperate South (well, Cirencester) to revel in the lack of frost which had greeted us at home. Having said that, it still weren't warm. Tony, being hard, was standing around waiting in his shorts! Discretion eventually took over and he donned his waterproofs to keep out the wind chill.

Starting out, we had gone but 5km when we noted that the fog was thickening, and our gloves were coated in something close to frost (thankfully only very cold condensation). Catching the group, we were looking forward to a little peloton riding until one of their number punctured, and we were again down to 4.

Exiting Fairford, a moments inattention dropped me into a bike-swallower of a pothole. Breath was held, but wheels didn't collapse. I thought I'd got away with it, but within half a mile, my rear tyre was flat, and I was stopped at the side of the road making repairs. I sent the other three on secure in the knowledge that it wouldn't take long to fix. Wrong!! I was on the winter bike with it's harder to re-tyre Fulcrum 7's and it took 15 minutes.

Commence the time trial/pursuit. Despite the fact that this was punctuated by a couple of phone calls (kids, who'd have them) I caught them before the first control, after 25km of very hot pursuit. This included a 10 mile stretch in 31:47, not bad on the Winter Steed.

Tony was at this point quite enjoying himself, and about to become acquainted with the audax cyclists love of CAKE.

After the first stint of 48km, and with cake consumed, we set off into the picturesque Windrush Valley, visible now the fog had lifted. By the time we arrived at Great Barrington for pasta (76km done) we were still going well, but ready for a rest.

Unfortunately, the biggest, longest climb of the ride comes straight after the final feed when legs are still cold and stiff. By the top, Tony had done his longest ever ride, and was venturing into unknown territory. As the rolling countryside continued, the kilometres took their toll, and thus provided proper training.

The weather exacted its revenge on Tony's unprotected toes, and he is now considering overshoes. I hadn't the heart to tell him that it's the top of a slippery slope and he will soon be clad head-to-toe in close-fitting multi-coloured lycra, and venturing out around his housing estate looking like an advert for the local fetish shop.

6 hours and 15 minutes after starting, we finished. 108km, or 67 miles in real money. Not hugely fast, but with stops and punctures included. Most importantly, 67 valuable winter training miles, and a trip into unknown territory. Better yet, Tony wants to do more.

Game on!

The Rhino

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Nutrition Help!

I rode 70 miles at the weekend (including fish and saintbury hills) but really bottomed out towards the end. I barely made it home in the end. Therefore, I'd lilke to open up the forum on nutrition for all you seasoned long distance travellers!

During the ride I consumed one nature valley bar, some brazil nuts and raisens, one banana, 2 portions of soreen, a dairy milk bar, 2 750ml bottles of water (one including a berry zero tab). Ride time of just over 5 hours. I'm looking into improving my nutrition before, during and after riding, but just thought it might be a good topic to discuss.


Sunday, 22 January 2012

Get Your Votes In!

Right then gents, I have been very lenient (and lazy) to extend the charity pool until this weekend so the choices are as follows:

1. Cyclists Fighting Cancer
2. Acorns Children's Hospice
3. Spinal Research
4. Uniting World
5. Shakespeare's Hospice

By my reckoning, CFC has 3 votes, no's 2-4 have 1 vote each and Mr Lover couldn't make his mind up so I've included Shakespeare's Hospice as that was one of his many choices!

Therefore the people who I need a decision from are Guiseppe, Filippo, The Colonel & Mr Lover. The final results will be announced at the end of this week (29th Jan) as we need to start planning fundraising events.

Thanks Brett