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Guy_Watson

2006 Colorado Bypass

By Guy_Watson, in Articles,

Teaser Paragraph:

120 miles and over 10000ft of climbing over three mountains is tough enough but, for those who aren't locals, there is another challenge to overcome: altitude. There are various feed stops along the way with free refreshments and mechanical help if required. The organisers also provide sag wagons and there is a broom van to pick up those who aren't going to make the next checkpoint.

If the Etape du Tour isn't challenging enough for you - imagine a sportif event that starts at 9000ft and climbs up from there!
i-Team's Neil Patel writes about this serious challenge that is little known outside the U.S.A.



The 'Triple Bypass' is the flagship event of Team Evergreen a cycling club based in Colorado, U.S.A. This 3500 rider event includes 3 passes over 10,000 feet (3000m,) - including the 2,2 mile high Loveland Pass.

This event will provide a very hard ride (imagine The Etape with altitude!) but is definitely one to consider should you fancy a trip with your bike on the other side of the pond.

I was the only Brit in the 2005 event - the 19th edition - and as far as I know, I am the only Welshman to ride this event! I certainly stood out, resplendent in my National jersey - something that went down very well with the local riders!

Starting at Evergreen and finishing in Avon, the ride takes you through the heart of the mountainous area of Colorado. It passes through well known ski areas of Keystone, Frisco, Copper and Vail with some of the most spectacular views in the area. Not that you will have time to enjoy it! Most people, even the locals, are cycling at their physiological limits. So much so in lasts years' event, when there was some rain along the route, over half did not complete the event.



120 miles and over 10000ft of climbing over three mountains is tough enough but, for those who aren't locals, there is another challenge to overcome: altitude. There are various feed stops along the way with free refreshments and mechanical help if required. The organisers also provide sag wagons and there is a broom van to pick up those who aren't going to make the next checkpoint.



The highest point in European sportifs is not much higher than 9000 feet. The start of this event is at 9000 feet and goes straight up the first mountain at over 11000 feet. This means that, those who aren't sufficiently acclimatised (and that included me!!) are already suffering from the thinner air before you have even started.



Route / Profile Details:

Route description/elevation: 120 miles from Evergreen to Avon over Squaw (11,140 ft.), Loveland (11,990 ft.), Swan Mountain and Vail (10,560 ft.) passes, with over 10,000 ft. of lung-busting gain in elevation!

Rider Cap: 3,500. This cap was instituted in 2006 in consideration of the route we travel and the mountainous terrain. Team Evergreen seeks to maintain a safe and enjoyable ride for participants and motorists and believes that capping the event will allow TE to continue to provide a quality experience for all involved.



Guy_Watson
Teaser Paragraph:

The road surfaces were in poor condition and in some parts dangerous. In the early stages we cycled on concrete slabs that had been poorly repaired and there were many potholes and ruts between the slabs that were hazardous for cyclists. It soon became clear that with the large number of cyclists (double the number for the Etape) one had to be very conscious of other riders, some of whom knew what they were doing others who did not and at the same time keep alert for hazards on the road ahead.

Tour of Flanders Sportive Report : 01 April 2006 : 140/240km



A five man i-Team completed this year's 2006 'Ronde van Vlaanderen,' which took place on the same course as the classic professional race. Read the accounts and get an insight as to what it's like to ride one of the hardest sportives there is.



The Tour of Flanders is an annual event which first started in the 1930's and always takes place in the first week of April. The amateur event takes place on Saturday followed by the professional race on the Sunday. In both events the route is around the city of Brugge following both main and minor roads including the infamous cobbled climbs. In the amateur event 16,000 riders take part of which about 15,000 follow the short route, 140 kms and 15 climbs whilst the remainder do the long route of 256 kms and 17 climbs. The longer route starts in Brugge and finishes in Minove and the shorter route starts and finishes in Minove,a town 80 kms to the East of Bruges.


Roger Forrest writes of his first Flanders:



60-something Roger Forest started serious cycling 3 years ago with an attempt at the Etape du Tour. A year later, he joined i-Team and completed his first Etape in 2005. Always up for a new challenge, he writes about his first experience of those infamous cobbles!



A and B teams left Friday morning and made an uneventful journey to Brugge where we checked into hotels, visited the race organisers and made administrative arrangements to collect riders after the race. Both teams then met up again in Brugge where we enjoyed a pasta meal (Roger was the only one who had the balls to enjoy a glass of the finest Belgian beer) and bored everyone else in the restaurant to death by talking tactics. What to wear, had we done enough training and then trying to put Roger off his meal by telling him that carbon fibre should not be used on for the race! We returned to our hotel, went to bed early and up for an even earlier 0700 start on Saturday, the race day.

The B team dropped off Paul in Brugge for a 0730 start and then drove to Minove for a 0830 start and what follows is an account of the B team's adventures on the day. Our first surprise was that the roads were not closed and that the route followed a combination of main roads, cycle paths, country lanes and of course the infamous cobbles.



The road surfaces were in poor condition and in some parts dangerous. In the early stages we cycled on concrete slabs that had been poorly repaired and there were many potholes and ruts between the slabs that were hazardous for cyclists. It soon became clear that with the large number of cyclists (double the number for the Etape) one had to be very conscious of other riders, some of whom knew what they were doing others who did not and at the same time keep alert for hazards on the road ahead.



After an hour it started to rain and as we were now in open flat countryside we were very exposed. A little later the rain became heavy and we were forced to stop and put on water-proof jackets but in a short time were soaked to the skin and riding directly into strong head winds. Many riders stopped and tried to take shelter in the door ways of farm buildings but having tried this for a few moments we got cold and decided it was best to press on. Half an hour later the rain had eased and eventually ceased by which stage we had covered about 30 kms and were on the look out for our first major climb of the day.



Suddenly we came to a sharp right–angled bend and there in front of us were the cobbles rising steeply in the distance. There was hardly enough time to select a suitable gear; speed dropped and it remained a question of, staying in the saddle as the cobbles were very wet, trying to finding the smoothest route up the climb and picking a way through the hundreds of other riders.

There is no way that one can prepare for the experience of riding on cobbles other than to learn on the job and this is what we did. Personally, I did not find the cobbles on the climbs a major problem and of the 15 hills (gradients ranging between 10-22%)



I only walked on 2 and that was because the route was blocked with too many cyclists. Mind you I was slow but Rob kindly waited for me at the top and we carried on together.

On some of the climbs one could take advantage of patches of tarmac and concrete guttering on the side of the cobbles which gave a much smoother ride. However, the worse part of the route for me was a section (3-4 kms) of large flat cobbles which was an extremely painful experience and one that I never want to go through again. Every bone, muscle in my body ached and all I wanted was for it to end so that I could have a rest.

The route was littered with hundreds of water bottles which was an indication of the stress both bike and body were experiencing at this stage.



Fortunately, this section ultimately came to an end and the sensation of riding again on smooth tarmac was nothing short of orgasmic!

As the day progressed the sun came out and the ride actually became quite pleasant although the surrounding countryside was not particularly attractive.We passed through 2 controls one of which required a lengthy stop and then we were down to the final 30 kms but as always in these events there was a sting in the tail and we were faced with 2 final climbs, including the notorious Kappelmurr with a 20% gradient. Both climbs were popular with spectators and their encouragement was very welcome. One kindly soul gave me a push up the final steep section on the Kappelmurr for which I will be eternally grateful. All too soon the hills were behind us and the wind was on our backs and we sped along at speeds in excess of 40 kph finishing the race at 1645.



I enjoyed the weekend and thought it was a worthwhile challenge but it was a one off event and I have no plans for a return visit next year! However, I think it would be good for the club to be represented again next year and for what it is worth here are my top tips:

Think very seriously about which event you enter; the 256 km event is a major undertaking and you will spend 12+ hours in the saddle.
Brugge is a very attractive city and wives would enjoy a visit!
Remember that there are 2 different start points and the finish is 80 km from Brugge.
Apart from the cobbles the road surfaces are bad and you need to be alert to avoid hazards.
The event itself falls somewhere between the Etape and an Audax.
It is not a race, no times are published and there is no broom wagon.
You can also watch the professional race the following day.
I used a carbon fibre bike contrary to advice as did many others.It performed well; it gave me a comfortable ride and apart from some grease which has been forced out of the headset there is no damage.
I used SPD cleats and shoes which allowed one to walk when necessary.
25mm tyres at 6 bar pressure. It was a wise decision to use brand new tyres and inner tubes, since hundreds punctured on the course
It would be prudent to carry a small container of oil for the chain and cassette. It is bound to rain and the original oil gets washed away.
I was extremely happy with the new I-team thermal jersey. It kept me warm and comfortable even when soaking wet and it dried out completely after 30 minutes.
Find a hotel in central Brugge or Minove depending on your route.
Avoid staying outside the city as it creates difficulties in getting to the start line and parking can be a nightmare.

I hope you will forgive me in ending this report on a rather sombre note but this was my first visit to Flanders, the scene of the most horrific battles mankind has ever known, where millions of young men lost their lives. It is impossible to imagine what happened almost 100 years ago but the poem "In Flanders Fields" remains to this day one of the most memorable ever written. A Canadian surgeon, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the poem after spending only 17 days in a field hospital, treating injured soldiers in the Ypres salient:

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


In comparison with the Etape this is a cheap weekend in that rough costs are:
Ferry car plus 2 passengers £50
3 star hotel Brugge £40 per persons per night B&B.
Entry fee £10
Meals and petrol say £100
Total costs for weekend for 1 person £210

For the statistically minded:

Average speed: 21 kph
Duration: 7 hours 42 minutes (including stops)
Distance: 138 kms
Ascent: 1575 m

Roger

Rob Shannon writes of his first Flanders:



There is no way that one can prepare for the experience of riding on cobbles - it's a bit like holding a pneumatic drill. Look closely on the TV at the rider's arms and you'll see how much vibration there is. You feel it everywhere your body is in contact with the bike. In your feet (through the pedals) your lower back, hands and arms.



Grip the bars too hard (difficult not to do) and your fingers cramp round them. I imagine it feels like having arthritis - very painful.

I found that the mud on the climbs made it difficult to climb not the wet per se. It was so difficult to negotiate the other riders weaving across the road. On two of the cobbled climbs (I forget which), I followed a few of the Euskatel pros who were doing a reconnoiter for the next day (clearly they weren't going flat out).

They created a big gap up the climb as riders pulled to the sides to let them through (rather like an ambulance going through traffic with it's sirens on) - perfect opportunity to get a good run to the top in their wak. I enjoyed the steep cobbled climbs much more so than the cobbled flat or shallow inclines. I gave it some gas on the climbs and found I was overtaking lots of people.

The cobbles on the other hand were a different matter - I was being overtaken by almost everyone!



Roger Forrest wrote: "The sensation of riding again on smooth tarmac was nothing short of orgasmic!" - I'm not sure I had the same reaction as Roger (I certainly wouldn't have been able to feel it even if I did) - but it was rather like standing on land after having been on a very bumpy sea crossing or fair-ground ride. That was the weirdest sensation.

The Kappelmurr was my favorite climb by far. A lovely tarmac section up through the town which you can sprint up (by mistake because you don't realise there's a cobbled section to the climb further on!) and then the cobbled section. I actually came off on that part as the guy in front of me accidentally pulled a wheelie and fell backwards onto me and my bike. Luckily I was able to put the chain back on, receive a push from a kind spectator and made it to the top. The push was critical because it was not possible to click back in without falling off again such was the severity of the incline.

I thought it was a top weekend away - the event was great and the company fantastic - thanks chaps. Would I do it again? - probably though I would seriously consider taking my mountain bike with slicks on. I'm sure the trade off speed on flat for comfort on the cobbles would be worthwhile.

What about the distance? I'd probably want to try the 256 next time. We took the 140km at a very comfortable pace (though I did attack the climbs) and neither I nor Roger were overly tired at the end. Like Paul, I hadn't trained much in the preceding 3-4 weeks - a combination of a very bad cold and slight tendonitis meant I only did 120k, 3 weeks prior and a handful of shorter rides. Taking nothing away from the A team boys - they did an incredible ride, but I think with the right training it's do-able.

Roger, Paul and Lucien - thanks for your companionship and for organising the event.

Rob


Pete Neville writes of his first Flanders:



Got back yesterday evening from Bruges, still shattered from the events of Saturday. Also nursing a big hangover from too many Leffes Sunday afternoon and evening. Blimey that stuff is strong!

Roger, Rob and Paul have summed it up pretty well. It was a tough ride -really tough in places especially with the wind and the rain but not impossible.

For me personally I had a really good event with only a couple of mishaps. I was disappointed that I could not start with Paul and Lucien but my mobile 'brick' of a phone put an end to that and I could not contact the guys before the start of the race to meet up.

Fortunately I was not delayed too much at the start and managed to get away at about 7.30am and found myself going well with a large group of riders on the initial flat parts. Despite the rain and wind, I got to the first couple of checkpoints ok, stuffed myself with waffles, flapjacks and bananas then got going again. I did have the misfortune just after the second checkpoint to take a wrong turning with a couple of other riders which put an extra few kms on the total – just what I needed on a 260km event!!

Roger sums the cobbles up perfectly: "Every bone, muscle in my body ached and all I wanted was for it to end so that I could have a rest." The first stretch of cobbles was the worst for me. The vibrations went straight through and all I could do was hang on. Unfortunately I was hanging onto the handlebars a bit too tight and managed in the space of a couple of minutes to take the skin off the palms of my hands – ouch! I am sporting some nice blisters the size of 50p coins as I type this.

The locals seemed to fly across the cobbles - truly amazing! For me it was case of survival as my speed dropped to just 8kph on some parts! What a relief though when you get back onto normal tarmac!

On the whole, the hills were tough but not too tough – apart from the Koppenberg where everyone walked due to the slippery cobbles. What I did find difficult was the 72kms between checkpoints at Oudenaarde (160kms) and Brakel (232kms). This consisted of 13 hills including Koppenberg and I was very close to running out of food and drink supplies – not to mention the fatigue that was now setting in. The notorious Kappelmuur (hill 16) came just 9k after the final checkpoint (241km) so a last big effort managed to get me to the top. The remainder of the route was not too bad, though I desperately wanted it to end as various parts of the body were getting very numb!!

I was very grateful to cross the finish line just a few minutes after 7pm and given the conditions was well pleased with my time and no punctures!. Not sure how accurate my odometer was and this includes the ride to the start:

Distance:276kms
Ride time (not including stops): 11 hours 4 mins
Average: 25.0kph

I would definitely recommend this ride to other I-Teamers. In comparison to last year's Etape, my legs did not ache as much and the hills are nowhere near as demanding as the long ascents of the Marie Blanque and Aubisque but your upper body takes a real beating on the cobbles! It may have been a more comfortable ride if I had taken my carbon Isaac frame, however I think Guy's advice to me was spot on and I could have ruined the frame. (Roger may beg to differ on this point!)

If it acts as an inspiration, one of my non-cycling mates decided to give the full route a go and completed the course including stops in 13 and a half hours – pretty remarkable since the most he had ever ridden prior to this was 100k in one go. By the way he is mad!!

Big thanks to the guys, especially Paul for organising the trips from Dunkirk to Bruges and helping me get my car to the finish at Ninove.





The following represented i-team in the Tour of Flanders on 1 April 2006:



A Team - 256 kms
Lucien Carter (Team Captain)
Paul Morris
Pete Nevill



B Team – 140 kms
Rob Shannon (Team Captain)
Roger Forrest







Both Lucien Carter & Paul Morris - completed the 240km 'full fat' version - RESPECT!


Guy_Watson
Teaser Paragraph:

In the youth race we had:

Jon Dibben, twice National Champion for i-Team as an Under 12

Peter Dibben, Jon's older brother, looking to improve on last year's result

Sarah King - giving it a go in the footsteps of her sister Dani.

National Cyclo Cross Championships 2007
i-Team was well represented in the National Cyclo Cross Championships at Southampton Lesuire Centre this weekend

In the youth race we had:

Jon Dibben, twice National Champion for i-Team as an Under 12
Peter Dibben, Jon's older brother, looking to improve on last year's result
Sarah King - giving it a go in the footsteps of her sister Dani.

It had been raining for the last few days so the course was a typical British 'Cross & tyre pressures and equipment choice was much in discussion before the start.

Peter rode an excellent race and moved up from the 2nd row of the grid to hold 2nd position for a lap before crashing and finishing a dissapointed 6th - great ride Pete - good to see you out handling so many in the corners on such a slippery course.




Peter Dibben - Picture Courtesy of Richard Robotham

Jon didn't get a National Champ jersey this time - mechanical probs with his gears meant that he had to run most of the course




Jon Dibben - Picture Courtesy of Larry Hickmont

Sara has just started cycling and was riding for experience - well done for finishing Sara!




Sarah King - Picture Courtesy of Larry Hickmont

RESULTS


Youth (Under 16)

1. Michael Butler, VC Deal/Hammonds/Activ/Rowland, Under 16, 21, 56, 0, 0
2. Jordan Hook, South Pennine RC, Under 16, 22, 56, 1, 0
3. William Verney, Felt Racing, Under 16, 23, 6, 1, 10
4. George Atkins, Welland Valley CC, Under 16, 23, 23, 1, 27
5. Max Sykes, VC Deal/Hammonds/Activ/Rowland, Under 14, 23, 35, 1, 39

6. Peter Dibben, I-team.cc/Trek/Wheel2Wheel, Under 16, 23, 36, 1, 40
7. Daniel McLay, Leicestershire RC, Under 15, 23, 38, 1, 42
8. Luke Gray, Hargroves Cycles/Next/Trant, Under 15, 23, 39, 1, 43
9. Magnus Davidson, Square Wheels/HIMBA, Under 16, 23, 41, 1, 45
10.Thomas Humphrys, Sutton CC, Under 16, 24, 11, 2, 15
11. Thomas Moses, Team Marie Curie, Under 15, 24, 11, 2, 15
12. Joshua Papworth, Halesowen A & CC, Under 14, 24, 22, 2, 26
13. Sam Harrison, Cwmcarn Paragon RC, Under 15, 24, 51, 2, 55
14. David Nichols, Chelmer CC, Under 16, 25, 11, 3, 15
15. Samuel Fry, Interbike RT/Schils/Essex/Boyer, Under 15, 25, 11, 3, 15
16. Samuel Lowe, Merlin Development Squad, Under 14, 25, 12, 3, 16
17. Robert Watson, Paul Milnes/Bradford Olympic RC, Under 16, 25, 28, 3, 32
18. Elliot Brooker, CC Ashwell, Under 16, 25, 41, 3, 45
19. Thomas Castle, Ipswich BC, Under 15, 25, 49, 3, 53
20. Peter Merridew, Cardiff JIF, Under 16, 25, 49, 3, 53
21. Luke Newby, Diss & District CC, Under 15, 26, 11, 4, 15
22. Matthew Cook, Mildenhall CC, Under 15, 26, 12, 4, 16
23. William Meadows, Ipswich BC, Under 15, 26, 13, 4, 17
24. Hugo Humphreys, Lee Valley Youth CC, Under 14, 26, 14, 4, 18
25. Jonathan Dibben, I-Team.cc/Trek/Wheel2Wheel, Under 14, 26, 16, 4, 20
26. Luke Grivell-Mellor, Mid Shropshire Whs., Under 14, 26, 18, 4, 22
27. Thomas Lowe, Merlin Development Squad, Under 16, 26, 20, 4, 24
28. Thomas Robbins, Didcot Phoenix CC, Under 15, 26, 32, 4, 36
29. Oliver Webster, Team Marie Curie, Under 15, 26, 34, 4, 38
30. Paul Young, Team Marie Curie, Under 15, 26, 36, 4, 40
31. Alistair Slater, Bourne Wheelers CC, Under 14, 26, 49, 4, 53
32. Charlie Beeny, VC Jubilee, Under 16, 26, 54, 4, 58
33. Joseph Perrett, Glendene CC/Bike Trax, Under 16, 27, 15, 5, 19
34. Tim Allen, VC Lincoln/Mr Mortgage/SPS/Listers, Under 16, 28, 27, 6, 31
35. Taylor Johnstone, Herne Hill Youth CC, Under 14, 28, 30, 6, 34
36. Hugo Robinson, Ipswich BC, Under 14, 28, 38, 6, 42
37. Bruce Dalton, Matlock CC/Impsport/Farmers, Under 15, 28, 51, 6, 55
38. Benjamin Bailey, Team Keyne - Trek, Under 14, 30, 43, 8, 47
39. Herschel Stevens, Triangle RT/Bianchi, Under 14, 30, 1, 8, 5
40. Edward Gill, Wolverhampton Whs/Williams, Under 15, 31, 2, 9, 6
41. Tom Gallacher, Welwyn Wheelers, Under 14, 31, 6, 9, 10
42. Rob Yeatman, Oxonian CC, Under 14, 31, 25, 9, 29
43. Jack Llewellyn, M & D Cycles, Under 14, 31, 48, 9, 52
44. Daniel Young, Lee Valley Youth CC, Under 14, 31, 52, 9, 56
45. Brock Duncumb-Rogers, Preston Park Youth CC, Under 14, 36, 46, 14, 50
46. John Friend, Wessex RC, Under 14, 37, 30, 15, 34
47. Joshua Green, Lee Valley Youth CC, Under 14, 38, 55, 16, 59
48. Milo Burdeau, Preston Park Youth CC, Under 14, 38, 59, 17, 3

Guy_Watson

2007 Etape Du Tour

By Guy_Watson, in Articles,

Teaser Paragraph:

At the end of the descent came St Giron and the first feed station, as always this was a bit of a bun fight, I got my water and moved on to tackle the Portet d'Aspet. One of my main drives for getting over this one was so that I could stop at the Fabio Casartelli monument on the way down the other side. With maximum gradients of 17% this was a particularly difficult hill to get down with so many riders on the road...

15e édition de l'Étape du Tour
Monday 16 July 2007

2007 was the 3rd year that our members have taken on the Etape du Tour - a Cyclo Sportive with a difference - with closed roads and the chance to ride the same stage as the Tour de France professionals will be riding a week later. The Etape has grown to almost mythical status over the years and s not to be under estimated.

In 2005 and 2006 up to 23 i-Team members took part but this year, a lot of guys have decided to try some of the other big european sportives for size, like the Gran Fondo Campagnolo and the LaMarmotte. So this year we had a select bunch of Etape veterans on the start line with 7000 others in Foix ( It took more than 30 minutes for all the riders to cross the starting line.) The event started ideal weather conditions, slightly cloudy for the first half of the event but towards the end of the stage, fierce sun made many suffer.

Here's some stories from our guys that rode this years event:





Steve Smith - Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire

The profile of this Etape was something that led to it being billed as the hardest one ever, but aren't they all, whether that is true or not depends on whether you did the Limoge – St Fleur 3 years ago which was by all accounts quite a hard event.

This year I had done a few long rides, I was confident of finishing but my training was far from structured. Both myself and Andy Purcell (who also helped out on the coach trip) were in a very relaxed mode and tried to pass this through the riders on the coach who where, on the whole, etape virgins.

This years took in 5 cols
Col de Port at 1249m
Col de Portet d'Aspet at 1069m
Col de Mente at 1349m
Port de Bales at 1755m
Col de Peyresourde at 1569m

The total distance was 199km

It all started so well, myself and Andy lined up ready and in position in our start pen by 6:45. The front riders were out of the gate at 7am with us following closely afterwards. We rode along together for the first few miles then my attempt at catching up on the hydration got the better of me and I lost some of the 1.5 litres I had drunk in the previous couple of hours, I did have to ride further that I wanted before I took a leak though as the crowds just went on for ages.

The first climb came and went, I don't really remember too much about it really except the cheering crowds and the view over the valley with the Pyrenees stretched out into the distance and mist in the valley floor, The descent was one of the longest descents seen in etape history and seemed to go on for ever. I would put a section near the top as one of my favourite parts of the ride with just turn after turn of fast sweeping corners. Towards the bottom where the gradient eased off there where peletons containing hundreds of riders forming so I just tucked myself away in one of those and drank most of what I had left in my bottles.

At the end of the descent came St Giron and the first feed station, as always this was a bit of a bun fight, I got my water and moved on to tackle the Portet d'Aspet. One of my main drives for getting over this one was so that I could stop at the Fabio Casartelli monument on the way down the other side. With maximum gradients of 17% this was a particularly difficult hill to get down with so many riders on the road. I was surprised to see no body stopped there, but it was on a fast part and people were really flying by. It was a pretty emotional feeling leaning on the bars and looking at a fantastic monument to someone I had seen die on TV

By the time I started climb 3 I was cramping despite drinking lots and taking on Nuun. I found myself a group of 3 french supporters and borrowed an allen key from them and raised by saddle about 2mm and that did the trick! I was also struggling a bit with some shorts that had a smaller pad than my saddle and were chaffing both of my prime beef buttocks, everytime I sat down after climbing out of the saddle I was in a lot of discomfort and it took a while to get the area ready to take pressure again.

Towards the Port de Bales we had a headwind and there was a lot of reluctance understandably for people to work on the front. I ended up riding with a fit looking guy on a tri bike, we worked well together but as soon as we caught up to a couple of riders in front I decided to call it a day and sit with them to save something for the last 2 hills

The Port De Bales arrived and I realized that I was going to have to pull something out of the bag to be able to get up it. I had to stop numerous times to cool down and recover, each time I thought about what I'd eaten and drank in the hour before to ensure I didn't run out of fuel. Towards the top I almost caught up with Andy again who I could see walking in the distance but it coincided with one of my cool down stops so I eventually saw him at the feed at the top. He told me then that we only had ½ hour until the broom wagon would be there then he disappeared off down the hill while I finished by ham and cheese sandwich

I left the top of the climb and descended like a stone, it was a great feeling to be passing so many people. One of them was a guy from the coach trip that I was working on with Tony and had, only the night before, warned of the perils of descending exactly like I was doing.
The bottom of the descent turned immediately into the climb of the Peyresourde, the change was so pronounced that I nearly scraped my chainring on the ground while pulling 5G's of force in the dip in the bottom, I was on the last climb. As climbs go I didn't find this one too difficult once we were out of the heat. With about 3 Km to go you could see the hairpins rise above you to the top of the climb, I counted 4 of them and then set about getting up to the top. I was really pleased because my finishing strength came back to me and I just pushed it hard up the last 2 k's out of the saddle (to save my bum as much as anything) . I looked back down the hairpins from the top and saw the car with the clock on signifying 'game over', that was all I needed and within just a few minutes I was down the bottom of the hill with only a 500 m long rise to get over.

I was expecting the worst of the rise following the little sting in the tail on the 2005 etape but it came and went. At the top a guy came along side me and asked if I thought we would get to the end in time, the cut off was 7pm and it was 6:55. There was absolutely no way that I was going to miss out an a finish after a day like that so I just knocked it down through the gears and gave it absolute nuts like my life depended on it, it was a gradual down hill and I saw over 60kmh and crossed the line in 11 hours and 57 minutes.

I think my ride time was about 10:30 so I had about 1:30 of stop time at feed stations and time just stood in streams

Highs – Descending the Col de Port and the Peyresourde
Lows - realizing I was knackered with the hardest hills to come still

Would I do it again - who knows!




Howard Plumb - Chichester, West Sussex

This was to be my third Etape and after some reasonable preparation in the form of the Etape du Dales, Polka Dot Challenge and the Dragon Ride I felt reasonable confident of bettering my 1978th finish last year.

I arrived on the Friday before the event and opted to fly to Toulouse after the long coach journey last year. I pick up a rental car and proceeded down to a campsite 2km north of Foix to meet up with Fraser Ellison and his family who has driven down a day or so earlier with their trailer tent.

After reviewing the profile and maps of the route, Fraser and I decided to do a recce of the hardest climb, the Col du Bales on Saturday morning. I thought this would be the pivotal part of the ride and knowing what was coming up at this point would help with our confidence and pacing on the day. Although it was documented as a 19km climb in was in reality about 25km from the valley floor, worth knowing.

The big day…

We rode out from the campsite at around 6am and arrived in the last pen at around 6.20. I was concerned about starting with such a high start number (6634) and whether I would be caught up in traffic for the first half of the ride. The roads were reasonable wide and once you get used to passing on the left hand side instead of the right I started to move through the field as we headed to the first climb of the Col du Port. As mentioned in previous reports (Cycling Plus, Rapha website) this climb was steady and I was able to maintain good rhythm to the summit. I arrived in about 1 hour 20 mins. The descent of the Col du Port had some nice winding turns through the trees. I felt I was making good progress.

I arrived in St Girons and picked up some fruit and water before the valley road to the Col de Portet d'Aspet. I kept in a group to conserve energy before the next climb. One thing that confused me on the day was that Portet d'Aspet is not the Col de Portet d'Aspet which is another few kms after the village and the point where the climb really starts in earnest. I paced up the climb OK and prepared for the decent past the Casatelli memorial (sobering) to the base of the Col de Mente.

The day really started to heat up at this point and as this climb start to steepen near the summit I realised this was not going to be an easy day. I stopped at the spring to collect water before winding my way to the top of the col.

I kept in a group after descending the Col de Mente and prepared for the hardest climb of the day, the Port de Bales. After riding most of the climb on Saturday I knew what to expect but after 140kms in my legs I knew it was going to be much harder. Patience was the key here and just tried to maintain a good pace. The last 6km was very hard and went up to 11% in places according to our neighbor on the campsite, who had a computer that measured gradient. The surface was also very soft due to the fact that it had only recently been tarmaced from a gravel road. After reaching the summit, I refueled at the food stop and then headed off to the Col de Peyresourde. The descent off the Bales was fun but quite precarious in places with a funneling wind up the valley, a narrow road and almost a sheer drop on one side with no crash barriers. The descent was a welcome break for the legs and I took this opportunity to refuel with food and water on the way down.

The climb of the Peyresourde had a fairly steady gradient but I was really beginning to tire at this point and had to stop about three times to rest. I eventually reached the summit knowing that, apart from small incline near the finish, the race was done.

The descent off the Peyresourde was great fun and started to feel the end was in sight. I crawled up the last small climb a couple of km before the finish and sprinted to the line.

I finished in 9 hours 27 mins, 1586th overall, an improvement on last year but on reflection I felt it was harder than last year and the heat played a major factor.




Andy Purcell - Daventry, Northamptonshire

I had a pretty mixed day really,after leaving Steve for his nature break,i pushed on in the knowledge that i needed to get enough miles under my belt early on to hopefully help me later.

The col de port was a nice climb that flattened out a few K's from the top.The decent and the ride into Saint Girons was really quick and before i knew it i was at the first feed.

Howard gave me a shout not long after that on his way through,and shortly after that Fraser came past as i was putting my chain back on,at the start of the climb of the Aspet.Again a fairly steady climb that didn't present any problems,once that was topped i started the decent and was flying until marshals were slowing people down as a rider had come off, and was being seen to by the medics,i also got a puncture there,once fixed i carried on down and started the climb of the Col De Ment.

For me this is where i started to suffer,the heat of the day and the climb combined to make me have a few breathers,and also sow the seeds of doubt as to whether i was up to this challenge.

I heard a rider talking to someone on the phone,saying he was going to jack in at the top,and i thought what a good idea,but plodded on to the top and the second feed station.

I worked out my timings here,and decided i still had loads of time to complete the ride,so pushed on down the decent into the valley, and a bit of a drag along to the start of the Port De Bales.Somewhere around this point there was a sign saying i only had 50k to go and my spirits rose for a short time

The climb of the Bales is one to look out for next week when the Tour goes through,it brings so many emotions to the fore,you never quite know where you are with it,it is steep, flattish,steep and just goes on like that all the way up to the top.
It was also very hot at this point,so much so that parts of Tarmac where melting

I did a lot of walking up this one and by the time i had reached the summit,had worn down my cleats and could only clip in on one pedal,my days where numbered from then on

After a brief chat with Steve,i took the decent and met up with him again at the foot of the Col De Peyresourde.By this time i was pretty fed up and after another brief chat, Steve carried on,i decided to walk for a bit in bare feet to try and save what i had left of my cleats,but by the time i got to the 3k to go sign to the top,i had,had enough and sat down under a tree and waited for the broom wagon

Thoughts of previous days conversations of the Vultures circling made me smile, as i sat watching the world go by,and i sat quite content waiting for the bus to pick me up.

I phoned my wife while i was waiting,and she said to me today i seemed really chilled and at peace with the world,so i'm convinced i made the right decision,the ironic thing is,this was my third Etape,and the one i failed to finish,yet by far the most enjoyable mainly due to the company of Steve and everyone else involved

Guy_Watson
Teaser Paragraph:
Portsdown Time Trial League Event 6: CTT Course Code: P822c - Event promoted by i-Team according to CTT regulations & P.T.T.L. Rules (See Below)

Sunday 9th August 2008 H.Q. Wickham Square, Hampshire.

Entries by 30/07/09 to Event Organiser, Matt Doe, i-Team CC, 39, Fairmead Walk, Cowplain, Hampshire, PO8 9AL - 07765 885041

Event Pictures Will Be available Online - Thanks to Jon Skidmore?

i-TEAM PORTSDOWN T.T. LEAGUE EVENT No.6 - RESULTS WILL BE HERE

THANKS TO ALL THOSE THAT TOOK PART AND HELPED ORGANISE THIS EVENT

Number Rider Club Cat Race Time 1

Profile:












2007 Award Winners

1st Simon Tout Hampshire Road Club 477 2nd Nick Andrews Portsmouth North End CC 476 2nd Dave Sinclair i-team.cc 476 1st S Geoff Loveman Fareham Wheelers 475 2nd S Eamon Watson Velocity/the Exercise Deck 468 3rd S Chris Bairstow i-team.cc 426 1st V Gary Ferret Hampshire Road Club 465 2nd V Glynn Syder (R.I.P.) Portsmouth North End CC 462 3rd V Alan Cockram Portsmouth North End CC 477 1st SV Keith Drew Hampshire Road Club 460 2nd SV Peter Knipe Fareham Wheelers CC 390 3rd SV Phil Chandler i-team.cc 351 1st GV Alan Emmott Hantspol CC 437 2nd GV Laurie Pither Hampshire Road Club 389 3rd GV Bob Oliver Fareham Wheelers CC 381 1st Lady Sarah Farmer Team Axiom 373 1st Junior Al Murison Team Axiom 336 2nd Junior Sam Patrick i-team.cc 233 1st Youth Ryan Howett i-team.cc 100 1st Team Hampshire Road Club 2403


2006 Award Winners



1st Luke Myers Team Axiom 480 2nd Geoff Loveman Fareham Wheelers CC 476 3rd Eamon Watson Velocity/the Exercise Deck 474 1st V Nick Andrews Portsmouth North End CC 472 1st SV Keith Drew Hampshire Road Club 458 1st GV Bob Oliver Fareham Wheelers CC 409 1st Lady Nikki Wheeler Velocity/the Exercise Deck 441


2005 Award Winners



1st Ray Robinson Velocity/the Exercise Deck 480 2nd Eamon Watson Velocity/the Exercise Deck 478 3rd Andy Kenzile Fareham Wheelers CC 474 1st V Gary Ferret Hampshire RC 470 1st SV Keith Drew Hampshire RC 469 1st GV Bob Oliver Fareham Wheelers CC 397 1st Lady Nikki Wheeler Velocity/the Exercise Deck 435


2004 Award Winners



1st Gary Buckett Velocity/the Exercise Deck 478 2nd Andy Kenzile Fareham Wheelers CC 474 2nd Glenn Syder Portsmouth North End CC 474 1st V Tony Hart Team Axiom 468 1st SV Keith Drew Hampshire RC 467 1st GV Bob Oliver Fareham Wheelers CC 418 1st Lady Sarah Farmer Team Axiom 405 1st Jun Julian Hudson Team Axiom 396


2003 Award Winners



1st Andrew Walker Hampshire RC 480 2nd Phil Marshall Fareham Wheelers CC 476 3rd Glenn syder Portsmouth North End CC 471 1st V Phil Marshall Fareham Wheelers CC 476 1st SV Mike Norman Hampshire RC 465 1st Lady Tracy Slade Hampshire RC 411


2002 Award Winners



1st Richie Berogna Portsmouth North End CC 480 2nd Andrew Walker Hampshire RC 474 3rd Des Ludford Portsmouth North End CC 470 1st V Alan Cockram Portsmouth North End CC 431 1st SV Richard Parker Hampshire RC 444 1st Lady Nikki Wheeler Portsmouth North End CC 416 1st Jun Alan Slade Hantspol CC 437


2001 Award Winners



1st Dave Dent Portsmouth North End CC 478 2nd Mark Ashton Fareham Wheelers CC 473 3rd Andrew Walker Hampshire RC 470 1st V Mark Ashton Fareham Wheelers CC 473 1st SV Terry Evans Portsmouth North End CC 457 1st Lady Tina Turner Portsmouth North End CC 380 1st Jun Jeffrey Atkin Portsmouth North End CC 391


2000 Award Winners



1st Steve Walkling Portsmouth North End CC 480 2nd Dave Dent Portsmouth North End CC ? 3rd Simon Berogna Portsmouth North End CC ? 1st V Ian Donohue Portsmouth North End CC ? 1st SV Richard Parker Hampshire RC ? 1st Lady Nikki Wheeler Portsmouth North End CC ? 1st Jun Adam Slade Hantspol CC ?


1999 Award Winners



1st Dave Dent Portsmouth North End CC 479 2nd Mick Metcalf Hampshire RC 475 3rd Mike White Portsmouth North End CC 466 1st V Mick Metcalf Hampshire RC 475 1st SV Richard Parker Hampshire RC 449 1st Lady Nikki Wheeler Portsmouth North End CC 408 1st Jun Duncan Watt Hampshire RC 222


1998 Award Winners



1st Dave Dent Portsmouth North End CC 479 2nd Alan Dodkins Fareham Wheelers CC 473 3rd Tony Hart Portsmouth North End CC 472 1st V Alan Dodkins Fareham Wheelers CC 473 1st SV Bob Oliver Fareham Wheelers CC 420 1st Lady Nikki Wheeler Portsmouth North End CC 388 1st Jun Roy Ludford Portsmouth North End CC NA












Portsdown Time Trial League Info:


Counting Events:

1 10m Time Trial P817 Sat 28th February Team Axiom 14:00 Soberton Village Hall Wed 18th February
2 15m Time Trial P823 Sun 29th March Portsmouth North End Cycling Club 08:00 Wickham Sq Thurs 19th March
3 50m Time Trial P844/50 Sun 17th May Hampshire Road Club 06:30 Rowlands Castle Parish Hall Thurs 7th May
4 36km Time Trial P914 Sun 28th June Southdown Velo 07:00 Lavant Village Hall or Boxgrove Village Hall Thurs 18th June
5 25m Time Trial P821 Sun 12th July Fareham Wheelers Cycling Club 07:30 Wickham Sq Thurs 2nd July
6 35km Time Trial P822 Sun 9th August i-Team.cc 07:30 Wickham Sq Thurs 30th July
7 15m Time Trial P851 Sun 13th September Velocity Bikes Cycling Club 08:00 Rowlands Castle Parish Hall Thurs 3rd Sept
8 10m Time Trial P829/10A Sun 27th September Hantspol Cycling Club 08:00 Wickham Sq Thurs 17th Sept

There are 22 rules, listed below, which govern the organisation, operation, and governance of the Portsdown Time Trial League (hereafter called the PTTL) by the member clubs. They should be read in conjunction with the Schedule to the PTTL Rules and the CTT Rules. The PTTL comes within the definition of 'combined clubs' as stated in Rule 3 of the CTT Rules.


2009 PTTL Rules:

1. The participating clubs will promote eight events. Each club will be assigned events to be jointly agreed.
2. Event distances will be from 10-50 miles or non-standard distances on sporting courses
3. All events will qualify for points with the best five events to count. To qualify for an award a minimum of five events are to be ridden with the exception of the Youth and Junior category. An additional award called the Sporting Cup will be presented to the rider with the most points taken over all eight events. To qualify for this award all eight events must be ridden.
4. For the Youth and Junior categories a minimum of two events must be ridden to qualify for an award. If more than two events are ridden then their fastest two events will be used in calculating their final points score. Only one award per Youth/Junior will be awarded.
5. Only FIRST claim members of the above clubs who participate will be awarded points.
6. Second claim members and Private riders will be permitted to enter the specified league events, however they will not be awarded any points and will be allotted starting positions at the promoters discretion. Also the promoter will make every endeavour to slot in less experienced and junior riders into earlier vacant slots whenever possible.
7. Points will be awarded in descending order from 120 for the fastest rider down to 1 point if necessary.
8. Each member must submit his or her entries through their own club Time Trial Secretaries.
9. There will be a points-coordinator appointed to correlate the results.
10. Time Trial secretaries of the participating clubs are to forward their riders names, club, age and Date of Birth to each event organiser no later than ten days before the event. Only riders on the start sheet will qualify for points. Each promoter must forward a copy of the start sheet to each participating club and the points-coordinator six days before the event.
11. Each promoter will be responsible for forwarding event results sheets to the points-coordinator and to each participating club after the event.
12. The points-coordinator will correlate and distribute a league table after each event to all participating clubs.
13. Entry fee is £2.50 for non-Juniors and £1.00 for Juniors which will be payable to the promoter at each event on sign-on. The promoter is then responsible for paying the CTT levy of £1.00 for each entrant.
14. Private riders will pay their entry fee to the club promoting each of the events. This is the current practice for the Inter-Club events
15. Any club whose riders wish to take part in the League points system will be required to promote an event/events during a racing season.
16. Whatever age you are as from the 1st March (in that current year), will determine what category you will be placed in for the league category system. This applies even if you are unable to ride the first event. If your first event is any other than the 1st event this rule still applies.
17. The age category system for the league will be: Lady (L), Youth 12 to 16 (Y), Junior 16 to 18 (J), Senior 18 to 39 (S), Vets 40 to 49 (V), Senior Vets 50 to 59 (SV) and Grand Vets 60+ (GV)
18. There will be a team award and only one award will be presented to the team with the highest amount of points at the end of the year and will be known as The Team Award.
19. For the Team Award, a team will consist of three riders. The team shall be the fastest 3 riders from each participating club from each event.
20. The individual team score will be calculated by adding the fastest 3 riders PTTL point scores together making a sub-total. This sub-total score will be carried over and added to the next events sub-total score creating a new sub-total score. This process to continue and after 8 events you will have a grand total and a overall team winner.
21. If a tie breaker situation occurs on the final overall result sheet then it will be a joint award.
22. Awards - If in any category, and taking into account point 3 in these rules, you have less than 5 riders then 1 award will be awarded, but if in any category and taking into account point 3 in these rules you have 5 or more riders then 2 awards to be awarded. Example - In the overall results we have 2 women who finished 5 or more events (see point 3). This would mean only one award to be given.

Guy_Watson

Ventoux By Rollerblade!

By Guy_Watson, in Articles,

Teaser Paragraph:

"The only thing that I had ever done that came anywhere near to climbing The Ventoux on a bike, was the day I once spent digging the foundations for the shed at the bottom of my garden"

- Mark Goodall, Saturday 13th September 2003

There's 2 Ways to Climb Mont Ventoux:



On a Bike
(re: Tour de France, challenge,
Marco Pantani, etc.)



By Roller Blade!
(re: Bay Watch, challenge,
Warrell Harries, etc.)

Here's a story to inspire you all...
The next time that you are dreaming about riding in France on some mountain road with perfect weather and awesome vistas everywhere you look - STOP DREAMING AND MAKE IT HAPPEN! Read More...



That's exactly what i-team new recruits Warrell Harries and Mark Goodall did. Most people would consider taking a week off work to do a tour that included Mont Ventoux, 'The Giant of Provence' - just getting there takes a day. How about leaving work on the Friday - doing Ventoux on the Saturday and back home on the Sunday! That's what we call inspired! Imagine the smile on your face when some one asks you at work on Monday, 'Did you get out on your bike the weekend?'

...Well actually - I rode up Mont Ventoux!

A report by Mark & Warrell.

'Go on, it'll only be 175 quid all in'

... I'd said to my long suffering cycling buddy, Warrell. Of course, it was a lie! It was just that it had been such a good summer for me cycling wise and I wanted to do a big ride abroad before winter set in.In fact, the summer of 2003 has been one of the hottest and driest on record, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees. Warrell and I had spent April - September doing about 70 miles a week (- we thought this was a lot for us then!) All this riding about in shorts made us feel like Pro Bike Riders! I now needed something to top off a great year and put all that fitness to good use before my annual winter hibernation.


It was our mate Tim that started it all. He had also been out on a few rides with us this summer and had just bought a great value Graham Weigh bike with exotic Campagnolo gears for £475. Tim was the scholar amongst us and would read books about Alexander the Great conquering Troy which sounded great when he talked about it down the pub but then he told me it took him a year to read it - and it didn't even have Brad Pitt in it! Nonetheless, I was inspired and went into Waterstones to find something just as epic but a little easier on the timber. As soon as I walked in the shop I was confronted with a big display about the Centenary of the Tour de France. There was a great selection of chronologies and picture books but a smaller book caught my attention: "Put me back on my bike - in search of Tom Simpson". I didn't know a lot about cycling stars and I wanted to understand what makes a champion tick. I soon realized that this was indeed the stuff of legend. Tom Simpson was an Olympic Medallist, Champion Du Monde and the first Briton to wear the Maillot Jaune. He had an overwhelming desire to win at all costs and with the use of drugs being widespread, he became a victim of the system and his own bloody mindedness and famously died while climbing Mont Ventoux in the 1967 Tour de France. Died! - that really put our groveling in the South Downs into perspective. I read the book in about 4 days and leant it to Tim and Warrell.



Tim commented that it was a brief but none the less inspiring read and we were all indeed fired up and ready to do something epic on our bikes. It come to pass that Warrell and I decided that we would take on the 'Géant de Provence' itself , Mont Ventoux. It was an obvious choice that would entertain our need to enjoy the atmosphere of a pilgrimage but also we jumped at the chance of getting some duty frees in and sampling the Chambre Hote cuisine! Not being the superstitious sorts, we planned to fly out with our bikes on September 12th, do the climb on Saturday 13th and return Sunday evening - (Simpson had died on stage 13 on the 13th July in the '67 Tour)



Ryanair provided 2 return tickets to St.Etienne, at a grand cost of £210, including taxes and Bike carriage. Although the flights could be booked over the web, I still had to ring them to get the bike on, and it takes a long time to get through. Although the flight was quite expensive, it was offset by the cheap car hire at £70 for 3 days. St. Etienne was chosen because the flights to Nimes were twice the price and it was still an hour's drive away.

Now, everyone's heard about the German Autobahn's having no speed limit, but Warrell's desire to meet Rebecca at Les Aires du Temps left me in no doubt that the French Payage is just as good. Traveling just short of lightspeed, we arrived in Faucon in 2 hours after the short, but delayed flight, from Stanstead.


Saturday 13th September 2003 - Judgment Day:

Rather than kick straight off about how tough the climb might be, I need to get things into perspective. The Tour de France pro's have less than 8% bodyfat, ride their bikes 8 hours a day and still don't look forward to climbing The Ventoux. We were lucky to get pass-outs to ride 8 hours in a Fortnight and as for our vital statistics:

Mark: Age 33,Weight 11½ stone after breakfast, Height 5'10".
Warrell Age 43: Weight held precariously in check by the Atkins diet and a lot of shouting by me on our bike rides ,Height 6'1".

Neither of us had even thought about shaving our legs - so you get the deal - both complete amateurs! And our adversary in this monumental tag-match was a big monster in the bottom, left-hand corner of France, near Marseilles - hey, I wonder if schoolkids will read about us one day....

Saturday morning dawned sunny and clear; the temperature was predicted to reach 29 degrees, we were lucky boys! It was the complete opposite of the day before, when it only reached only 6 degrees at the top of the mountain. I got up early and stripped the bike of its pipe insulation and assembled it. Meanwhile, the Directeur Sportif was paying the price of over indulgence on the red wine front! After a carbo-loaded French breakfast, we set off, driving towards Bédoin to start the classic Simpson route.

You may have noticed that I've only mentioned that we only had one bike. As usual, Warrell was pathological about costs (confirming Bob Hope's assertion that money was 'paper blood.') So to save on the extra charge for flying a bike over, he packed his roller blades instead - of course Warrell - great idea - now go and sit down and have a rest before you have another idea like that!

"Not sure, but I don't think the pedal cleats will fit these Warrell!"

What was the man thinking???



First, a practice run from nearby La Madeline, where I discovered the limits of my cycle-mechanics skills meant that I couldn't get a gear lower than 39 x 18. Before I could get my multi-tool out to do some fine adjustments, Warrell jumped out of the following car and bent the derailleur mount to fit and returned to the car without even looking at me. Er, cheers mate - got a hangover have we! I began the ascent from Bedoin at 10:30am on my lowest gear 39 x 25.

For what seemed a long time, I pedaled the 6 clicks or so to the sign below at a gradient of 3%. Not so bad, I thought, but it was a faux start. Once the forest began, the psychology kicked in. You can't see the bloody top! There aren't many hills you can say that about in Sussex! In fact, you can't see much beyond the dense tunnel of broad-leafed trees on this side of Ventoux. Worse still, there were already people descending back from the top, some on knobbly tyred mountain bikes with cliff-climbing low gears.

I got caught by a couple of other guys who climbed on, just ahead of me. Office-wallers like myself it turned out but each with a faithful Directeur Sportif in a following car. You could feel a certain comradeship but after the third time a diesel CRV gasses you, it feels like sabotage!



After a few miles, I realized that I wouldn't need my undervest or spare inner tube, because I was definitely not cold and if I got a puncture, I knew I wouldn't want to mend it - it would be just the excuse I needed to put an end to my toils. The only thing that I had ever done that came near to climbing Ventoux on a bike, was the day I once spent digging the foundations for the shed at the bottom of my garden. After a 1 hour, 9mph ascent to 1000m, I hit 'the wall.

Duncton, Bury, West Marden, I've never given up on hills like them but this was new territory. At each bend, I would fantasise for a flat section but it never came. The worst part was a sharp right, just before the Ski Chalets. I looked back, Warrell was grinning encouragingly (as in trying not to laugh at my struggle!) from the air conditioned comfort of the Scenic! Eventually, Chalet Reynard came into view, I was dead, I remember thinking, "Could I somehow get the ski lift to drag me to the top?"

Without warning Warrell ambushed me, blasting past on his rollerblades as onlookers gasped. He'd parked the car and like a Nimrod on a short runway, he went at full throttle and disappeared up the tarmac ahead of me. "Bravo!" the French holiday makers cried loudly after him, before turning to me and generously giving the slow hand clap.They must have thought he'd done it from the bottom - the $%*@!

I was truly devastated by the onslaught from a trusted friend and it totally justified a short rest at Simpson's Memorial to allow me to digested what I had just experienced. What a view though! (and I'm not talking about Warrell's after-burners!)

Talking to a Dutch guy later at the summit, rollerblading was not unheard of on the Ventoux - there is even a record for it. More stupid than that, the record for the number of ascents by bike in 24 hours is 7 times. And even more stupid - 3 times in succession on a Unicycle! So Warrell was in good company...

As each cyclist skidded up the embankment in their cycle shoes to have the obligatory picture taken next to Tom's memorial, Warrell was ensuring his own immortal status as every man and his dog stopped to take a picture of the"sans frontières" climber! I needed some comfort and munched on some licorice allsorts before my final effort to the top.

The time was now 1:30pm when I reached the summit, which was starting to become shrouded in cloud.

With the Ventoux weather being so changeable, I pulled Warrell away from his paparazzi and we descended back to pick up the Scenic. Warrell headed off to get lunch at Bédion. Now all cyclists love to race tractors but it's so much better on a 60mph descent of the mountain. Even the GTi's were moving over for me! The octane was further upped as the road surface got patchy and the gusting wind started to bustle me sideways - "We are Gods! - Yippee!"



I was lucky to get anything for lunch as Warrell had already been refueling - working his way through the menu for a good hour. He gave me some recommendations though - what a good friend he really is. A couple of Vin Rouge Maisons later, it was 3pm and we'd fully fueled up, including Warrell's long range drop-tanks. After a heated debate about the meaning of true friendship and whether cycling was harder than roller-blading, it was decided that Warrell would borrow my bike and see how far he could get before he had to climb off. Lake sandals equipped ( he's a standard bearer for the sports sandal concept) and an i-team jersey, he set off.

I now realised the extreme luxury of being in an air conditioned car. It was so tempting to pull over and sleep for a couple of hours and then go and get Warrell at the top. It was just as well because after an hour or so in temperatures of 29 degrees, Warrell too decided to take advantage of the Scenic's Air-Con. As my sweat leaden buddy climbed into the car, my bubble of luxury was over - we both needed a bath badly!

On our return to the hotel, we skipped the bath as I decided the best thing a newly promoted Directeur Sportif can do is to retire to a beckoning terrace bar and watch the finish of that days Tour stage on the telly. So, 1664's in hand, we duly crashed out in the sunshine at Chalet Reynard, as a fanatical Virenque supporter in the road opposite (picture on the side of his mobile home!) - cranked up the radio that bit more. I turned to my wing man, "I couldn't feel more like a bike rider if I tried" - this bikie was heaven!



We had a laugh about the days events and how Wozza Warrell made such a spectacle!

The next picture reminds me of the humorous commentator, Phil Ligget, as he gasped when Stephen Roach came through the mountain mist on his way to a TDF victory. "It's Warrell Harries, it can't be, it's Warrell Harries!".

It had indeed been a day to remember. Wozza had set a unique Biathlon record for the Ventoux and we hadn't died.

Exhausted, and out of daylight at 6:45pm, we descended via the new road to Malaucène. This was a brand new road surface and very steep in places, but by now, we were both too exhausted to take pictures. Suffice to say, the cliffs and the backdrop were incredible. By 7:30pm we were back in Faucon and eating heartily again.

I could go on to mention our night out with the Vendange as they began the grape harvest but that such tales of debauchery are more suited to a family readership!

In summary of our weekend, the accommodation and food was superb, but, the £90 each for the 2 nights had put us about £50 over budget. Personally, I'm blaming Warrell for that luxury, but it's fair to say you need it after a top day of the Windy Mountain - The Ventoux, I meann.


Crédits Agricoles:

The Deadly Duo:

Mark Goodall and Warrell Harries

Graham and Tony Childs

Dave for his loan of a superb bike bag

Michael Berry and Rebecca at the Alastair Sawday recommended "Les Airs du Temps" for allowing us to bore the other guests, while providing great food and wine.



Guest

2010 L'ariegeoise

By Guest, in Articles,

Teaser Paragraph:

An excellent descent down into Cabanes the final feed and bottom of the last climb at148km. We are both absolutely gunning to get on with it. After our final feed from the excellent feed stations we wish each other good luck and depart.

I have read numerous summer ride reports from sportives all over Europe. All of them in superb detail making me wish I had time to do more of this wonderful sport. As I write the pro-riders are just starting their second week of Le Tour and I am uncertain as to whether it is just hotting up or is it just a two horse race!

So, to our Midi-Pyrenees sportive that took place on 26th June
Four of us entered: Jonathan Partridge, Gareth Hardcastle, Tim Keats and Myself. all up for the big ride of 165km with 3100m of climbing to a mountain top finish on the Plateau de Beille at 1789m

If our drive to Liverpool airport was uneventful then the check-in was anything but. We sensed the "check-in" girl took a disliking to us when she said that our bike bags were too heavy. Over the stated limit of 20kgs. JP would have to pay £180 and £120 for myself. After some swapping round of kit into other bags, mostly Gareth's, we were done. JP just paid £120 and seethed all the way thro security. He was later to discover when complaining to Ryanair about extortion that the actual limit is 30kgs for bikes. A refund was due!

Placing our bike bags through the scanner they picked up all the air cylinders and told us that these must be taken out and surrendered. All this kerfuffle lost us valuable time and on reaching the rear of the queue for security we notice we had just 10 mins before the gate closed. No joking we made the back of the queue with a minute to spare but still waited to board the plane. Once on the crew informed us of a one hour delay due to French air traffic control. bas****ds!!

Flying into Carcassonne and chauffeured out in our host, Craig's, Espace. an hour's drive to the village of Leran. Typically French with only a boulangerie and a bar / restaurant (run by an English couple with a great Menu de jour at €10.
After a 50km ride and dinner we were well prepared for our rest day on Friday.
Arising late to a leisurely breakfast then setting of to the event town of Tarascon sur Ariege a 45 minute drive. We registered, collected our kit and then drove, in Gareth's hire car up to the summit of the final climb. An ascent of about 1000m of unrelenting steady gradient. The difference today being that we did not waste any energy arriving at the top. Once there we engaged in more leisurely eating. Are you getting the picture?

Down to business..

Saturday am. Arise at 5.45am depart by 6.30 Tarascon 7.15am time to stretch my back out on the tarmac take an espresso etc and 8.00am off we go!!! The usual crowds in the town cheer us as we set off, the start is rolling and flat. As the Midi and Sport routes set off 30 and 60 minutes later it is not a rushed or dangerous start. Quite relaxed really. The numbers that we have makes the easy climb seem like flat.

The first feed at 76 km we all arrive together, the day is warming up well. Just 5 minutes and we are away again. But where is Gareth. His bike had fallen over causing the rear breaks to seize. It took him a while to sort this and as we were now climbing he had a bit of a chase to reach us. The double summit climb of Col de Freres and Col de Marmare had a feed station in between. On this climb Gareth and I separated from JP and TK who were both beginning to feel the heat.

An excellent descent down into Cabanes the final feed and bottom of the last climb at148km. We are both absolutely gunning to get on with it. After our final feed from the excellent feed stations we wish each other good luck and depart.

Within 10 minutes the heat and the gradient slows my pace and I bid farewell to Gareth who has now found his climbing legs.
At just under 2 gruelling hours later nearing the summit where the gradient eases for the last 500m the smile of relief and achievement hits me and I speed up to the finish line. Me thinks, Wow! what it must be like to complete such a ride as a pro on the front with all the crowds, press, media and adrenalin. Meanwhile I am over the moon with my time of 7 hours 53 minutes.
What's next? I ask myself.

Guest

2010 Jotunheim Rundt - Norway

By Guest, in Articles,

Teaser Paragraph:

Once at the top the end is very close but my body took it as a signal to break down a bit, my hands were sore wherever I held the bars, my right foot was really hurting, shoulders were stiff and I probably don't need to mention my butt, how ever, a combination of standing, sitting and freewheeling saw me to the end in 19hours and about 40 minutes which is about 10 minutes longer than last time, I think a lot of that was lost in the energy conservation in the middle and headwind on the final section, basically it was 137k into a headwind

Wednesday morning Jenny and me got our luggage into the car, next stop Norway, but first meet up with Terry at his place then on to Matt's to get him and Phil Chandler. We arrived in Oslo about 5:30 and headed for the hire cars, to get the 5 of us and the bikes transported we had gone for a van and a small car, 5 hours of use later we had arrived at the accommodation. Last time we had booked hotel rooms in the oddly named Quality Hotel in Sogndal, this time though, after a bit of searching we were staying in a fantastic cabin as close to the fjord as was possible, this cost the same for 7 beds as one room did last time

I will skip straight on to the actual ride as I think Phil may have some words about the build up. We used the van to get to the start with Jenny and Phil driving back once we had started in Laerdal, ready for their ride the next day

The actual start of the ride was a much faster affair than the last time I took part in this, we set off in the group that started at 9:05pm rather than 9:10 so the target time for this group was, I think, 17-20 hours but you would think it was faster than that with the speed we climbed the first mountain and then headed to Fagernes. I haven't looked at the stats but I think that this was again my fastest 100 miles to date despite the 1000m (approximate) climbing

After Fagernes the second climb starts, I left the group that had been on a mission so I could pace myself a bit better, it was only 38km to the next feed but that is where I had chosen to send a bag with supplies as it's about 2/3 up the climb before it gets hard. Just as I was about to move out to go to the feed I heard a voice saying "Mr Smith". I was amazed to see it was Matt, I had assumed he was way ahead of me as he was in the faster group that split off the front of the one I was in but had chosen to stop at the first feed whereas I carried on through. We chatted for a few minutes and then went on our separate ways. On this second climb there was a bit of a tailwind so I decided to take advantage of it, bearing in mind there was still around 300k to go and it wasn't flat. Most of the way up I just spun my legs around in a low gear and felt very little resistance, and felt in pretty good shape by the time I reached the summit, which this year had no snow on it but instead was windy and covered in mist. The first part of the descent from this mountain can only be described as uncomfortable, the wind was strong and gusted from the side, the rain was falling the road was soaked. Initially when I used my brakes and nothing happened I just assumed that the blocks would clear the water but there was just no deceleration from using any combination of front and rear, instead the acceleration just stopped and where it was so cold and wet there was an involuntary transfer of the shivering into the bars that gave the effect that your frame had snapped or was made of rubber, the only way I found to control it was to relax, fighting your body trying to keep you warm.

Again before the next part of the descent there is a long section where the wind was behind so I again took advantage of this so I would arrive in reasonable shape in Lom ready for the biggest and hardest of the climbs but before I got there I was sat at the feed at Lemonsto and heard "Steve", it was Terry who had caught me up for 4km as I cruised along. We had a chat about his knee as he was in some considerable discomfort, I suggested he take it steady and head onward for Lom as there was some good downhill on the way, I forgot to mention it's quite a way and there is also a, by UK standards, significant climb in the way, he was happy for me to continue so I moseyed along to Lom with the intention of both energy and muscle fibre conservation.

I left Lom and was just a minute slower than last time, because of the condition of my leg muscles I was thinking that I may be able to make decent time on the climb as I suffered massively on this one last time, unfortunately the tailwind of earlier was now a headwind up the gradually climbing valley and I saw the gap open more so I turned the gps back to just telling me speed and lap distance (used so you know how far is left to the next feed) and ignored the other available data. I managed the climb this time an awful lot better conquering the whole steep part to the lake before taking a few minutes to rest out of the wind and then getting back to face my nemesis from last time. It's amazing how much different an experience you can have if you know what is coming up, I saved quite a lot earlier on in the day and let a lot of it out on the next part of the climb to ensure I didn't have the same mental challenges. This hill is a very long, very hard hill, it's hard to find anything to compare it with but if you take something like the Bwlch on the last part of the GFC and multiply the distance a few times then you are getting close, it's a gradual power sapping start followed by a steep section with corners that disguise the length that you have to go, leading to another section that if you look at the right times you get a sneak preview of what you are taking on. This climb is the main part of the Lille Jottunheimen Rundt and not trying to big up the standard ride, but the Lille ride is a tough challenge that can't be completed without a good balance of strong legs and strong mind.

Anyway, I pedalled on up the final alpine style switchbacks and finally arrived at the highest feed on the course to be greeted by an old lady with a freshly cooked waffle. I would guess these are about 10 inch in diameter and are usually quartered and shared but when you have ridden that climb you get a hole one and because there was no one behind in the queue I had another one to top off the lashings of jam and cream in the middle, it was gorgeous

Leaving this feed is horrible as the terrain on the top of the mountain is undulating to say the least, it just rises and falls in steep digs that sap any strength that you just regained in the feed but eventually I got to the proper part of the descent, which had been partly resurfaced with some superb looking smooth black, grippy Tarmac. I took advantage of this and passed loads on the way down, taking advantage of my years of riding motorbikes to help with the lines and fast thinking, it was just fantastic and was getting warmer all the way back down to sea level. One thing I am now is a convert to gels, I used to use them as an emergency energy source but from now I will be using a good balance of gel, water and bars, whenever I felt spent I just stuck a gel in and got a kick within a few minutes, the last one got me on the flat into a headwind to Luster at abut 26 -27kph with around 370km in the legs

I left Luster for the last leg into Sogndal with a guy that had spoken with Matt earlier, eventually I dropped him going up a steady rise to be rejoined by him sat on the back of a group of faster guys going down the other side. There is one sting in the tail on this ride in the form of a 'small' 10k climb with half of that at 7%, it doesn't sound too bad but it really is not what you need. At the tunnel marking the start of the climb you are at 400km, that didn't both me so much as the kid on the mountain bike in t shirt and shorts that took pleasure in sprinting past me on the climb - he wouldn't have got me on the downhill afterwards

Once at the top the end is very close but my body took it as a signal to break down a bit, my hands were sore wherever I held the bars, my right foot was really hurting, shoulders were stiff and I probably don't need to mention my butt, how ever, a combination of standing, sitting and freewheeling saw me to the end in 19hours and about 40 minutes which is about 10 minutes longer than last time, I think a lot of that was lost in the energy conservation in the middle and headwind on the final section, basically it was 137k into a headwind

I will let the others tell their tales themselves but unfortunately Terry had to call it a day part way into the final major climb (about 315k) due to his knee no longer bending, Matt was disappointed to take 18:44 but considering the gearing he had and the severity and length of the climbs it was a herculean effort to just get around. Jenny and Phil both got around the 137k route, Jenny took 7:22 with Phil around 45 minutes after, a great achievement by both of them

So my stats were
Total distance 430km
Climbing 4700m
Calories (I like this one) around 18000
Time 19 hours 49

My legs this morning are ok once they get going but they do take a bit of time to get them used to balancing me!

Matt Doe Writes:

What a trip! If anyone wants to really test themselves to the limit then this is it. All types of terrain, temperatures, weathers and emotions are encountered to really push you to the extreme. No doubt there are other sporting events around the world that have equally or tougher challenges but from a cycling perspective this was incredible.

So begin, 430km lay ahead starting at 9 in the evening with hopefully seeing the finish line the following afternoon. The previous day and a half had been spenting building bikes, sleeping, eating, travelling and as the others will say about my part, more eating, faffing around nervously and more eating.

Jenny and Phil were too encounter the shorter but none the less extreme challenge on the Saturday, but Terry, Steve and myself set off with nerves and unknown feelings ahead. Steve wanted to better his time, Terry wanted to complete the ride and I wanted a 16 hour ish time if I could finish it.

From leaving the start line, the pace was like a road race. A long bunch of about 80 riders plus, strung out for 20 miles of high speed riding until the real climbing began of the first mountain. The large group fragmented into smaller groups and I was fortunate to find myself in the front one until 10 miles over the summit when I starting regretting the fast start. A feed stop ensued, with warm layers of clothing added and then Terry turned up amazed with the pace. Steve was nowhere to be seen but we assumed had carried on as he had done in his last ride here.

A blindingly fast descent in the dark with few riders having good lights due to the additional weight and that it was only really dark for about 1:30 hours. The trust that you put into other riders is second to none and dropping down to the second feed the first 100 miles was completed in about 5:20 to 5:30. Fast and maybe too fast?

Climbing up the second mountain I saw the familiar sight of Steve's bottom and we stopped for more food and drink. I had recovered more by then and we seperated. It was a long solo climb and the most dangerous descent I have ever ridden to the next feed. The descent was very wet, very windy and freezing cold. Thsi combination really scared me as to what would happen if I did crash as there was no-one around for miles and the onset of hypothermia was not far away.

More food and then a slog to the final big feed led to the last stretch. As Steve said, 130km into a stormy headwind with 50km to the top of the last major climb was brutal. It was this part that I definately lost time on, too much struggling in high gears with little energy left. A stodgy waffle that made me feel sick, went on to a rolling hard 10km ride to the final excellent descent. Flying past Norweigan's like they were standing still and then a 40mile ride to the finish.

I collapsed at the finish and burst into tears absolutely drained. I couldn't eat or drink anything without fear of throwing up and laid on the sofa back at the cabin for 2 hours without moving.

So what I have learnt, anything is possible if you put your mind to it and your body stays on side. I really don't need to eat that many energy bars and as Steve said, gels work wonders and I am a convert to. I haven't got a clue what the next target is apart from trying to get up the stairs at home without pain.

As for the rest of our Norweigan contingent, well hats off the Jenny and Phil, both battled against a continuous headwind with none of the benefits of the longer rides with tailwinds and descents. Awesome rides guys

Steve again proved his strength and despite knowing what was coming up continued in appalling weather to ride a strong time only just short of a PB despite the conditions. And Terry, yes he packed after 300km but how many people would attempt a ride like this after 18 months of cycling and riding on with a injured knee?

So thanks to Steve for getting all this together and pushing us to ride. A great long weekend, but no way a holiday, nervous build up and painful ending. Now where is the entry for next years!



One stat that I missed out was that I got through 9 litres of fluid, half water and half was nuun.

I just looked through the results and congratulations are due to Phil for having the fastest final split at 25:23 for 20km, followed by Matt at 26:20, Jenny at 28:46 and me bringing up the rear with 28:51 nice one Phil, those PTTL races have been paying off :-)

David_Shaw

2010 La Marmotte

By David_Shaw, in Articles,

Teaser Paragraph:

Now came the ascent of the Galbier that's after a quick refill of the bottle i had drunk on the descent,i don't like this climb at the best of times,18 kms of climbing up to the summit at 8000 ft,i especially hate the middle part which alternates between 7% and 8% but seems to go on for ever and you don't even feel your making any progress..

This is a brief report of my ride last Saturday which i can only describe as good,bad and disastrous.

I had arrived in B'ourg d'oisans late Monday evening after a 12hr drive from Calais,the first thing i noticed was the temperture,it was now 9:30 and it was still very warm .

Next couple a days i did a few 2hr rides in the heat of the day trying to get acclimatised to the heat.The temperture being well over 30c.It was in fact 30c in the shade.

Come the big day and it seemed like it was warmer than ever.In previous days there had been a chill in the air early morning but not today,normally in these kind of events i wear some arm warmers first thing but not this morning.

Anyway i rolled out of the start in the second wave at 7:30 didn't go to mad from the gun not like last year(remember Mark) reached the foot of the Glandon in just short of 30 mins averaging 32kmh,now began the climb,the first 5km or so is quite steep with grades hovering around the 9/10% mark.Straight from the start of the climb i had decided to keep it as easy as i could and within my threshold,it was only 8 o'clock but riders were already looking for shelter from the blazing sun.

I continued on my way looking forward to where the road eases a bit further up the climb but this year it didn't seem to get easier,it must of been in my head because after 1 1/2 hrs of climbing i reached the summit within 30 seconds of last years time

I refilled my bottles and started the descent of the glandon which is very steep and technical especially the top half,there had been some talk earlier in the week of netreulising this section as there had been some serious crashes in the past but it seemed like they didn't bother on the day although there were a considerable number of marshalls warning of the dangerous bends.I managed to reach the bottom safely in one piece averaging just over 41kph.

Now was the time to start looking for a group to ride with to the foot of the telegraph,hooked up with about a dozen riders mainly Italians who were going at a good speed but seemed to be surging and the slowing,not what you really want.Eventually they caught a group in front and they came to virtual stop.The speed was down to 23kph.A few guys rode of the front of this large group of now well over 50 riders,after they had opened a gap of a couple of hundred meters i decided i couldn't hang about any longer and put in a big effort to get across the gap,as i was about to make contact i had a quick look behind,for a minute i thought iwas back at Goodwood.You guessed it 10 guys sitting on my wheel.

Reached the Telegraph in 3hrs 17.mins a couple of minutes up on last year.The Telegraph is 12km long which i completed in just on the hour,5 minutes better than last year and was probably the best i had felt all day.Filled my bottles again at the summit,drinking one on the short descent to Valloire.

Now came the ascent of the Galbier that's after a quick refill of the bottle i had drunk on the descent,i don't like this climb at the best of times,18 kms of climbing up to the summit at 8000 ft,i especially hate the middle part which alternates between 7% and 8% but seems to go on for ever and you don't even feel your making any progress,eventually i reached plan ltat where the climb steepens for the last 8kms.It was about 4 kms from the summit that istarted to feel not quite right.There is n shelter at all on the Galbier and the sun was begining to take it's toll.After a couple of short stops to dowse my head in water i managed to reach the summit,1hr 40 minutes riding time alot quicker than last year and with the stops added still 25mins up on my previous ride.

This i'm afraid is where the wheels came of,if you feel rough on a 40km descent then there is obviously something not quite right and i felt terrible,banging head and nauseas,all the way down i had made my mind up to pack at the feed at the foot of the A'lpe

I finally arrived at the A'lpe in a total time of 7hrs 51 mins which left me 1hr and 45 mins to achieve what i set out to.A fter a brief discussion with my wife who had met me at the feed and asked me not to continue i decided to give it ago.The temperture by this time was in the 40s on the A'lpe with hindsight i should of packed there but i continued for 6kms of absolute purgatory and finally called it a day 7kms from the summit suffering from what i presume is either heat or sun stroke or a mixture of both.

It has taken me until now to recover sufficiently to right this report after spending all of yesterday in a darkened room with wet towels over me,not what i had hoped for but you win some you lose some and i lost big time.

ps i always seem to ride these events on what seems like the hottest day of year

John_Rogerson
Teaser Paragraph:

The descent from the Gavia was awesome. 50+km through the Stelvio National Park. Semi closed roads and marshals at the hot spots meant you could hit the apexes without much fear. I’d hooked up with the Sports Tours rep (Phil) at the top and he was a very experienced cyclist who clearly knew his lines. Between us we flew down.

The Gran Fondo Marco Pantani is an Italian cycling sportive event, taking a loop from the ski resort of Aprica in the Lombardy region, going over the famous Passo di Gavia, Passo del Mortirolo and for the strong legged, Passo de Santa Christina.

Flickr photos

One of the enjoyable things I find about Italian sportives is the way the whole of the host town embraces the event. Aprica was buzzing with cyclists everywhere, trade stands setting up on the main drag and an overall infectious positive atmosphere. Apart from a bit of an in-transit derailleur issue that needed to be sorted, the first couple of days were the usual arriving formalities and checking the bike out on a 10 mile leg loosener. Aprica is at 1200m above sea level with only one road passing through it, which went downhill at each end. After descending for about 9km, we decided we had better turn around because we would have to ascend 9km to get back to the hotel. Gradient was only about 4% so no damage was being done for the next day. The weather was beautiful. Clear blue skies and moderate to high temperatures. The kind of weather that makes you want to ride a bike. After lunch, we signed on, collected our numbers and rather fetching mandatory cyclamen jerseys (worn under threat of DQ if you didn’t) and got back to the hotel for a relaxing rest of the day pottering and hydrating.

Breakfast on the day of the event was an early 0530. Start line was just outside the hotel so no messing about, out the door 0645 for a 0700 start. 3,000 cyclamen clad cyclists lined the main drag of Aprica to the sound of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” blaring over the tannoy. The start gun went, locals cheered and ticker tape was jettisoned into the air providing a full-on sense of occasion. You don’t get that on the Fred Whitton.

The first 10km was downhill on mountain roads that were being repaired in sections. As a result, this part was neutralised and a lead car paced us down. Well, that was the plan and probably was the case near the front but the espresso fuelled Italian adrenaline junkies still went flying past me at ridiculous speeds. It therefore comes as no surprise that we had to stop every now-and-then to allow the bottleneck sections to filter through. The road then opened up as we entered the town of Edolo. The sun was just starting to poke its head over the top of the mountains that faced us. It was quite an exciting feel looking ahead at the giants that awaited us.

Edolo to the base of the Gavia is a steady climb of about 4%. The legs are fresh and the scenery stunning. This section just flew by. The Gavia itself is a cracking ride. The weather was perfect. Big dramatic mountain pass scenes. You could take photos all the way up and make postcards of each one. But it does go on... and on... up to 2,600m. Now officially, it’s an ascent of 1,400m over 17km. But there is 600m climbing over 20km from Edolo to the base of the Gavia, resulting in the best part of 2,000m ascent over 37km. A lot of time to be going up hill. But you could look around and take your mind off it quite easily. There are a couple of stretches on the Gavia that hit the teens in gradient but nothing to trouble a club cyclist who knows how to pace themselves. I rode up most of it with Aussie Dave from our party, pointing out the mountain goats and snow features. The higher we got, the more snow there was. But not to 1988 Giro proportions! The skies were a perfect blue. Picturesque and enjoyable is the best description. The only worrying bit was the tunnel about 4km from the summit. It would have been totally dark if the organisers hadn’t put generators and lights in there. The visual effects were very freaky. Shadows of cyclists that would grow and stretch to different shapes and angles every time you passed a lamp. The road wasn’t in the best condition in here so it was steady pedalling for the few hundred metres we were inside. I’m lucky that my eyes are good enough not to need specs so I could take my shades off. Those that needed their shades on because of corrective lenses really struggled to see where they were and which way was up, down or whatever. All part of the excitement.

The top of the Gavia was a welcome sight and a chance to grab some food, water and photos of the signage. An Italian asked me take a photo of him stood next to the sign. I was quite knackered, trying to feed with one hand and my camera hand was shaking like wagon riding alcoholic. An embarrassing couple of attempts finally got a good shot for him. Good job I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.

The descent from the Gavia was awesome. 50+km through the Stelvio National Park. Semi closed roads and marshals at the hot spots meant you could hit the apexes without much fear. I’d hooked up with the Sports Tours rep (Phil) at the top and he was a very experienced cyclist who clearly knew his lines. Between us we flew down. That was until we saw Barry, my travelling companion, at the side of the road with his brand new Easton front wheel in his hand. Barry’s a strong cyclist and was miles ahead of me so seeing him was a bit of a shock. He’d been going down at 38mph when his front tyre did a Beloki. Thankfully he managed to stay upright and get to the side of the road. After letting his rim cool down, Phil got him to the point of self-sufficiency and we headed off again. After some more deft descending, we could see a group of about 15 riders ahead of us. There was a slight wind blowing so we worked hard to get to the group. It was a fair bit of effort to get there and when we did, everyone was just sat behind the big British guy at the front. Phil started to boss the group about trying to get 2 abreast and a bit of organisation going but it was falling on deaf ears. Or perhaps it was his North West English accent. We were flying on the downhills and slow on the flats. Very annoying. Not able to get any rhythm at all. Not to worry, I just sucked wheel when I could and worked to keep up if I had to. All in all this got us to the base of the Mortirolo pretty swiftly.

The ascent of the Mortirolo was timed for separate bragging rights. Refuelling at the foot you looked up the road and it appeared more like a wall. A guy set off before me and missed his cleat on the pedal and promptly fell over. One chance to get going or you’re rolling downhill to try again. I’d have to say I wasn’t too concerned by the steep start because I thought it was going to level out later. I was wrong. 1,300m ascent over 12km, 33 hairpins. Double percentage gradient pretty much the whole way. Rising at times to over 18%. There is just no relief. Most of the climb is enshrouded by trees so you don’t really have as much scenery to take your mind off it. I had to stop at about hairpin 26. It was a hot day and I was struggling. I threw water over my head, took a drink and a gel and cracked on to the water station half way up where I took another welcome stop. Everyone was suffering. Many were walking. Many more than I have seen on any other climb. Nobody spoke apart from the occasional grunt or expletive. I sat down on a bench at the water station to catch some shade and rest. One guy to my right staggered away from the road, fell to his knees and started vomiting. The guy to my left didn’t bother moving and just started puking between his legs. Nice. I thought it best to leave them to it, took a drink of the very welcome flat cola and ground on. That sort of set the tone for the rest of the ascent. I stopped again a couple of times, once at the Pantani Monument. There’s a metal sculpture of questionable quality of him on his bike fixed to the face of the cliff, flowers, cycling caps and other tributes that have been left by passing cyclists, and a nice plaque. The guy is clearly still a hero and a legend to the Italians. Couldn’t hang around too long though, more hairpins to get through. So I soldiered on through the tree-lined ascent, finally coming to a clearing which indicates the last kilometre. Phew. Stopped again for a few minutes, filling up with fresh cold water at the standpipe. Lovely. Final push and I made it to the top. Very relieved. Pantani’s 43m record was safe though. 2h 23m it took me. I felt every minute and every metre rise. I was now looking forward to the descent towards the finish at Aprica. But no. There’s a cheeky 150-200m climbing in rolling plateau to deal with before you start descending. That just was not fair. Finally started to go downhill and enjoyed the thought of getting back for a nice cold, gold drink.

Now, when you approach Aprica, you have the option of going straight on to the finish, or swinging right and taking another 20km loop with another 900m of climbing. I was finished and went straight on to the finish line to complete the 151km Medio Fondo, with 3,700m climbing in my legs. Another 900m wasn’t an option. Lets get the excuses out of the way. In preparation for the ride, I’d been following Chris Carmichael’s Time Crunched Training Plan. It was going well, feeling stronger as the weeks went on. That was until I contracted tonsillitis and didn’t have the time to get back to the strength I was before. That being said, I still don’t know whether I’d have managed another 900m climbing after the Mortirolo. I’d have been a bit quicker but I wouldn’t have wanted to carry on. Out of the Sports Tours party, only one guy did the Gran Fondo. Everyone else opted for the Medio on the day, despite all the talk of positive thinking and bravado over dinner the night before. My mate Barry is a veteran of many sportives, twice finishing the GF Campagnolo amongst others. He reckons the Mortirolo is the hardest climb he has ever done. He’s in good company. In 2004, Lance said the same thing when he went there for pre TdeF training.

So a cracking event. The Sports Tours crowd were a good friendly bunch. Glorious scenery. Two legendary climbs. One of which I have no desire to do again. Not even on fresh legs. Good to get it on the CV though. Just be warned if you do attempt to tackle it.

Chappeau

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