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2005 Etape Du Tour

By Guy_Watson, in Articles,

Teaser Paragraph:

7,885 riders set off from Mourenx this morning at 7h00 for the 13th edition of the Etape du Tour Vélo Magazine, under an extremely clement sky. It took over 35 minutes for all of the riders to cross the starting line. The last competitor was scheduled at 17h30. He was the 7 242 rider to cross the finishing line. Depending on your fitness, the Etape may be the ultimate challenge, or 'just' a hard, rewarding ride.

Etape du Tour - Mourenx > Pau (179 km) - Monday, July the 11th 2005:
7,885 riders set off from Mourenx this morning at 7h00 for the 13th edition of the Etape du Tour Vélo Magazine, under an extremely clement sky. It took over 35 minutes for all of the riders to cross the starting line. The last competitor was scheduled at 17h30. He was the 7 242 rider to cross the finishing line. Depending on your fitness, the Etape may be the ultimate challenge, or 'just' a hard, rewarding ride.
An i-team of 26 riders lined up at Mourenx, 23 completed the course - here's how they got on:
2 TONY MAYER 07h 13' 12"
3 DEAN MORGAN 7h 19' 10 24"
4 DAVE SHAW 07h 25' 58"
5 GUY WATSON 07h 29' 42"
6 JOHN ROGERSON 07h 33' 01"
7 PETE NEVILLE 07h 39' 54"
8 ALEC JOHNSON 07h 50' 20"
9 RICHARD STEPHENS 07h 54' 24"
10 HOWARD PLUMB 07h 59' 06"
11 COLIN FYFE 08h 04' 24"
12 ANDY JONES 08h 08' 24"
13 WENDY SPRUCE 08h 13' 02"
14 GUY CLARKE 08h 13' 48"
15 STEVE SMITH 08h 40' 27"
16 STEPHEN SCOTT 08h 43' 31"
17 JERRY DIBBEN 08h 41' 36"
17 GEOFF DICKINSON 08h 48' 58"
19 MIKE BEAUMONT 08h 59' 01"
20 PAUL MORRIS 09h 08' 05"
21 STANLEY PETERS 09h 09' 31"
22 ROGER FORREST 09h 31' 57"
23 PAUL GATENBY 09h 51' 48"
Nearly Finishers:
Ian Barbour - unable to avoid a pothole in fast moving bunch and crashed out with only 5km to go! Confused I had to pick him up from hospital but thankfully nothing broken and he was able to join in with the Champagne back at the hotel
Kevin Astle - got broomed on Aubisque with only 40km to go Confused
Tony Childs / Sandy MAcFarlane - got broomed just after LAruns.
Jon Skidmore - got broomed on the Marie Blanc
Well done to all those that took part - you all gave it your best shots.
Individual's Stories:

Geoff Dickinson- Blackburn, Lancashire
I have now returned from France and read with interest the comments that have been written. My Etape was everything I hoped it would be. I had no aspirations other than to finish within the time limit and to enjoy the ride which I did. I can remember nearly every kilometer and could write a very long article but instead I will confine myself to listing my abiding memories of the Etape:
1. Cruising en peleton towards Oleron Sainte Marie on a beautiful, fresh, sunny morning with the green Pyrenees in the distance
2. The writing on the road part way up the Col de Marie Blanque which said ''Ici commence l' enfer" - "Hell Begins Here"!
3. The 2 hour, 18km ascent of the Col d'Aubisque - yes it was a hot, hard grind and I stopped twice for about 30 seconds each for a stretch but it felt such an achievement to crest the summit. I never realized a kilometer could be so long.
4. The traverse of the Cirque du Litor and the magnificent views of the Hautes Pyrenees in high summer
5. The encouragement of the spectators and the crowds parting for me at the crest of the Col du Soulor.
6. My increasing confidence and speed in descending from the Soulor.
7. Meeting my family in the streets of Nay who handed me fresh bottles
8. The last few fast kms into Pau and seeing and passing the Flamme Rouge.
9. Attacking that last little hill into the Place de Verdun and then crossing the line with both arms in the air!!
10. The 6 months of training leading up to the Etape, the self knowledge I have gained and the much better understanding I have of just what it takes to finish the Tour, never mind be competitive. I will never watch a TDF stage in quite the same way again.
Would I do another Etape? Probably but not for a while yet. There are many more cycling challenges out there that I would like to tackle not just in the UK but further afield as well.Well done to all i-team members whether you finished or not and thanks to Guy for some excellent coaching advice.

Richard Stephens - Shrewsbury, Shropshire
The etape for me was one of the best cycling experiences to date. Weather was great, thousands of cyclists with no traffic to worry about. The noise of all those wheels was incredible.
I started right at the back (8214) and so had a lot to do to try and make up a few places so as to not get snagged at the climbs. Unfortunately, despite passing quite a few and maintaining a reasonable pace, it all stopped on the first col which forced me to walk part of the way. On the climb of the Marie Blanque I felt quite comfortable, sitting on the wheels of 2 Norwegians. However, 1 KM before the summit, it all stopped again and I had to walk with everybody else to the top. This added quite a bit of time to my overall (20-30 mins). Slightly frustrated by this (especially as it did not do my cleats much good (front screw fell out)), I then set another goal of riding all the way up the Aubisque in a reasonable time; this I achieved in a time of 1hr 35 mins. Relatively slow descent (my particular weakness) which was even slower after a quicker cyclist overtook me and then crashed quite badly in front of me; luckily I missed him and carried on. From then on, it was a good run into PAU, although I had to keep jumping from group to group to make up some time. Met Wendy about 20KM before PAU, which surprised me, as I had forgotten she was riding (she was riding at a very good pace). It was good to see a friendly i-team face by then. Last 2 climbs were longer than expected, but some really good descents (more my type) which helped keep the speed up. Finished 6 mins outside of silver, which was frustrating due to being forced to walk for some time. However, it was all that I had imagined and was a brilliant experience.

Wendy Spruce - Hill Head, Hampshire
Here's my story...
Having traveled down to the Pyrenees on Friday, we drove the course on Saturday. This had both good and bad points, good to know what was coming up next and bad because the weather was bad that day! The Aubisque was in the clouds, you couldn't see more than 15m ahead of you in places and it was cold! I spent the next two days wondering whether I had bitten off more than I could chew.
As is always the way when you have to get up early I didn't sleep that well on Sunday night so set off early to the start at Mourenx. This meant that I was at the front of the pen. It was a great experience to be with so many other people all with the same aim and trying to converse in O level French proved quite challenging. It also had the benefit of reducing my nerves!
At exactly 7am the Etape started. From my viewpoint I could see all the early starters go by, including Guy and Kevin. Starting about five minutes after them I doubted if I would see them again! My original plan had been to set off steadily. However, my fear of the time limit resulted in a much faster 50k to the Ichere than intended. Along the way I overtook Kevin, who looked comfortable and was overtaken by Paul M and John R. Feeling strong and remembering to eat and drink I arrived at the foot of the Ichere. It was a steady climb, nothing too steep, the most frustrating part was having to walk on account of a "bouchon", too many people walking meant that you couldn't weave your way through. However, there was a good atmosphere, which almost made up for it. The descent was not as bad as I had feared, with the last section into the valley being extremely enjoyable.
I took the opportunity at the first feed station to grab some water to replenish my stocks for the Marie Blanque. Riding along the valley I managed to join a small group so we made good progress and quickly arrived at the MB. By this time I was beginning to relax and realize that I should be able to get to Laruns before the elimination time. The climb started off gently (it's all relative!) but again, due to sheer numbers, everything came to a standstill and we were forced to walk the last kilometer to the top. Although annoying it was probably a blessing as it meant that I arrived at the top still feeling good. The feeding station was hectic but I managed to grab a cheese sandwich (heaven!), bananas and water before setting off on the descent. It was great! Traveling at 60kph on a sunny day in the mountains takes some beating and I had to keep reminding myself to look around and enjoy the scenery. Turning the corner at the bottom, heading off towards Laruns I heard a "Come on W2W" - great motivation for the flat section before the Aubisque.
Even knowing that the Aubisque was long didn;t make it any easier to climb. having set myself a target time to climb it, it quickly became apparent that I was far too optimistic, so I had to keep re-setting the target. There is nothing quite as demoralising as climbing for an hour and still realising that you are only just over half way there! It was extremely hot,there was little shade, my feet hurt and the temptation to walk (especially when so many others were) was high. However, thanks to my triple Wink Wink my legs kept going and my head won the battle. Reaching the top, with all the enthusiastic roadside support (probably more because I was a girl- sorry guys) was worth the effort. After another battle to fight my way through to the tables at the feeding station I was on my way. Quietly confident that I would not be broomed I actually began to enjoy myself. The views from the top were stunning and it was a shame that I didn't have time to appreciate them more. The climb of the Soulor was not as bad as I had feared at this stage of the day and I was soon racing down (through the dreaded tunnel - especially dark with sunglasses on) towards Pau. That descent was undoubtedly the highlight of my day!! It was fast, not too busy and the gradient such that you didn't have to brake too much. Passing some people made it even better.. Laughing Laughing It was the point at which I realised that all the training was worthwhile!!
There were large groups of people racing in huge peleton's towards Pau and I was surprised that I felt comfortable with the speed and, in fact, wanted to go faster. There seemed to be a reluctance to do any work with everyone quite happy to sit in and rest. I came across Richard Stephens who got fed up with this and worked his way through the groups. Just before Nay I, too, decided that I wanted to go faster so set off ahead of the group just to see what would happen. The answer was nothing! No one seemed worried. The last two smaller climbs were made more bearable by the fact that the end was in sight, the crowds were cheering and there was a man with a hose cooling everyone off!!
And then the markers at the side of the road started counting down the last few kilometers until the 2k and finally the 1k banner came into sight. I met a couple of English guys as we rode the last kilometer and we all let out a collective "oh no!" when we saw the hill up to the finish but the adrenaline kicked in, we turned the corner and there was the finish - a great relief..
Without wanting to get involved in an Oscar style "thank you" speech I would like to say thank you to Guy, for being welcoming when I joined the club and to everyone who has offered me advice during the past few months and reminded me to stay positive. It's what makes i-team so special!!

Paul Morris - Hill Head, Hampshire
For me the Etape was a nightmare and being brutally honest I would have to sum it up as one of the hardest thing I have ever done. Apart from the blow out on the rear and the broken saddle pointing to the sky I've spent the last week wondering where I went wrong?
The first part for me was very comfortable. I was keen to make haste but save energy for the harder parts. 33kms was completed in the first hour and further 25kms completed in the second including the first "major" climb. On the day I climbed what I thought was a hard* but a comfortable Marie Blanque with a tightly packed group and it was here on the descent that all was not well. I took on food but was unable to swallow. On the run down to Laruns I met up with John R again and I told him I felt a bit pants on the descent but was starting to feel a little better. Then I hit the Aubisque and knew all was not well .I started falling off the pace and was unable to generate any power even on the lower slopes. Then I hit the steeper ones and things went backwards, and I started to overheat. I made it to the first tunnel and stayed a little while. I then slogged on to the car park on the turn before riding to a standstill just before the next tunnel. I then made it to the next tunnel and again stayed a little while. Here I saw Wendy go by looking very strong. The last few kms were hard for me. Overheating and not generating any power I ended up having to walk / cycle. Towards the top Steve Smith passed me and this gave a bit of encouragement to try and stay with him. I remounted and rode myself into a standstill about 2km from the summit. All in all it took me over 2.5 hrs to climb the 17kms of the Aubisque.
The descent I normally enjoy but again I wasn't comfortable and later to my horror realised that in climbing I had pushed my seat right back in the clamp, rotating the seat to maximum elevation upwards and bent the 8mm retaining bolt. I tried to resolve this later on but was unable to do so. The descent also provided an opportunity for me to cool and I joined in a quick moving group taking my turn at the front but ended up dropping then on the small inclines towards the finish. Then bang – rear blowout. I was on my way within a few minutes and chased after a passing group but gave up the chase. Out of this group dropped a small female and I offered her my wheel for a little while on the flatter parts. Things seemed to be picking up and I was starting to get use to the unusual, but slightly painful seat position. Then bang, the seat rail breaks and I have to take turns standing more and sitting less. I roll along with a group at around 40kph and remember seeing the 20km to go sign. Then those two hills. I was unable to climb the first but believe I managed to slog up the second smaller hill. The run in after that was uneventfully slow but painful.
I have just returned from France after spending a few extra days to tackle some other Cols including the Aubisque again. Second time around with "semi"fresh legs I complete the climb, from Laruns, in under 1.5hrs at an average of 12.3kph
* Heart rate data indicates around 30min for the last 4km of this climb at a heart rate of between 181 and 190

Andrew MacFarlane - New Zeeland
This was my second Etape and my prime aim this year was to avoid the problems I had last year. Mainly bonking big time after 3 hours and riding for 7 hours with cramped legs! There was the possibility of a silver classification but it would be tight. My preparation for the event was good and my condition was far more advanced than at Etape time last year. After a rapid start the roads leading up to the first climb of the day were smooth and fast. Andy Jones, my brother, Grant Roberts and myself took it easy moving from group to group, making sure we abused TM Racing as we flew by. The aim of the game at this stage was energy conservation, although it was tough to hold back our enthusiasm. The first few 'blips' in the road came and went; then through a narrow wooded gorge we hit the Col d'Ichere, the first climb of the day worthy of a spot on the profile. Rising to 674m it was a pleasure with a few hairpins adding to character of the climb. I was alone.
The descent was brilliant. A technical challenge with yet more hairpins. It wasn't for the faint hearted, I myself almost over cooked it on (just) one occasion but for those not endowed with such descending prowess it was too much. One poor chap promptly planted his face into the tarmac on one corner after deciding the gutter was faster. I guess it wasn't. The valley offered some respite before the Col De Marie Blanque. Which was a right B@st@rd!! The lower slopes were challenging but manageable though as we climbed the road got steeper rising to an average of 11% with bits over 13%. The legs were definitely hurting. It was time to partly open my suitcase of strength and plow on. The climb to 1035m came and went and once again descended passing squealing breaks and many having 'oh $xxx!' moments.
From the Marie Blanque to the Aubisque there was a slight respite and a chance to take on board some food and return some feeling to ones' legs. At the end of the valley there she was. The Col d' Aubisque. 17km of France's finest tarmac rising to 1677m. The lower slopes were slight and progress was easy at 16/17kph but it soon got tougher with speeds dropping to around 8kph. The suitcase of strength was well and truly open along with my trusty suitcase of courage. I felt the need for Brandy but thought better of it. Stopping was out of the question. The kilometers slowly ticked by with the scenery and roadside 'tottie' offering a pleasant distraction. A Kodak moment presented itself and I obliged with a few snaps for the photo album.
At the crest of the climb I paused to refuel and checked my stats. 22.3kph average, I realised that if I chucked myself down the mountain I was on for a silver, 25kph was required 26kph was the target. I entered 'The Zone.' The Soulor was a slight impediment to my progress but it was over quickly and I bombed it down the mountain. Breaking late and defying the force of gravity, with less than a square inch of rubber prevented my machine from slipping out from underneath me. On the edge man…..nerves of steel. No one passed me but I passed many. My average speed slowly rose….At the base I joined a good group and we cruised at over 45kph. The crowds in the towns were amazing, I felt like I was THE MAN!!!!! Which I was as far as I was concerned. Two very insignificant but painful, soul destroying and knee breaking 'pimples' on the French landscape later and I wasn't feeling quite as good about myself…but then there it was the Flame Rouge and the final kilometer. Fanbloodytastic!!!! 7 hours and 7 minutes after starting I had finished. I was a mess, I was in that mystical place sometimes seen at the end of a long ride. I'd failed to drink and eat as much as I should have since the Aubisque and simple directions towards the coach had me do a small tour of Pau. Cars...Heat....Sun....bike.......feet..ahhhhh!! But really I couldn't care less I'd made the silver cut off by 3 minutes. Yeah Baby!
Job Done.
So there you are a 'short' account, Only 700 words.
Check out a few of those 'Kodak moments.'

Myself and training partner Andrew flew down from Gatwick to Toulouse on the Saturday, our base was Lannemazan (about 45 mins drive from Pau).
On the Sunday we set off to register and after checking out the travel options decided to leave our bikes there over night with the aim of getting the official transport from Pau early in the morning leaving our car at the finish. This didn't prove to be as wise a decision as we thought !
Monday morning we depart Hotel at 4:30 am, arrive at Pau at 5:15, bus waiting there we think this is perfect. But the bus isn't full so it waits, and it waits and it waits until at 6am it sets off - it dropped us off at 6:55am ! so we had 5 minutes to fetch bikes, use the loo, get setup, find our starting pen. We didn't manage it and stood at the side watching bike after bike go by when we should have been pedaling. Eventually we managed to sneak past the security and join in - but it wasn't the best start. As with the etape du dales in May we decided to set off at moderate pace (if you count 18mph moderate), but we were getting passed by rider after rider, we felt sure most of the riders at this stage must have been putting in too much too early. We stayed together until the first categorised climb - at which point I slowly pulled away from him. (We'd agreed that if we got split on the climbs we'd just go at our own rythmn so I didn't worry ) . ABout 3/4 of the way up I got a huge surprise when I had to get off - not due to any inability on my part but to a huge bottleneck of cyclists. After standing for a couple of minutes another huge surprise - my hrm was reading only 64 bpm ! Once I got going again there was a nice descent followed by the Colde Marie Blanque.
I passed Stan Peters near the bottom, Stan was struggling after trying to make up ground following 3 punctures! I offered to lead him for a while but he declined so I kept going at my own steady pace. Near the top (maybe 3/4 of the way up) I stopped. I'd sussed out earlier this year then the easiest way to recover is to stop and to then cycle again when the heart rate 30 BPM lower.


2006 Etape Du Tour

By Guy_Watson, in Articles,

Teaser Paragraph:

"24 hours after the event it's easy to be objective, but this has to have been one of the hardest physical challenges that I have done..."

Wendy Spruce writes about her 2006 Etape

Having had the luxury of arriving in the alps on Friday and looking at firstly, Alpe d'Huez and then over the next two days the rest of the course, it became apparent that it was going to be significantly tougher than last year. The relentlessness of both the Izoard and the Lauteret were evident immediately.

Having met up with Steve in the village on Sunday afternoon I managed to get a room in the Ibis hotel in Gap, approx 800m from the start! Watching the first half of the football with the French was fantastic, especially when they scored, the atmosphere was fantastic. However, I managed to drag myself away for an early night!

Monday dawned clear, sunny and even at 6am very warm. Having made the decision to be at the front of my pen in order to build in as much time as possible, I was in place just before 6 and contemplating the day ahead.

Arriving at the top I took more water before the fantastic descent into Briancon. Having stopped briefly due to an accident, this was a glorious descent- stunning views - and made the climbing worthwhile. However, it was over all too quickly and, having re-fueled at the bottom it was off to the Lauteret. Several large pelotons formed on this road - 28k to the top - so I took the opportunity to sit in and try to save energy. However, by this stage the sun was becoming extremely strong - I think it was low 30s in the end - and, with little breeze- the heat was draining. Mentally this was tough; I saw John R who stopped for water I think - the heat off the road was intense!Fortunately there were plenty of English people around to talk to which helped to pass the time.

Arriving at the top I fought my way through the crowds to the water fountain before setting off for the descent through La Grave; again this was absolutely stunning and a reminder of the beauty of the mountains, something that isn't always easy to remember. Having encountered a couple of smaller climbs, it was then onto the straight run into Bourg d'oisans and Alpe d'Huez.

Nothing can prepare you for this! Even though I had seen it before and read Tony's notes that said it could take 2 hours, having to do it after 175k was tougher than ever. The combination of the gradient and the heat was truly draining and anyone who got up there should be proud. Naively I had thought,before the event, that those 21 hairpins couldn't be that bad - I was proved wrong. That climb, on top of the rest of the ride is the toughest thing that I have ever done. Although there are parts that are less steep, they didn't feel it. People were walking, hiding in the shade, dipping their feet in the streams that ran off the side of the road and taking up every offer to dive under sprinklers or have water thrown on them. Every hairpin had people sitting summoning the will to carry on. I stopped to fill up with water a couple of times, it was just impossible to drink enough. Every kilometre seemed to take longer than the one before!

Finally, the last bend appeared and the road flattened out through the village, before the last short climb to the finish, where the crowds were cheering. I am not ashamed to say that I burst into tears!

I was so exhausted and yet relieved to have made it. I had pushed myself harder than I can remember and much more so than last year.After yet more water, and a quick chat with Tony, Kathy and Howard (good ride - only slightly slower than Chris Hoy!), I set off back down the hill to cheer on some other i-teamers. I saw Steve (smiling for the camera), Rob S, Annette, Greg and Jerry. Well done to Jerry for finishing as your cramp was so bad when I saw you.

So, what sticks in my memory? Well - the views throughout the day when I actually lifted my head up to look at where I was! Absolutely stunning. The friendliness of the other riders and, as per last year, the crowd. All nationalities were supporting and cheering. The huge sense of achievement in finishing. Everyone who took part should be proud, whether finishers or not. This was a testing day and serves as a reminder of what the pro's have to go through.

Having said "never again" this time yesterday, I am already thinking that no other Etape could be as hard as this one so maybe I will do next year!

Teaser Paragraph:

Suppose I could tell you about something that could take 1-2 hours off of your Etape time? - I've got your attention right!

Have you ever thought about how much slower you will go if you are wearing one layer too much or too less clothing?

Heat, Clothing & Your Sportive/Racing/Training Performance:By Guy Watson : British Cycling Level 2 Coach:

Suppose I could tell you about something that could take 1-2 hours off of your Etape time? - I've got your attention right!

Remember all of the fuss surrounding Paula Radcliffe when she had to abandon the Olympic Marathon' She'd been one of the big favorites and prior to the event she had prepared meticulously and yet she failed in her target event. There has been a lot of speculation as to why she quit but I recently attended a lecture hosted by Professor Mike Tipton that opened up my eyes as to how important clothing and heat regulation is to performance.

Mike Tipton is Professor of Human and Applied Physiology at University of Portsmouth and is The World Expert in survival in extreme environments and has developed training programs for the SAS - all very interesting but not exactly relevant to cycling I thought' - how wrong I was!

The introduction to the lecture outlined how man fits into his environment, with reference to the facts that only 30% of The Earth is land, and of that land, 65% is uninhabitable. The point of all this information was to emphasise that, without the inventions of clothing and housing, humans would still be living in a narrow strip either side of the Equator. The normal body temperature for a healthy human is 37 deg. C - and we can't tolerate more than a few degrees either side of that before becoming very ill - there are not many places on the planet that stay at 37 degrees all year round! So believe it or not, Europe is an extreme environment for humans to live in - and cycle in.

We are all pretty familiar with the way body does everything possible to regulate our internal temperature, from sweating and shivering if we are slightly under / over dressed - right through to collapse, coma and death if you are having a particularly bad day! What sportsmen often forget to consider that, this regulation process places additional loads on an already stressed body. If you are after maximum performance - or just want to ride at the same speed more comfortably - the more you can help the body regulate it's temperature, the more energy will be available for the actual activity.

Now comes the important part - we all should know the dangers of hypo & hyper thermia - they are DEFINITELY A RISK TO BE CONSIDERED in your next Sportive, Etape or Fondo and I will outline the dangers in a moment - but what about the sliding scale of how your performance is affected in between the two extremes of too hot and too cold' As sportsmen we are always looking at ways of squeezing that little bit extra out of ourselves - we train hard, try to control our body weight, take supplements, spend a fortune on equipment - what about clothing' Have you ever thought about how much slower you will go if you are wearing one layer too much or too less clothing'

The problem is we never really see a detrimental effect because unless we are really pushing it, our bodies just let us get on with it. If we go out training in shorts and short sleeves on a spring day when it really is a bit too chilly, we just push a bit harder too stay warm and get home with no real harm done. Try that on a ride of more than a few hours and you will start to become hypothermic. So just because you can go out and ride with clothing that isn't't quite suitable for the conditions ' it doesn't mean that you are not paying a price for it ' you simply will not be performing at our best because your body is having to compensate for your poor choice of clothing ' this uses up valuable resources that could be used for making your bike move faster. So forget the tough guy attitude if you are serious about your training.

Even with the form of your life and everything perfect, the Etape is going to push your body hard.
After Pace Judgment and Nutrition/hydration, doing all you can to help the body maintain its optimum temperature will have the biggest effect on your performance. And as Paula Radcliffe found out, if it is a hot day, temperature regulation will be THE major factor. Professor Mike Tipton went as far to suggest that her choice to wear that baseball cap could have just pushed her body over the edge.

Some Interesting Facts:
Nuclear/Biological Protection Suit,) death would occur in around 4 hours

At rest, the human body produces around 100W of heat energy ' ever burn your hand on a lightbulb' That's a lot of heat! If the body could not loose any of this heat (' the nearest you could get to this would be to wear a
During hard exercise (e.g. climbing a French col!) - the human body can produce up to 1700W! - that's the same as a small fan heater! - if you were not able to loose any of this heat, you would be dead in a few minutes.

The main way for us to loose heat is EVAPORATION of sweat - just sweating doesn't do anything.

Even with perfect hydration, it is not possible to replace all of the liquid you loose through sweating, you will continue to dehydrate.

Even low levels of dehydration can impact performance and it is claimed that a loss of 2% bodyweight (1kg for a 50k athlete) can reduce performance by 10 to 20% - that's as much as 1-2 hours extra on the Etape!

Clothing choice for a sportive event:

I have used extremes to illustrate what I am trying to say but the main message that I want to get across is that in between, there is massive scope to increase your performance by using intelligent choices of clothing. It can be assumed that in the Pyrenees in July, heat is going to be a major factor but don't forget the cold. Cycling is unique in that one minute you can be over heating on a climb and the next you can be chilled on a descent - so try to buy the best cycling specific clothing that you can get hold of. Your ideal choice of bike wear needs to be able to cope with the temperature extremes that you can reasonably expect and be adaptable enough to allow you to be comfortable in the variations in between.

Minimum List (Ideal Conditions):
Shorts, Socks, Mitts, Helmet etc.
Arm Warmers (more adaptable than long sleeves)
High quality Race Cape or GoreTex jacket
Gillet (Sleeveless windproof zipped top)
Cotton Cap for under helmet


At the early AM start it will be cold so wear the lot.
Remove the cape as soon as you are about to move off and stow neatly in a rear pocket. If you wait until the start you won't be able to do this for a while due to riders being all around you and you will then start to overheat.
As you get to the first climb - remove gillet.
Replace gillet for the descent - repeat throughout the day.
For big descents - put on your cape
If you have to stop (feeds, punctures etc) first remove a layer of clothing to prevent overheating - then before you chill replace the layer and then add a cape for longer stops.
Have one bottle with just water in it for drenching yourself. Remember, evaporation is the key to loosing heat - so only drench exposed skin / hair.
All of the removing / replacing of clothing may seem like a pain but like hydration, if you practice it in your training it becomes 2nd nature.

Symptoms of Dehydration:
less-frequent urination
dry skin
dry mouth and mucous membranes
increased heart rate and breathing

Symptoms of Heat Stroke:

disorientation, agitation or confusion
sluggishness or fatigue
hot, dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty
a high body temperature
loss of consciousness
rapid heart beat

Finally, an interesting point about the importance of heat regulation and cycling:

Professor Mike Tipton worked with British Cycling at the Athens Olympics. One of the first things he did was to ban the use of pre-cooling ice jackets. You may have seen our rowers and other cycling nations strutting around in body-warmer-type jackets stuffed with ice packs.

What Mike Tipton knew was that hardly any cooling effect takes place when the coolant acts on the trunk and chest. So while the other nations were mainly just posing, all the British Cycling Team just relaxed in loungers with hands placed in buckets of water on either side and got twice the cooling effect due to the array of veins and arteries in the hands and wrists.

Teaser Paragraph:

Even with perfect pedal / cleat setup and saddle position, everyone is vunerable to knee injury. For instance, soft tissue knee injury is common in Spring because riders often increase their training volume too quickly when they leave it too late to get fit for the racing season - or they go from 2 hours to 5 hours on the first warm Sunday.

A cyclist's guide to knee pain - causes and treatments:

The most common causes of knee pain in cyclists are:

* Faulty saddle height or position
* Bent pedal axel following a crash
* Crank too long - especially if you have chondromalacia
* Pushing excessively high gears (slow cadence in cold weather)
* Too much leg work in the gym
* Cleat alignment
* Individual cyclist anatomy

Common Types of Knee Pain:
Anterior Pain (Front of Knee)

Possible reasons for the pain:

+ patellar tendonitis
+ patellofemoral syndrome

Possible Causes

+ pushing BIG gears - cadence too low
+ saddle too low or too far forward
+ foot too far forward on the pedal
+ crank arms too long
+ leg length discrepancy with seat set for shorter leg

Possible solutions

+ ride at 75 rpm or higher
+ raise seat (in small increments of less than 5mm) or move seat back
+ move cleat forward 1 to 2 mm
+ shorten crank arms by 2.5 cm
+ set seat for longer, not shorter, leg with correction for the shorter leg

Posterior Pain (Back of Knee)

Possible reasons for the pain:

+ hamstring/gastrocnemius
+ neurovacular bundle

Possible Causes

+ saddle too high or too far back
+ too much pedal float
+ leg length discrepancy with no correction for shorter leg

Possible solutions

+ lower seat (in small increments) or move seat forward
+ limit float to 6 - 8 degrees
+ set seat for longer, not shorter, leg with correction for the shorter leg

Medial Pain (Inner Side of Knee)

Possible reasons for the pain:

+ medial collateral ligament
+ pes anserenus

Possible Causes

+ cleat position too wide - foot held externally rotated (toes point out)
+ excessive knee frontal plane motion
+ too little pedal float

Possible solutions

+ narrow foot position by moving cleat inwards
+ orthotic or wedge to correct foot alignment
+ pedal float should be 6 - 8 degrees

Lateral Pain (Outer Side of Knee)

Possible reasons for the pain:

+ iliotibial band
+ degenerative lateral meniscus

Possible Causes

+ cleat position too narrow - foot held internally rotated (toes pointed in)
+ too little pedal float
+ excessive knee frontal plane motion

Possible solutions

+ widen foot position by moving cleat away from the bike
+ pedal float should be 6 - 8 degrees
+ orthotic or wedge to correct foot alignment

Poor Technique can cause injury even with perfect pedal set up.

Eveen with perfect pedal / cleat setup and saddle position, everyone is vunerable to knee injury. For instance, soft tissue knee injury is common in Spring because riders often increase their training volume too quickly when they leave it too late to get fit for the racing season - or they go from 2 hours to 5 hours on the first warm Sunday.

Joint injuries that cause pain (rather than just an 'ache' or 'slight pull') normally develop over some time though and also take a long time to heal because compared to muscle and skin, cartalidge has a realtively poor blood supply. Incidently this is often a point overlooked when cyclists think that they are warmed up just because they are sweating - your core temperature can be high while at the same time, your joints are below a safe working temperature - that's why the professionals train in lots of layers. Remember, being warm while stationary does not take into account wind chill at 20-30 plus miles per hour - this is pretty unique to cycling and it is why cyclists wear specific clothing - clothing designed for running for instance, won't allways be up to the job.

So bearing this in mind - when pain arrives, it is important not to rush into changing things straight away, when all that might be needed is to cut back on training volume for a week or two. Dont start playing with pedals and cleats (assuming that you have had these set up properly and have been relatively pain free up to now.) You need to isolate the route cause by eliminantion and at the same time, not introduce other variables - so taking a rest will isolate overtraining from the equation first. If the pain persists or re-occurs, it is then that you should investigate some other possible causes like seat hieght and cleat setup - just don't do both together or you won't have isolated the root cause.

A common myth in cycling is that it is always prefferable to more 'float' in your cleat setup (the amount that you can move your heel in and out when your shoes are locked in.) This came from information from pedal manufacturers in the 90's that would say that their new pedal had 2 degress more float than other manufacturers. One manufacturer 'Speedplay' took this to extreemes - but this is not a set up that suits everyone and Speedplay now offer an alternative pedal with zero float.

The Effects of Poor Technique:
According to medical research 'In more than 80% of cyclists with patellofemoral pain, there was excessive side-to-side swinging of the knee during downstroke. This means that when you view your pedalling from front or back, your knees are not moving up and down in one plane. They are 'wobbling' - this can occur from learning poor technique when you start cycling, using too big a gear that causes your legs to 'buckle.' In some riders, this is made worse if there is excesive float in the pedal set up.

In the old days before clipless pedals, knee injuries were probably LESS common than they are now in my opinion. The reason is that you nearly always got perfect alighnment of the shoe plates, because you rode in your cycling shoes untill your pedals wore 'witness marks' in the sole of your shoe. All you did was line the cleat up with the marks and that was that.

Recognise that you have a prolem & put in place a rehab plan:
It is a big mistake to ignore pain and try to continue training in the hope that you will 'ride through it.' If pain occurs the day before a target event, there may be some justification in taking anti inflamitries to enable you to remain competitive - but you will need to allow a longer time to recover in the days following the event because by over-riding the warning signals, you will have done further damage. Forget about quick fixes and consentrate on permenant ones - you will take less time out of your career overall.

Possible rehab program for an over-use injury (NB. If in any doubt, consult a qualified physician or your GP):
1 - Stop cycling for at least 48 hours.
2 - Durring this time, take anti inflamitories (eg. ibuprofen) and some hot/cold presses to stimulate blood supply to speed up healing.
3 - Start gentle riding on 3rd day.
4 - In week one cut training down to 60 min rides.
5 - Do the first couple of days without cycling shoes and ride in trainers.
6 - If the pain is not so bad when you ride with trainers, you could have a problem due to cleat set up.
7- If the pain is no better, you could have an over-use injury.
8 - Continue riding in small gears for a further 7 days and re-assess.
9 - If the problem persists - you have an acute injury - Seek medical advice.

Don't be tempted to rush things or you will waste the time that you have already invested in the rehab program. A rehab program like this should nip the problem in the bud and prevent a longer enforced lay-off. I've used this method and found that my problem was a result of sitting about 3mm too high on my saddle and a cleat that moved out of alighnment while wrenching my foot out of my super tight SPDR pedals.

Long term prevention - warm up for at least 30 mins in cool condiditons, do after ride stretching, consider taking a Glucosamine supplement.

Some Further reading:
Sports Medicine - Cycling Pain & Injuries
How to prevent the 6 most common cycling injuries
Daily Telegraph - Preventing cycling injuries

Teaser Paragraph:

i-Team's President, Triple Commonwealth & Olympic Medalist & Double World Champion, Rob Hayles , has made available (exclusively to www.i-team.cc) his 2006 promotional video.


i-Team's President, Triple Commonwealth & Olympic Medalist & Double World Champion, Rob Hayles , has made available (exclusively to www.i-team.cc) his 2006 promotional video.

Rob seems to have been part of the GB Team Pusuit Squad for ever but do you remember his epic Tour of Britain Stage Victory over Stuart O'Grady?

Rob is famous for his showmanship & professionalism, this 3m 30s video aimed at corperate sponsors, does not dissapoint.


(Listen out for the cool sound track! Windows media player or similar required)

Teaser Paragraph:

...and neither does anyone else!

  • No one has paid 'Road Tax' for over 75 years!

  • There has been no direct relationship between Vehicle Excise Duty and government expenditure on public road since 1937 - Road construction and maintenance is funded by general taxation.

  • Roads aren't paid for by pay Tax on Petrol - which is a tax on petrol purchased & goes into the general taxation pot.

The term ‘road tax’ is well past its sell-by date and at best is misleading - at worst it is often used in the mistaken belief that having buying a tax disc provides some sort of superior entitlement over others. The fact is, in 1926, Winston Churchill started the process to abolish Road Tax because he didn't want motorists to think a token payment gave them ownership of the road.

i-Team is a pro-bicycle organisation - but in no way are we anti-motorist. 99.9% of our members drive a car (or are driven by parents etc.) when they are not riding the bike for leisure or commuting. i-Team.cc wants to present cycling in a positive image and we respect all other road users who show us respect, whether we are cycling or in a car.

above: 2 Petrol Heads Who Also Ride Bicycles: Guy Watson (i-Team Founder,) Rob Hayles (i-Team President)

Cyclists are not some sort of freeloading under-class who can't afford to buy a car!

Cyclists have been sharing the roads with other traffic for well over 100 years. Of course nearly all cyclists are car drivers themselves - a fact often conveniently forgotton whenever the subject of cyclists vs. motorists is debated.

The simple truth is that since most cyclists have at least one car in the family, when they leave their cars at home and ride to work or school, they are subsidising other road users! The same amount of Vehicle Excise Duty is paid whether the car is on the drive or not!

A lot of cyclists have insurance!

Approximately 50,000 cyclists are members of either the CTC or BC and so are automatically insured for 3rd Party Liability when cycling (they also receive free legal assistance.)

i-Team is a pro-bicycle organisation - but in no way are we anti-motorist. 99.9% of our members drive a car (or are driven by parents etc.) when they are not riding the bike for leisure or commuting. i-Team.cc wants to present cycling in a positive image and we respect all other road users who show us respect, whether we are cycling or in a car.

above: a group motorists who have left their cars (or their parent's cars!) at home while they enjoy a bike ride...

The cyclist's side of the story...

In the picture above, why does the guy riding on the front have his head down?

He's checking the time on his bike computer - have you ever glanced at the clock in your car? We all need to pay attention!

Why are these cyclists riding 2-abreast?
Cyclists have every right to share the road, they do not have the right to ride inconsiderably and obstruct other traffic for mile after mile - however...
The road above is an unclassified, twisty road with little traffic
Even if we were single file, there is not enough room for a car to over-take before the next bend
As soon as there is room to overtake, we will be moving over
It's not illegal to ride 2 abreast (and on narrow roads, it's often easier & safer for a motorist to overtake a relatively short, compact group, rather than a long, single and strung-out line of riders)
Most sane road users don't think twice about slowing down for horses or pedestrians in country lanes - how about treating responsible cyclists in the same way?

Cyclists should never deliberately obstruct other road users and often it can be best to be passive and single out just to demonstrate this - even when there is no safe place to overtake - just to prove that it is not possible to safely overtake even a single line of cyclists.

It's amazing how many people who would be happy to wait behind a couple of horses, risk their lives (and ours) - just to get in front of a cyclist. Sometimes, a bunch of cyclists might not hear a car behind them - please give a beep to let them know you are there and they should always try to assist your overtaking as soon as it is safe for everyone. Sometimes you might have bike riders who do nothing to help you pass - these are the same guys who hog the middle lane of the motorway lane of the motorway. It can be very frustrating when you meet idiots like this - but don't kill them! - you don't want that on your conscience...

Responsible cyclists do not obstruct the Traffic - They are The Traffic!

'what about all those 'Lycra Louts' who jump red lights and ride on pavements?' - how often do you hear that when cyclists come up in general conversation? Why do some people never stop and realise that these guys drive their cars just as irresponsibly?

These 'Lycra Louts' are the same idiots that cut you up on the motorway while using a mobile phone!Just riding a bike does not make you a saint, just us driving a car does not make you an idiot. Some people will always appear to be a bit further down the evolutionary chain because that's just how they behave. Rest assured, out on the road it can be survival of the fittest - if a cyclist rides irresponsibly they could easily end up in hospital one day and could even end up dead.The sad thing is that only too often the idiots kill others before they themselves get hurt - but at least if they are an idiot on their bike, there is virtually no chance of them killing anyone else...

'Why do I see cyclists riding on the road when there is a bike path nearby?'The Department for Transport, Notes for Walking and Cycling state in Annex D: Code Of "Conduct For Cyclists," that if you want to cycle at speeds of over 18mph you should cycle in the road.

http://www.dft.gov.u...ctnoticefor1688 18 mph is easily achievable if you are fit and so a bike path designed for children and elderly cyclists can present more risks to a fast cyclist, than using the road. All to often it would appear that paths have been designed by engineers that either don't ride a bike often, or are not fit enough to ride at the easily achievable 18-25 mph that the sports cyclist or faster commuter may ride at. Here's some of the risks that are frequently encountered:
Path on the wrong side side of the road - more dangerous to cross the traffic.
No drop kerb access from the road to the path - unable to get from the road to the path without first swinging out into the traffic.
Path too narrow (2 cyclists riding towards each other at 20mph? - you need at least 2m width.)
Pedestrians wandering across path, cars parked on paths, badly positioned road furniture
Glass and debris on path

Cyclists will always prefer to use a well designed bike path - thankfully the situation is improving in the UK but we have a fair way to go to catch up with Belgium and Holland where the bike paths are wide enough to get ambulances through grid locked traffic - now that would benefit everyone...

Why we ride bikes...

So if you are not a keen cyclist, you might want to know why we still want to get out there and brave the roads - here's a few reasons...

Cycling is highly accessible, independent, quiet, fast, convenient, door-to-door, healthy, and fun. Like swimming it's 'low impact' (less chance of stress injuries - but have you ever tried swimming to work?)
Regular cyclists enjoy a fitness level equal to that of a person ten years younger. (Source: National Forum for Coronary Heart Disease Foundation, Sharp)
Cycling at least twenty miles a week reduces the risk of heart disease to less than half that for non-cyclists who take no other exercise (Source: British Heart Foundation, Morris)
The UK has the worst traffic congestion in Europe. (Source: Commission for Integrated Transport, November 2001).
Cycling is a lot of fun - especially with a group of mates (Source: 100's of i-Team members )

Cycling doesn't have to be inherently dangerous... Cycling on the roads does not have to be considered more dangerous than a lot of other things we may take for granted - like crossing the road for instance. There are risks, as there is in anything we do (and also, the greater the perceived risk, often the more fun something can be) - but the risks need to be managed and to do this we need to have a choice of where and when to ride. So it's no use shoe-horning everyone into some one-size-fits-all-cyclists solution.Roads here in the UK are getting busier - there is competition for space and cyclists are vulnerable if other road users are not aware of how to behave around cyclists. But let's not paint too bleak a picture:
3.6 million people use their bicycles on a weekly basis (Source: Countryside Commission, 1995).
1.1 million people are daily commuters (Source: Department of Transport, 1991).

How cycling benefits other road users...

Cycling does not just benefit the individual participant. Imagine if even half of those 1.1 million daily commuters decided to give up cycling and go back to their cars? Can you imagine the chaos? So cycling on roads really is something to be encouraged - the more bikes on the road the better - especially for the motorist. Most motorists are of course responsible but some get frustrated with cyclists - all they see are cyclists 'in their way.' Impatience can cause 'accidents'...

For instance, a motorist that might happily wait behind 2 horse riders, until it is safe to overtake, may see 'a problem' with 2 cyclists riding side by side, - on the same, quite road. Unfortunately, this attitude sometimes results in a near-miss, confrontation or occasionally, an accident.Remember, these guys on their bikes may have gone out of their way to find a quiet road and there isn't any requirement to ride single file throughout what might be anything up to a 5 hour training ride for a race or charity event. The highway code does not at present recommend riding in single file unless the roads are 'busy and narrow' - fair enough.

How cycling can benefit society...

Imagine if all the children currently being driven to school were cycling to school with their parents. In the vast majority of cases this would be quicker from door to door and think about the health benefits for our society. But how dangerous some might say - 'all that busy traffic?'. But if you think about it - more cyclists on the roads means less cars - and those who were driving past 100's of school children would be driving VERY carefully - so the roads could then be safer for everyone...

Let's try to ditch the labels please...

The very terms 'Cyclist' and 'Motorist' are divisive - we are all just 'road users.' Everyone needs to wake up to the fact that the vast majority of cyclists are actually motorists who've chosen to leave their cars at home for a particular journey.

Our mission...
i-Team seeks to increase cycling safety and awareness generally by supporting local cycling friendly organisations whenever possible.
i-Team cycling club aims to encourage recreational and competitive cycling in all of it's forms.
i-Team actively encourages members to develop their cycling skills to improve their own safety & that of others.
i-Team is pro choice - we always encourage wearing of helmets but also recognise that a bike helmet is only designed for an impact of up to 12mph - it wont make you invulnerable!
Learning to ride safely in traffic, educating the general public about cyclists and just taking a quieter road for your journey, will go a lot further to protect you from all potential injuries - not just ones to the head.
Remember cyclists have rights the same as any other road user but ride safely and defensively, with respect to other road users at all times.

Above - this is becoming increasingly rare these days - a quiet road away from other traffic

Further reading:

The Highway Code (Rules for Cyclists) – The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club Version


Road Tax - There's no such thing...

Teaser Paragraph:

It was the summer of 1986 and I was at work in the Royal Naval Aircraft Yard, Fleetlands, chatting to a fellow apprentice about the quality of the nickel plate that I had just inducted on to my 'Brain Rourke' 753. John knew a bit about cycling and trained with a bike when preparing for his amateur boxing fights. He shook his head saying, "You should never 'plate 753…" I was pretending to listen to him but as I watched the electrolyte drip from my gleaming creation, I was thinking about planning a summer ride across Europe...

The Fellowship of the (52 tooth) Ring (3 Brits Abroad on Bikes)

It was the summer of 1986 and I was at work, chatting to a fellow apprentice about the quality of the nickel plate that I had just on to my 'Brain Rourke' 753. John knew a bit about cycling and trained with a bike when preparing for his amateur boxing fights. He shook his head saying, "You should never 'plate 753…" I was pretending to listen to him but as I watched the electrolyte drip from my gleaming creation, I was thinking about planning a summer ride across Europe.

I had always been fascinated by the idea that, in theory, once you got off the ferry, you can ride, across one continuous landmass, to the Far East or Siberia. Knowing our limitations, we aimed a bit nearer home than Siberia and 3 weeks later, myself, John and Robin were rolling off the ferry in Dieppe, on a 2 week jaunt to Rome. The combination of a lack of research, inadequate preparation and questionable map reading skills, ensured that it was to prove an event full trip.

80 miles and 2 punctures in to the ride and it's all smiles, 80's hair do's and retro jerseys. "This is the furthest East I've ever been Master Frodo..."

Day 1

At Dieppe we encountered our first problem of many... the ferry had been delayed leaving Newhaven and it was 10pm when we docked in France. Without any lights, we had no choice but to settle down at the foot of the chateau wall and wait for day break. As it was July, the nights were short and so we didn't have to wait long for the dawn. We spent most of the night chatting excitedly about what may be in store for us.
The French are a most civalised nation - where else would you find public wash facilities in the middle of a roundabout?

If you've never toured on your bike, you really must try it. Pure racer's just don't understand what they are missing, spending the whole year 'eye-balls-out!' It is hard to describe the feeling of independence and freedom, that you get from carrying all you need for days on board, unless you have tried it for yourself.

Day 2

Setting out that morning we didn't even bother with the map and just headed East across the French quarter of The North European Plain and into the rising sun. For hours we didn't see a soul until we reached St. Quentin, where a few locals took videos and photos of 3 mad 'Roost Bifs' washing and lathering up in their town fountain.

An English 'Lad' abroad - sad!

We soon discovered that one of the reasons why the roads were so quiet - it was a Departmental Bank Holiday. This was to prove a real pain because we hadn't changed any money on the boat and only had a few Centimes between us. Our travelers cheques were pretty useless as we didn't find anywhere open to cash them in. We had to ride the whole day on water only. John did produce a battered box of 'emergency' porridge oats and proceeded to soak them with a bottle of Perrier that he had obtained somewhere. Despite encouraging grunts between mouthfuls, we did not take him up on his offer to share the fizzy wallpaper adhesive with him.

Despite 300 miles without any proper food spirits were high. The lad in the background is waiting for that french stick to be safely stowed before entering tent...

Day 3

Day 3 and we entered the beautiful Ardennes, following some of the roads used in the hilly, classic, Liege-Bastogne-Liege. That night, with some schedules cashed, we treated ourselves to staying in a campsite. We anticipated the feeling of 'luxury' showers but it was short lived. The showers had been locked an hour earlier that evening and - while trying to 'Bunk in over the top Watson style,' a certain porky team manager, ripped a wash basin off the wall. We had to do a runner - water was spraying every where. (Years later I called into the campsite on a driving holiday and I really felt guilty when I saw the neat row of basins, minus one - they never replaced it. - we are so sorry...)

Take 3 fresh faced Lads, a wheel and a haystack...(check out that biker's tan!)
...and have some fun! (pathetic!)

Day 4

Day four and we decided that it would be a good idea to consult the map. Our plan up to now was just to head East and turn Right when we got to the Rhine. Then obviously (!) you just follow the Rhine until you get to the Alps and on to Milan then down the front of 'The Boot' and on to Rome.

Trouble was, we had discovered that Europe is quite a big place and there was a chance that we might miss Switzerland by a few 100km or so. John triumphantly produced a map of the entire Northern hemisphere - A3 size! OK, I'm exaggerating a bit but it had a very large scale and went as far South as Gibraltar and as far East as the Urals. A day's ride was about 2 inches on the map! Undaunted, we felt sure that if we continued East and maybe a bit to the Right, we would eventually hit the Rhine.

Day 5

So it went on, up at every dawn and riding into the rising sun, we headed east across Luxembourg, then cutting back into France through the beautiful green Voseges hills and then into the Rhineland.

Day 6

This area used to be part of Germany but the French kept it after WW2 and so the villages are a strange mix of fresco covered, German style chalets and French Cafes. It was a confusing combination and with our 'map', we were not actually sure what country we were in. Robin saw a sign for Strasbourg and we went for it.

Day 7
Day 7 and to stay on schedule, we had to ride 120 miles up the Rhine to Mulhouse on the Swiss Border. It was incredibly warm across Europe that summer – you may remember that holidaymakers were returning early, from places like Greece and Turkey because it was so hot. The ride south along the banks and levees of the Rhine, made perfect cycling country for 3 fit and healthy riders. Unfortunately, myself and Robin were feeling the effects of indulging too deeply into the local cuisine
"Kebab Monsieur? Cesskooosayeeee?"

"OK, Bratwurst it is then mate!"

John, on the other hand, his body always a temple, was still living mainly on his never-ending box of oats. He was flying! He had been giving us a hard time for the past couple of days and we were supposed to be the club cyclists!. We arrived in Mulhouse late afternoon and proceeded on our habitual quest for the local park with a fountain, so that we could do our wash. One look at Robin and I could see he was shattered. I wasn't feeling too pukka myself, so I asked him if he wanted to quit now and head back on the train. Unselfishly, of course, he said no but I decided that I would ride to the station, just to enquire what the price of a ticket to Le Harve would be. I left the other two and rode off to find 'le Garre du Centre,' wobbling across the cobbles on my fully leaden Rouke. It was only a couple of miles, on a beautiful afternoon and all I wore was running shorts and a pair of flip flops. The station staff were helpful and tolerant of my poor Francais and I obtained all the info on times and prices that I needed. Turning away to leave, I glanced across to my bike and my jaw hit the floor. NO BIKE! Not only that but NO CLOTHES, MONEY or PASSPORT. Now, you can imagine my predicament as I set off back through town to the others, flip-flops flapping and feeling rather, ahem, 'camp,' in my 'Steve Ovett's'.

This is the picture that inspired Bonnie Tyler to pen the song,' I was lost in France...'

About a 2 hours later I got back to the other's, who greeted me with rather bemused faces. Panic quickly spread amongst us as we realised my situation. Luckily, we had swapped travelers cheque receipt stubs, so I had some money. John and Robin routed around in the bottom of their panniers and between them, sorted me out an outfit that made me look like a refugee, (I'm sure that some whiffy items hadn't seen the light of day since Dieppe!)

Day 8
We tried for help at the local Gendamerie for but they just stared at us, hands on guns and pointed us in the direction of the police. The Police were less helpful and told me basically to go home. It was the only option after all and so we headed on to the station. We had a pizza in a station café to cheer ourselves up and chatted about what might have been over a beer. Robin was coming back with me on the TGV via Paris but John decided to carry on alone,

Now you have to remember that John was a rare breed, a South Paw boxer from Gosport. Streetwise – you couldn't fault him - and as a mate – one of the best. But he certainly wasn't well traveled and didn't seem to have done lot of Geography at school. He was always amazed when we crossed a frontier,

He'd ask, "Where's this place to Rob?"

"Belgium," Rob would reply.

That was enough for John, anymore detail and his eyes would start to glaze. We took it for granted that he knew where Belgium was! So, in the simplest possible way, we told him to head across Switzerland and head for the St. Bernard Pass in to Italy and on to Milan and Rome.

Rob and I bought our tickets and we went to the waiting room to spend the night there. The next train was in the morning and John would set off then too. We only had our heads down for about an hour when we were prodded by a ranting security guard – we had to leave, the station was shutting. We sneaked back into the station and tried to hide in a kids play zone but we were spotted on camera and this time, well and truly evicted! We found some benches in the park opposite the station and settled down there with the local tramps, feeling thoroughly dejected. We didn't have a chance to nod off when there was a massive 'CRACK' off thunder – the heat wave had broken and the heavens opened. To add to our misery, we were laughed at by a steady stream of ravers heading back from night clubs up town. We got soaked for what seemed hours.

The station opened up again at 6am and we said our goodbyes to John. He looked confused when we handed him the 1:500 000 000 map and he shoved it in his pannier. It was still raining as we watched him head off in the direction of the Alps, which were lost under a cloak of thunder storms.

With our morall on a bit of a downer, it didn't come as a total shock when we realised that Rob's bike had gone missing in Paris. Robin and I had to wait in Paris a day for the slow train (which had Rob's bike on board – no bikes on the TGV.) It didn't turn off and it seemed as if Rob's bike had decided to complete the tour on it's own! Short on cash (and clothes,) we headed on to Le Harve and got the ferry home. Rob had to get the ferry back the following weekend and literally grabbed his bike out of the hands of the lost property man.

Two weeks later I got 7th in the National Points Race Championships at Leicester.

John Gosling took it upon himself to finish the quest - "Although I know not the way…" he said.

Amazingly, John did get to Milan – at least he says he did but it could have been Zurich for all he'd know!

1: Pack some spare socks and give them to your mate in case your bike gets nicked!

2: High 5 and Creatine? - You can do 1500 miles on a box of porridge oats!

3: Specific track training? – Go touring instead!

Teaser Paragraph:

Phil Chandler waxes lyrically about his 2007 British Cyclo Sportive ride - a 120 mile ride through kent, following the route of the first stage of the Tour de France...

In April 1386, a group of unforgettably rumbustious characters left the Tabard Inn in Southwick on a pilgrimage to St Thomas a Becket's shrine at Canterbury. Their adventures would form the basis of one of the greatest ever works of English literature. 621 years on and in a parallel universe the twelve apostles of i-team (it would have been 13 but for a traffic hold up on the M5 – the word Judas has not even entered my mind Jon) assembled on a verdant but shower-soaked Greenwich Meridian for their own private sporting hajj. This is their story...

The Player's

Harry Bailey ………. The Host - Phil Chandler
The Knight ………. Has to be Guy Watson
The Miller ………. Could have been any of us - Lee Morge
The Reeve ………. Chris Powell
The Cook ………. the one unfinished tale - Jon Skidmore
The Man of Law ….. Jerry Dibben
The Wife of Bath … Monica Peters
The Friar ……… Rich Gorman
The Summoner ……Dave Gorman
The Merchant ……... Trevor Stokes
The Squire ………. Andy Jones
The Pardoner ……... Stanley Peters
The Shipman …… Paul Capper
The Monk …… Noel Edwards
The Canon's Yeoman.. it had to be alchemy to get that time! - Fraser Ellison

Ask the experts and they will unanimously attest that the secret behind any sporting success story lies in well organised, meticulous planning executed with a military precision in timing. This premise held the centre of debate as Chris, Jerry, Kent, Stanley and myself sheltered from the drizzle under the awning of Nico's delicatessen awaiting the arrival of Lee and the transportation to Greenwich. We mused in admiration as to how Lee could manage to arrange such a bargain price for the weekend. How on earth could he get hold of a minibus, diesel, his own time – and on such reasonable terms? We did not have to wait too much longer for an answer.

Parting the mists on King's Road, a vision in rust lurched into view, 'Flintstones Fleet Hire' festooned on its paneling. Yabba dabba dooh! One cloudburst later and the rain-sodden Cowplain Clan had conjoined with the Petersfield Massive in air-conditioned luxury, lively banter and exuberant asides bouncing freely between the spokes and drivechains. Leaving nothing to chance we had widely invested in not one but two satellite navigation systems – and a lead car. Stanley led the way through the quiet, wooded glades of Hampshire and Surrey (and Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire and ….) as we sought the quickest route, though ever narrowing roads, around the Hindhead bottleneck. "There's a six mile tailback there" we were assured by his dulcet Scottish brogue. Still, the countryside was at its best.

Dappled sunlight though birch and oak, thatched cottages, chocolate-box hamlets. A picture of Englishness, just the place you would have thought for that idyllic, peaceful wedding – and then the Tour Caravan arrives. It must be something almost primeval that can change a group of civilised males engaged in intellectual debate, into a troop of drooling primates. It may have been the stylish wedding bonnets; the attractive blond in the short, diaphanous, swirling blue dress; or the impressively endowed maiden who could scarcely conceal here ample charms – that triggered a viz-like chorus of ribald banter; "where's a breeze when you need it"; "don't get many of them to the pound"; semi-skimmed or full-cream" – the 'Jolly Boy's Outing' comes to Spreakley. The bottleneck circumvented and apart from a few minor 'Stanley wiggles' we arrive at Greenwich at 2.30pm for registration. Two looong hours later (thirty seconds of which was the actual sign-on process) having discussed the merits of parties in breweries, continental queue jumpers and a Monty Python like exchange with fellow interns on the length of time we'd been in line ("eh lad, 15 hours ….. Luxury!") – and we were free to enjoy the merits of our overnight hostelries. The intelligent members of the peloton had opted for the reliability of reputable hotel chains. Me, well with a 5.00am stroll up to the start line in mind, I'd opted for the nearest pub to the park gates – big mistake.

If you ever need a gothic-themed weekend, I can highly recommend 'The Mitre'. The staff are escapees from an Adam's Family set, not a red blood cell between them and most active at night. I was going to ask them for some EPO, but took one look at the pallor of their skin and thought …. nahh! "Would you like to eat in this evening Sir?" - is Floyd clean! The pre-race team meal took place in a rather acceptable oriental restaurant in the basement of the Holiday Inn. Seven of us gathered, two bottles of white and four bottles of red seemed the perfect sporting balance. The food was excellent, the conversation relaxed and convivial as Stanley regaled us all of the best mechanisms for getting an upgrade on intercontinental flights. Absolutely hilarious. The walk back to Chez Munster with Chris was most welcomed as fermented grape swirled around my bonce. The management had decided that a 'Night of the Living Dead' theme was the order of the evening. A man with a bolt through his neck served me a pint of Guinness with a red-foamed top. I swiftly knocked it back, went to bed and bolted the door.

I was assured that check-out at 5.30am would "not be problem" and was disappointed therefore to find the reception desk unmanned. I turned my glance for just a second in search of the buzzer, when I returned it, Lurch had materialised from the ether - spooky. Could he work the card machine? I guess there's not a great deal of call for electronic gadgets in Transylvania. Out into the fresh morning air of a Greenwich Sunday, the light rain dancing off the pavement and quick warm up though St Mary's Gate and the short pull up The Avenue to the Observatory. At 5.45am I meet up with Guy who'd been on the road since 3.00am and was still sporting the vestiges of a hangover from a wedding party of the previous evening (just hope it wasn't in West Surrey).

15 minutes later the Red Machine had all assembled and was funneling towards the start line where the ridiculously pretty Victoria Pendleton was there to send us on our way – queue for more drooling. 6.15 on the dot and the red train rolls over the start line, accompanied in staggered pattern, by 5,000 brothers in arms. Pilgrims each on a personal quest for an excellence of their own. 118 miles lie between St Mary's Gate and Rheims Way in Canterbury, each rider will have their own personal tale to tell. The good, the bad and, in Rich's case, the ugly (it wasn't meant to come out that way, honest – clarification will appear later.

The roll out took us onto the quiet country lanes of quaint little villages such as Greenwich, Woolwich and Erith. It seemed that every time you began to develop a rhythm, a conveniently located red-light would bring you to a halt and was instrumental in de-railing the red train. When the lights flicked to green, the rifle crack of re-engaging cleats echoed through the early morning silence of a slumbering London Town.

Punctures where a plenty, the first being just yards from the start gate. As we rolled past we were probably all sharing the same collective thought "fingers crossed and there but for the grace of God.." The sun made an appearance by Gillingham and the first sprint of the day - 47Km and Piers Road Police Station. I eye-balled my fellow riders before putting in a bit of a spurt and comfortably swept up the points for 1,843rd place.

At Rochester, there was a sharp right and a short cobbled section around a small roundabout. This is where I regained some of my i-team fellows who had stopped to aid a stricken Rich who had taken a tumble (as had others) on a patch of spilled diesel. As all great cyclists do, he had ignored instinct and taken the brunt of the fall on his helmet, thus preserving the bike from damage. Shards of skin in hand he had remounted ready for the next foray.My plan to stay with my band of brothers was rudely interrupted by a further sharp left and a sudden short but steep incline out of Rochester. A parting twitch from Rich's rear wheel was the last I was to see of them 'till the finish"

After a flat run through a well-garnered Tunbridge, the course threw-up the first climb of the day. The exotically named Cote de Southborough – or as locals call it Quarry Hill. It was a 2.3km, category 4 climb of 7% (1:14). It was urban, lacking in character and a chore rather than a challenge. Far better was to come later in the day – this was just a pain (talking of which, the Arione saddle is not as comfortable as some of the sales pitches suggest). On to Royal Tunbridge Wells where you could smell the affluence in comparison to its poorer, similarly named cousin. The locals were out in force and offering significant vocal encouragement – this would be a feature for the rest of the day.

Perhaps the greatest crowd had gathered on the second of the category 4climbs at Goudhurst. This is a picturesque little village with one huge 1.6km, 11% (1:9) behemoth right through the centre of it to a church and aptly positioned graveyard at the top. Without the crowds it would have been a stiff challenge, but with the mass of colourful humanity, waved flags, music playing and general carnival atmosphere – it was a joy. I took it in the lowest gear possible, in a week's time the big boys would be flying up here in top ring. The course rolled on through a microcosm of the Garden of England; apple orchards, hop fields, oust houses and everywhere – further encouragement. I can only recall one of the feed stations with any great clarity, the final one at Aldington Village Hall. What an experience. Problems had arisen with their supply lorry delivery, which meant that the villages had taken it upon themselves to self-cater for the feeding of the 5,000 (had to get it in somewhere). Instead of yet another fix of fruit malt there were sausage baps, ham rolls, cheese butties. Real water instead of isotonic. A cheery and genuine smile in place of a robotic reaction. A relative cornucopia of pleasure – what it may have lacked in balancing your energy levels it more than compensated for in raising your spirits. Well done Aldington. The final feed behind us, the survivors where now within a spit and a lick of the finish.

Conversation in the small groups centred around the final climb of the day – apparently a "real brute, save yourself". There's something almost masochistic about cyclists when it comes to the psyching-up phase. 196km in and a leisurely roll though Sellindge took us to the left turn that introduced us to the final category 4 climb of the day. It was a 1.1km, leg-tester of 12% (1:8) up Hempton Hill to the top of the Cote de Farthing Common. At that distance into the run it was certainly a test and apparently many walked up it – although I saw none (not even me).Once over the top we where on Pilgrim's Way, the wind was dead behind, the spinnaker was up and it was all downhill at speed. The road signs gave us a welcomed countdown to Canterbury in real currency; 10 miles, 5 miles, 3 miles and then joy of joys, the town. Just enough left for that last extra effort on the finishing straight and the sanctuary of the final mechanical beep as the line is crossed. Another milestone achieved. Who knows, probably a once in a lifetime goal realised and a whole load of new mates to add to the Christmas card list.

I met up with my comrades at baggage collection, enjoyed a well earned shower, put on that ridiculously yellow tee-shirt, and sank my fangs into a bacon roll washed down with a cup of tea (warm fluid at last). As ever, Lee was waiting for us to chauffeur us all home – what a stalwart – if you ever need a definition of team spirit it's him, selfless and dependable. The most requested song on the radio going back was Queen; "I want to Sell my Bicycle". 5,000 had started their pilgrimage that rain-kissed morning, 3,743 finished it (many more did not). All would go home with tired legs, a feeling of immense satisfaction and a story or two to tell. Would we attempt anything like it again?

You bet your sweet arse we would – that's cyclists for you, that's i-Team for you .


Our Man In Havanna

By Guy_Watson, in Articles,

Teaser Paragraph:

i-Team's Uber Veteran Roger Forest, from Winchester, Hampshire, has just come back from a mission to Cuba, where he helped raise £58,000 for charity. Here he writes about his experiences here.

Our Man in Havanah
i-Team's Uber Veteran Roger Forest, from Winchester, Hampshire, has just come back from a mission to Cuba, where he helped raise £58,000 for charity. Here he writes about his experiences here.


1. As Lance Armstrong once famously said, this is not about the bike, but more about my trip to and experience of Cuba. If that does not appeal then read no further. About a year ago a friend asked me whether I would be interested in taking part in a cycle ride in Cuba, to raise funds for the Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign. Since I had neither visited Cuba nor ever attempted to raise funds for a charity, I jumped at the challenge. It soon became apparent that the difficult part was going to be raising £2,600 of sponsorship and first let me apologise for the harassment I gave my friends and at the same time thank all those who gave so generously.

2. The trip to Cuba was organised by a travel company (Discover Adventure) and the party consisted of 22 cyclists (10 male and 12 female) of which 6 were doctors, 2 TV producers, 1 lawyer, 2 Sports development officers, 3 ex pupils of Bedales school, 6 in IT and 2 old farts!. After Christmas, a large number of emails did the rounds bemoaning the fact that many had over-eaten, the weather was poor and most had done little training.

As you can imagine I was not very sympathetic to their plight and it made me more apprehensive about what I had let myself in for as I considered the majority would be swept up by the broom wagon! How wrong I was, but more about that later!

CUBA – LOCATION & HISTORY 3. Cuba is located in the Caribbean, 80 miles due south of Florida, the same distance east of the coast of Mexico and a 10 hour flight from Europe.

It is the largest island in the Caribbean, measuring some 700 miles in length by 60 miles wide. It has a population of 11M of which 2M live in Havana. Cuba is a former Spanish colony its inhabitants are a mixture of Spanish and former African slaves. During the 15th century piracy was popular, but the economy improved when it was found that the climate was ideal for growing sugar and tobacco, both in great demand at the time. In 1898 Cuba gained independence from its colonial master Spain and in 1903 signed a treaty giving the harbour and surrounding land at Guantanamo to America in perpetuity. In 1959 Fidel Castro over threw the dictator Batista creating a communist state which survives to this day.


4. Since the revolution in 1959 Castro has made 2 major improvements to the
Country, a 90% literacy rate and a first rate health care system. However, Cuba is a communist state; there is no free enterprise, no media and everyone whether a doctor or dustman is paid around $80 per month. No one owns either his house or car, both being provided by the state Two currencies circulate one for the tourist and the other for local Cubans, the difference being about 25% is pocketed by the state. As you can imagine there is a thriving black market.

5. Until the 1990's Cuba was financially supported by Russia, but after the collapse of communism it had no choice but to greet tourists with open arms which it has done with great charm. America imposed a blockade on Cuba in 1960's, after the missile crisis/bay of pigs fiasco, which has remained in force ever since. Most Cubans hate the US but there is an ever growing band of disgruntled citizens who seek sanctuary in the States. The treaty which ceded Guantanamo to America and is now a prison for terrorists is another thorn in the side of Cuba. Meanwhile Cuba has cultivated good relations with China, Venezuela and many South American states.

6. Everybody's image of Cuba is different. For some the allure is of a tropical
paradise: bounty bar scenes of palm trees swaying over endless dazzling white beaches and a stunning turquoise-blue sea. Others remember its past decadence: thousands visiting the island attracted by sun, sea and sex, helped by the tittle-tattle stories of Hemmingway and Greene - cheap rum, gambling, wild dances and cigars rolled on the thighs of dusky maidens. All this set against a background of the beautiful architecture of the colonial cities.


7. The group met for the first time at Heathrow Airport on 15 February and flew to Havana with Air France. The flight to Cuba took 10 hours and frankly is best forgotten. My days of flying long distance, stuffing oneself into a cigar tube are over and for me it was the worse part of the trip. The plot on arrival was to spend a couple of days in a hotel, sorting out kit and bikes and then to set off on a 5 day cycle ride heading west along the northern coast of Cuba and then moving south and inland. We would be camping in National Parks and farms en route, but our meals would be prepared by local Cubans. After finishing the ride the group would stay in beach huts on an island off the northern coast for the final 2 days of the holiday before flying back to UK. Whilst we were part of a package tour and had no control of the travel arrangements, it is worth noting that Air France flew via Paris, cost more, and refused to take bikes as part of the personal baggage allowance. Virgin on the other hand flew direct, was £100 cheaper and took bikes on the same aircraft without extra charge.

8. We were issued with 21 speed German mountain bikes with knobbly tyres which did not please me but I was able to fit my own saddle, pedals and that made me feel slightly better. Our group leader (who I had described earlier as a gangly Joyce Grenfell look alike) turned out to be a practising GP who was also employed by the travel company to take groups of cyclists and walkers on trips around the world. I got to know her better on the trip and came to like her; she was a bit stern but her heart was in the right place!

9. Our initial briefing informed us that the group would be preceded by a mini bus which must not be over-taken and a following bus which carried our equipment and acted as the broom wagon. There were no bike shops in Cuba, so no spares were available and the group had therefore to be self-sufficient. We had a group photograph and set off into the big unknown!


10. Day 1.

The start was not at all like our Saturday morning Club ride, in fact it went in stops and starts as we negotiated our way through downtown Havana; stopping every 5 minutes whilst people fell off, adjusted their saddles and looking at the expression on their faces most appeared to give the impression that 'the end of the world was nigh!' The majority carried far too much equipment, either in rucksacks or on their bikes and included a middle-aged TV producer who insisted on attaching an enormous plastic bag to her handlebars in order to carry items of creature comfort. I did my best to dissuade her otherwise but to no avail. She was forced to endure my daily taunts about watering her window box!

11. Day 1.

Our leader insists that we stop every hour or so to replenish water; a bit of a bore and shades of Health and Safety! As I carried all the water I needed on my bike I found this frustrating. We followed the coast road west of Havana which had little traffic, but, I began to notice some very large birds circling ominously overhead.

These turned out to be turkey vultures, so named because their featherless red heads looked like a turkey; I only hoped they were not feeling hungry? After lunch by the roadside, we turned south heading into the National Park which was similar in terrain to the Alps although less mountainous. I tried to help and encourage my fellow cyclists but there was a wide range of fitness and soon the group was spread out like the retreat from Stalingrad! I headed for the front and pushed the pace until we reached the campsite, a total of 85 kms. It was a pleasant stop, a few beers and a Cuban meal of meat, rice and black beans soon brought a smile to everyone's face.

12. Day 2.

There were signs that we would get rain which came 2 hours into the
ride just as we had started a long Category 1 climb of between 13-18% gradient. By midday there was a heavy downpour and the group spread out with several choosing the sanctuary of the bus. Fortunately, there was a café just over the summit which provided hot drinks and revived spirits but it was at least 90 minutes before the final stragglers arrived and by that time I was on the point of hypothermia. During the afternoon the weather improved and we dried out, reaching our farmhouse campsite around 1600 and 83kms distance. There we were taken to a nearby stream to bathe, in a cart drawn by a couple of bullocks. It was a first for most of us, although looking at the colour of the water, I felt dirtier after washing! A Cuban guitarist played during the evening meal but kept repeating the old Cuban tune Guantanamera (the lady from Guantanamo) every 10 minutes until we pleaded with him to change!

13. Day 3.

It promised to be a hot day with some serious climbs on very rough, potholed roads. The climbs were not too difficult but the descent the other side was extremely hairy and I was glad to be on a mountain bike with front suspension. We stopped for lunch at a natural cave which had been the headquarters of Che Guevara during the revolution and was now a tourist attraction. The picture below is reputed to be his scratcher! The afternoon proved to be one of the hardest with a 20 % gradient on a concrete road built by the Russians; dead straight about 1 km in length but very exposed to the sun. I was very impressed to hear that the entire group climbed the hill without dismounting! It was a fast ride in the afternoon on rough roads and I got the bit between my teeth leading the pack to our overnight stop. This site was just outside a small town with good toilets and washing facilities. A hearty meal (getting used to rice and black beans!), a few beers and a good night's sleep, set us up for the penultimate day. 66 kms distance.

14. Day 4.

It is another fine, hot day and we are now heading towards the
northern coast with a promise of a swim in the sea at the end of it. It is interesting to see how individual fitness levels have improved dramatically just in the last few days. Two of the group are worth a special mention; a young woman who was knocked off her bike by a car and suffered a serious brain injury (she received compensation) and a young man in his 20's who had bone cancer in his right leg. He had a metal implant replacing his knee, half his femur and lower leg and was clearly in considerable pain throughout the trip. Both gave very gutsy performances, without either a single word of complaint or self pity and win my award for man of the match. A climb over a hill brought us in sight of the coast and the sea. A fast downhill section, a swim and a couple of mohitos (rum cocktails) refreshed us for the final ride to our campsite situated beside a beautiful lake, making a fitting end to a hard day in the saddle; 90 kms distance.

15. Day 5.

The final day took us north east following the coastline on undulating terrain. The afternoon session was particularly tiring as the road surfaces were unusually rough passing through tobacco and banana plantations. By mid afternoon most people were tired but morale improved as we closed on the coast and the end of the ride at 83 kms. A final group photograph and a 30 minute boat ride to our island rest camp for the next 2 days. This was an idyllic spot with white sandy beaches fringed with date and coconut palms. The only downside was that the beach huts we were meant to be staying in had been damaged by a recent hurricane and we were obliged to use our tents! Anyone who thinks sand makes a comfortable bed has never had the experience; it is like lying on concrete!


16. I had misgivings about the outcome of this ride, but I have to say
that these were entirely unfounded. They were a great bunch of people and I made some very good friends. Most participants had never ridden a bicycle seriously before and many had major handicaps. That they completed over 450 kms in a hot climate on rough roads was a magnificent achievement and I was privileged to have been a member of the group. Spare a few moments to watch these 2 YouTube videos made by a young woman in her 20's who struggled with the ride but her tale says it all:

Just in case you think that it was all work and no play, I found time for a little bit of rest and recuperation! The young ladies were attracted by my T shirt!!

I also took on the might of the Cuban cycling elite in a race on my last weekend. If you look closely at the picture you can just make me out in i-team colours leading the pack in a 50 km TT around Havana!

Would I do it again? Of course I would; I helped to raise £58,000 for charity, made many friends, it was a great experience and enormous fun!



i-Team's Ironmen

By Guy_Watson, in Articles,

Teaser Paragraph:

I'm not a great swimmer so the 3.8km swim is all about holding maximum speed for minimum energy expenditure. It is best to swim in a group whilst still holding a decent line and without being jostled too much. I was swimming with a couple of female pros for a while but somehow lost focus for the last 20mins (lack of training) and went backwards.

Imagine riding 112 miles on a bike!

Now imagine riding 112 miles flat out!

Now imagine swimming for an hour, riding the bike for 112 miles and then running a full marathon, one after the other, flat out!

This is the challenge that faced i-Team's Ben Shaw and Rob Towers competed in this weekend's Ironman triathlon event at Sherbourne Castle in Dorset.

The event was to prove a major undertaking for our experienced-but-undertrained Ben Shaw and our Rookie-but-overtrained Rob Towers! Here's a report on how they fared.

Ben's Report:

This was my third Ironman competition but my first in the UK. I have struggled with motivation and getting time to train but as the event looms thoughts inevitably turn to racing! For me, one of these events starts in the couple of days beforehand getting equipment ready, packing bags and in this case the logistics of camping at the race venue.


We arrived on site to find Rob Towers and his family and Chris Bairstow and his wife already pitched with a space saved for us. With possibly the biggest tent on site courtesy of Bob Hatton we had a veritable mansion, which as it turned out was a life saver! The Friday before an Ironman consists of athlete registration, a quick bit of course recce and the pasta party. Even the UK races are pretty cosmopolitan places and I was sat next to a South African, two Canadians a Frenchman and a German.


After a quick run with Mr Bouncy (Chris!) it was off to a pre race swim at 0900. With no lane markers to follow and 1500 other people getting in your way it is important to know navigation markers on land to ensure you swim the shortest distance possible. The swim was a bit of a shock to the system as it was much colder than I had anticipated. Lake swims, even in the UK, are normally pretty warm in the summer but the rain of the last month plus lack of sun recently to warm the water up made it pretty chilly.

All that is left is to check in your bike and bags of running and cycling kit into transition and get some food down your neck. I had some non triathlon friends there supporting me and they were slightly aghast as I tucked into my second pan of pasta to go with the "normal" food everyone else was eating! It had rained all day and the campsite was now inches deep in mud. No cars or vans from the circa 2000 campers were going anywhere without being towed by the tractor which did provide an amusing spectator sport! I got interviewed by the TV crew going into transition with my bike shouldered cyclocross style and in a pair of wellies - this is meant to be a summer sport!

Sunday- Race Day!

0315 - get up and eat for the last time - porridge and pop tarts washed down with coffee and red bull - lovely!
0445 - Trudge to the start- it's drizzling, pitch black and very windy.
0515 - Final check on the bike, check tyres and hand in dry clothes for the finish. I tried hard to reassure Rob who was rushing off to throw up without letting my own nerves get the better of me.
0545- Into the water! At the water's edge I realised I still had my wedding ring on and it was sufficiently cold that it might fall off. Fortunately I recognised one of the support crew that will be pulling us out of the water later and give it to him. 400m swim to the start trying to warm up.
0600 - The start is delayed as the weather has meant they have had to shut down some of the car parks due to the mud and the roads are jammed with desperate athletes trying to get to the start. We have to tread water for 20mins and a lot of people are getting cramp from the cold.
0620 - We are off - at last!!!!! I get a really good start position just behind the 50 odd professionals. It's going to be a good day!

The Swim.

I'm not a great swimmer so the 3.8km swim is all about holding maximum speed for minimum energy expenditure. It is best to swim in a group whilst still holding a decent line and without being jostled too much. I was swimming with a couple of female pros for a while but somehow lost focus for the last 20mins (lack of training) and went backwards. I usually go to my feet for the last 10mins of the swim as my arms tire but niggling cramp in my calves from the cold meant I had to take care and back off. Out of the water in 59mins 45mins and I picked out the bloke with my ring to pull me out of the water. He tells me to stop being a big jessie and sent me on my way sans ring!

Swim 59mins 45secs Ave Hr 139

The Bike.

I had packed 3 different options for clothes for the bike dependant on what happened overnight to the weather and in the event chose my I-Team skinsuit to pull on over the top of my tri kit. Top choice! The bike is 112miles consisting of 3 loops with about 700m climbing per loop. The climbs are not massive but pretty non stop. I knew my lack of training and extra weight was not going to help here and had a plan I refused to budge from. In the first loop I was probably past by about 50 guys. I knew I could match them but trusted my plan and let them go - that does not come naturally! On the bigger hills I was still pushing 350Watts and they came storming past me at what must have been 600Watts plus - I have no idea how they were planning on keeping that up!

Eating and drinking is the key to IM and I forced myself to eat a gel or bit of a bar every 20-25mins and made sure I used the aid stations wisely - no stopping here like in a sportive as there are 20 odd volunteers holding out bottles and food as your go through. Punctures were also a big problem on the rough roads with so much rubbish washed over the course the previous day. I counted 18 guys mending punctures and ripping off tubs at the side of the road throughout the day (some I was passing for position, some as I lapped). I'm sure some had punctured due to the massive pressures people tend to ride in "TT" mode. The wind had also picked up to the point where riding a disc was entertaining to say the least! I nearly dropped it a couple of times passing gates and on the exposed top section of the course, but the sail effect was working in my favour - it pays to be heavy sometimes!

Lap three was dream time as I was still feeling really comfortable in quite a tight tuck (ISM Adamo saddles are so ugly but just fantastic for this sort of riding), still quite strong and one by one I passed most of those who had passed me earlier. I was only going to beat them back to the castle by a few minutes but the difference was they looked dead in the saddle I felt great! I'll say it again, power meters might be expensive but if you are prepared to spend the time to find out what the numbers actually mean you would be better off with one and a cheap bike rather than a putting all your cash into some fancy wheels.

Coming back into the castle through the crowds and feeling good was a great (and unusual for me!) experience - I couldn't help but pump my fist and get all emotional! I had dreaded this day as I thought I was going to really embarrass myself but it was going well!

5hrs 54mins - Normalised Power 236Watts, Ave Hr 138

The Run

I had been anxious about the run at Sherborne above all else as I am currently well over 1.5 stone heavier (13st 10lbs) than I have ever been for one of these and have done only 15 runs in total in 2007 with only 4 of those over 10miles. On top of that the Sherborne course has 750m of ascent.

The first 9 miles of the course were laps around the castle grounds, up a nasty dragging climb twice and down a very muddy track. I took it very easy and got my legs back in action. Support through the campsite and then back around the castle was a big lift!

The course then went through the town, over a pedestrian footbridge and onto the A30. The wind, straight up and down the course was so strong now all the spectators coats were flapping and hats were coming off. Between miles 10 and 13 I had the low I knew was coming as I went into unchartered distance for the year and hit a big energy low and started to loose control of things like bodily functions. Fortunately I've been there before and knew how to sort myself out by eating a gel every mile with loads of water and getting a good caffeine hit from the coke. The hard bit is stopping yourself from walking as I know as soon as I crack once I will crack again and again. I almost lost it just after a feed station on the dual carriageway but a group of spectators I had never seen before in my life looked my number up in the program and urged me on by name.

The last 13miles were great as my body resettled and rhythm came back. I picked up the pace and could feel the finish pulling me in! From mile 20 I knew every step was in the right direction towards the castle instead of away and the old funny little moan I make when running a good 10k came back. It's a bit alarming for other people but I know things are working well when it happens!

Back in the grounds and the big crowds helped me keep the pace up. When you can hear the commentators announce your name you know you are coming home and turning into the home straight high-5ing the crowd it was great to finish feeling so positive. As per usual my legs lost the plot and my emotions got the better of me immediately after finishing (why is that? endorphins, adrenaline rush?) but a change of clothes and some food and I was OK. They really look after you well in the recovery area. Nix, my wife, was just happy to see me in one piece. Last year I got stretched off the line and had to have an adrenaline injection and a drip so this year must have been a walk in the park!
Run time 3hrs 31mins Ave hr 144

Total 10hrs 34mins 02secs (though the clock in the photo says different!)

After a bit of time to recover I got back to the finish line to cheer Rob in with Chris and our wives. I had been getting reports from others around the course about Rob being ill in the swim and having an achilles niggle so I was really relieved to see him cruising up the hill. Family man that Rob is, he was more concerned about where they were than taking the glory on his own! I also made it back to the finish line for the very last finishers at the 17hr cut off. Sadly the weather and the nature of the course meant that most of the older men and women and those that are normally an awesome site just making the cut off had had to DNF. A lot of competitors had been pulled out by the medics or friends and family as the cold and wind once it had got dark had got the better of them. It was still great to share a glass of champagne (warm in a plastic cup!) at the finish. The crowd jumps inside the barriers and makes a human arch for the last finisher and its impossible not to get emotional all over again!

Two days on and reflecting back I feel pretty happy with the day. I am usually very down on myself - I always want to have done a bit better. I have been faster in the past but I got around this year when I felt sufficiently out of shape that I had no right to do well and I have raised a wedge of cash for a good cause. Will I do another one? Not right now but maybe in a year or two when I've got my mojo back racing shorter stuff I'll think about it!

Rob's Report:

To start with, I'll roll back the clock to august 2005 I competed in my first ever ironman IMUK and had a shocking time and had to DNF at mile 18 of the run due to a knee problem - That day has haunted me ever since and I vowed to get the monkey off my back!!

August 19th 2007

My alarm woke me at 3.15 am bleary eyed i woke up. it was a shame as i was having such a cool dream about being a Jedi Knight as well. " I dont want to wake up i still wanna be a jedi" I muttered to myself after gathering my bits together i started to cook my porridge by torch light.

I went for my first of many loo calls and said morning to Ben who's tent was next to mine. A few others who were racing and supporting came over and we all chatted , then ben, myself and mate ed walked to race start about 4.45. As we were walking i started to feel rather sick and unwell - nerves i thought?

After putting water bottles on bike removing plastic bags from bars and saddle, it was time to get wetsuit on. I mentioned to Ben that I felt sick, then proceeded to run behind portaloo's and chuck up my breakfast. Ben was a rock and assured me it would be ok.

We said our good lucks to each other as we knew we would get lost in the melle of bodies. I stood there shaking, mouth watering , breathing heavily........................

The Swin:

Finally we entered the water - f$%k me it was cold! - my chest immediately constricted and my breathing was heavy. After an age trying to stop my goggles leaking and a delay at the start the klaxon finally went off. Ahhhhhh! I thought i am gonna be sick, my goggles are leaking and some bugger is trying to undo my wetsuit - so a strong word with the culprit and the first of many stops to empty leaky goggles.

The nausea held off until the second turn then i just let go and was sick, three times in a matter of mins, i was cold tired and dizzy.
"should i pull out for safety sake??"
I'd carry on as far as possible - this proved to be hard, hard work, as i was getting weaker and more tired. At last i could see the swim exit point, i made a mad dash and started to bring in the leg kick to get the legs ready for what lay ahead. Then, before i knew it i was being pulled out of the water, and i was undoing my wetsuit, not before i saw my family and had another puke. Time for the swim was 1h18mv- but it felt a lot slower.

Transition 1:

I took ages trying to warm up and hold back the sickness eventually i started to feel better and was ready for the bike leg,


Straight away i felt better and after eating a torq bar and having 500ml of water and nuun in the tent i felt stronger. There is a big bloomin hill within 2 mins of the start so i span up it and settled into a nice pace which I held for the entire bike leg, rolling down the hills getting as aero as poss, spinning the hills and pushing the flats. For once i was passing people and must have made up 100 places in the first lap, I then decided to caution was required and wanted to ensure i did not blow up in the last 20 miles.
i kept to my race plan perfectly, stopped to stretch about mile 50, ate at regular intervals.

Secretly, I wanted a sub 6.30 bike split but the strong headwind and the bad start to the day ended that and in fact I know if I had pushed it and gone into TT mode, I could have gone maybe 45 mins quicker but then would not have had anything for the run.
So after almost 7 hours, I ended up in transition 2
I really need to work on this part of my IM racing, in shorter distances i am fast and smooth but at IM i seem to faff about and chat way too much - another 13 mins lost and then onto the run


I felt great, sickness gone and once again necked some nuun and water along with 2 gels.

The first mile see's you hit 1 small hill and 1 steep one straight away my left achilles hurt an injury i had picked up in training - (so i knew my quiet confidence about making time up on the run and having a sub 4.30 run split was gone), I needed patience and had to walk the steeper hills and run when i could, as luck would have it i was ok and managed to run just about the whole portion of the first 2 laps of the run apart from a few hundred yards on the steep hill out of the campsite.

This section was great as my family and friends Chris Bairstow & Nadine + Nix Shaw +Team Mates were there and cheered me on.
Onto the second portion of the run and this is when it gets hard, as i am running out of the castle with almost perfect timing Ben Shaw was running into the castle about to finish his day with a fantastic time.

A quick high 5 then it was head down and on with the job in hand. The second part of the run is just brutal a long dual carriageway section almost to yeovil and back via Babylon Hill - this was made harder by the cold and wind. Lucky there are almost 1000 more people to keep you company and share your pain, some in their own world of pain others having a great time, but all in pain thats for sure. And so onward with my plan be conservative on the first lap then with 6 miles to go start to ease into my stride, which i did and it worked in the last 50 mins i passed so many people who had passed me or who were well in front of me. The last three miles was a blur and i felt like i was running at light speed! - OK, I was probably only going about 7.30-8 min mile pace but i felt like i was flying.
after shuffling for the last 20 odd miles it was nice to have enough in reserve to give it some. The last mile I was just so happy, and crying my eyes out.

I cant really explain the feeling of what its like to finish an ironman? - Its like all your Christmas's and birthdays all rolled into one and then some.

Into the final 200m stopped crying took off cap and glasses, started to enjoy it, high 5 ing the kids and just sooo happy it was over and I was done - crossing the finish line I see my wife and kids and finally I smile again I raise my arms and just for fun do a front double bicep pose as i cross the line.

13 hours and 51 mins

I would never have been able to do this or any race with out the full support of my family who i love so much. And thanks to Ben & Nix, Chris & Nadine, Andy Smith for his support over the past 12 months and all of i-Team who have helped me given me a boost when needed and who are a great bunch of people who i am proud to be associated with. Thanks to you all.

I will probably never race an IM distance race in the UK again as the weather is too unpredictable. but then maybe i will...................

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