Fly me to the moon

Map reference: over the Hog’s Back to Haslemere. 98km

Carbs and Caffeine: scrambled eggs on toast, Darnley’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant, 3 Causeway Side, High Street, Haslemere GU27 2JZ. Friendly, prompt service and good value. Big tick from me

Don’t worry I haven’t given up riding since the Etape, but, to be honest, it’s very hard during the school holidays. I did a Rapha 100 on my return, and squeezed in a Box Hill outing with Jen, but apart from that it’s been a few laps of Richmond Park and a few sessions on the spinning bike. Three weeks to go and I shall have my daytime window back.

But this week I am down to one child – the boys being on a residential trip – and my daughter is doing a sailing camp. I intend to cycle every day, to get myself back on track. I’ve signed up for the Etape London (180k, pretty flat), which should be fairly straightforward after the Dragon Ride and the Etape du Tour, but not if I don’t keep ticking off the miles. 

Keith volunteered to kick off my week. The great thing about riding with him is you never know where you are going. Let’s be clear, he knows where he is going, but I have never travelled the same route twice with him. One of the joys of riding is the freedom, and restricting your rides to local routes that are easily learned is great shame. On my list of ways to improve myself is to increase my own map knowledge.

After a brief conflab in Ripley, we decided to head down to Haslemere, through Hindhead. I have only been down this way in the car before, heading for the coast, and it sounded like a really long way to me. The route essentially took us from Old Woking down roads on the western side of the A3 and then crossed the A3 near Hindhead to swing south towards Haslemere and then east before looping back to Guildford. Most of the roads were very quiet, with just short sections on the busier roads. As we came into Hindhead we pedalled along a beautiful wooded section and I was surprised to find the heavy smell of pine took me so strongly back to my golfing days. It’s been a long time since I’ve swung a club; golf and cycling don’t really mix, with both taking such large chunks out of the day.

Our average speed was just under 28k, with me hanging on to Keith’s wheel. I slipped off a couple of times, but was generally pleased to be able to hang on. The elevation was 840m, with some small hills at the beginning (although one hit 17 per cent at one stage) and a pretty flat finish after lunch. I felt dehydrated but refreshed by the end, if that doesn’t sound like a contradiction. A grand day out, not to the moon like Wallace and Gromit, but certainly out of my usual orbit.

Apart from the Etape London, I’m not sure what my future plans are. I’ll definitely do the Dragon Ride again and I’m hoping to get a small band together for that (Jen that means you). And I shall certainly be watching to see which stage comes up for the Etape Du Tour. Bealesy ( has mentioned the Nove Colli in Italy – the kids would like us to do that so that they can revisit our summer holiday in Viserbella, Rimini. We’ll see.

I am also toying with setting up a cycle club affiliated to the boys’ school, in part so they can participate in the London Youth Games next year, but there are many things I need to research first before I stick my head above the parapet on that.

Note to self: British Cycling have coaching information, find a moment to check out what might fit with a kids’ club


Safely guided to the foothills of my Etape challenge

Map reference: Hotel Oxygen, Visabella, three days with Bespoke-Velo and my new cycling chums

Carbs and caffeine: the hotel food is fabulous and of course our guide Bealesy knows the village coffee stops too. 

The weather has now settled to hot, but not too hot; humid but bearable so. I had a short 70k ride on Wednesday to keep the legs moving. Bealesy had me in the small cog the whole way and I tried to keep a steady tempo of about 25k. Even here, I discover I have another deficiency; I can’t ride an even tempo. He suggests I do some training on rollers. My sons have used these but they look hairy as hell. You basically ride your bike on the spot on rollers. The falling off potential seems huge. I’ll put a link at the bottom of this blog so you can see them. They’re crackers… so straight on my wish list then.

For my last two rides in Italy, a couple of other riders are over from London. We had a welcome drink at the bar and got to know each other a bit. You can’t help trying to assess who might be the stronger rider. Luca is a man, a Kingston Wheeler, so he was going to be the strongest. Anyway, to cut to the chase, I was soon to learn that Meghan is also stronger than me up hills. Why am I so slow? I suspect signing myself off lunges due to my back issues has played a part. I’m also recovering from my tough ride on Tuesday. No matter, they’re nice about it and it will be good for their confidence. I forgot to mention, they are also doing the Etape so we are on the same page and we have plenty to talk about.

On our first day’s riding together, Bealesy took us out for 128k, 1,800m ride. He’s good at this stuff. The day was loaded with the big hills at the front and the coffee stop placed about two-thirds of the way through. Pushing off after the caffeine break, I felt that delicious elation of a nicely full stomach, coffee buzz and the knowledge that the rest of the ride was ‘in the bag’. Mostly I rode alongside Meghan and we discussed men, jobs, bibs and lip salve… basically all the important things. There are some lovely things about this riding malarkey and meeting new people is definitely one of them. I am hoping to recruit her to next year’s Dragon Ride, as I really don’t want to do that no my own again.

Today’s ride was supposed to be similar to yesterday’s but a little longer. At breakfast it became apparent that wasn’t going to work. Meghan had a cricked upper back from a slightly long reach on yesterday’s rental bike. She’s like me, long legs, short body and difficult to ‘fit’. Meanwhile Luca looked a little jaded from a bad night’s sleep. So, ever professional, Bealsey changed tack and we headed for a 70k circuit with one longish hill. Best of all for me, this meant Husband could come. The kids are so comfortable at the hotel that we felt happy to leave them with instructions to look after each other… and, of course, cash for ice cream.

All set for the Alps tomorrow. I am going to take a couple of days off to recover – and then go and look at the mountains. Cols de Chassy, Glandon, Croix de Fer, Mollard and Toussuire, here I come.

Note to Bealsey: thanks for a great four days. We’ve had a lovely family holiday and I’ve got to do my thing too. Not easy…

One ‘sick’ ride

Map reference: Hotel Oxygen, Rimini, first ride of Bespoke-Velo holiday, 128k, 2,200m, climbing, up to 43 degree heat

Carbs and caffeine: pint of coke and half a sandwich at bar… Who knows where I was. Will try to clarify later

No, I have not adopted my pre-teen son’s language, that would not be coolio at all. This will forever be remembered in my mind as the ride when I felt sick pretty much all the way round. Humidity was 75pc and the temperature peaked at 43 degrees. This is my attempt to slot in the last bit of training before the Etape next Sunday. I’ve done my endurance, I’ve done hill training… now I’ve got to do my heat training. And, frankly it has shaken my confidence. 

I had a spill within 40 minutes. A total school girl error on a gritty descent. Having dissected the moment several times, I think I squeezed the front brake too hard. I should have been on the drops to have more control. Anyway, I fishtailed trying to regain control and did at least get my speed down before the inevitable slide. My right side is pretty road rashed, but there’s only a tiny bit of swelling. Pretty minor stuff although it has made sleeping a bit tricky. Most importantly the bike is ok. And yes, on landing that was the first thing on my mind. The bar tape is torn and there’s a scrape on the pedal. I feel very lucky.

Anyway, as I said, this was the least of my troubles. I am now going to try to describe to you what riding in that kind of heat feels like. The more sensitive among you might want to look away. We had about 15k of flat to get to the hills, and from the first it felt incredibly hot, but from the moment we hit the hills the sickness struck. Incredibly I was actually shivering with heat. Yes, that right, I felt cold. Confusingly, since I was completely wet, on the long descents I was actually cold. So you have to think shivering with cold and shivering with heat until you think you are going to vomit. Truly, I was getting those pre-vomit flushes of cold rising up from my stomach. I held onto my stomach contents, just, but I don’t ever want to feel like that again. This is officially my hardest ride ever. 

My guide, Bealsey, did all he could; chatting, not chatting, asking if I was ok to which I could only reply wretchedly ‘feel sick’. Did I want to stop? ‘No.’ I can only imagine I was a worryingly green colour. We stopped at every single tap along the way. Bless the Italians for having public water available. Bealsey reckons we got through 10 litres each and I worked through a large portion of my holiday stash of hydration tabs. At every water stop we also stopped long enough for me to recover a little. His Strava says we were riding for 6 hours 10 mins of our 7.5 hour ride. We had a proper stop for ‘lunch’. Of course we didn’t feel at all hungry but the coke went down a treat. This is when coke comes into its own. The real thing indeed.

Eventually I staggered back to the hotel room, with bike, road rash… And a great sense of relief.

Note to self: Keep your head straight, you can do it