A long blog entry this…. but I hope to answer all the questions I’ve received from you…..
Its’s Over. So What Happened after Paris and the Eurostar/taxi home?
Well it’s taken me over 2 weeks to find the time and possibly the motivation to write this summary.
Does that say something? I don’t know.
Am I scared that by writing this final blog my Tour de Force is officially over? I think so.
What I do know is that I (quietly) miss writing the blog, and that I really do miss riding my bike. If TdF taught me one thing, it’s that I love my bike, with the freedom it provides, the simplicity and ruggedness of life that the bike and mountains offer in complete harmony…… in an exact same manner that my motorcycle and the vast sand dunes and immense emptiness of the Omani desert gave me for 6 happy years.
After finishing TdF in Paris I returned to England on the Eurostar. I met a group of guys and gals returning from completing L’Etape du Tour at Tourmalet/Hautacam. I had to laugh, they’d had rain and mist, and no views! I explained our 43degC and they were jealous … until they heard my stories of the Alps!
I was in a rush to get back. Priority number one was to see my darling 16yr old daughter, Annalie. She was back in hospital. So bravely, and quietly enduring her next bout of chemo. I spent 3 nights with her in hospital before she returned home for her next recovery period. Such a brave girl, and thankyou darling for being so brave and unselfish, and letting me go to ride TdF. I expected to spend hours quietly reflecting, but in fact……. I just slept, calmly next to Annalie. Nothing more.
I then had to visit the dentist…. I cracked a tooth and lost a filling “en-TdF-route” (day 13)…. But as “Man-Up” (or words to that effect) was the sort of unofficial motto during TdF I kept quiet about this, but it did need attention. I rode my bike to the dentist, for the first time, 10 days after the finish …. All 15km there and 15 back, on the flat! It was like putting on some old slippers. It felt so right, everything fitted. It really did feel like I belonged on the bike. Oh yes, I LOVE my bike, I love riding it, and in answer to the oh so many questions, no…. I won’t be hanging it up for cobweb collection. In fact I’ve fitted new (OK, you know me….2nd hand!) wheels and it’s ready to roll when I get back from Russia.
The TdF wasn’t a slog (mostly!) but a joy to ride, a pleasure to take part and privilege to have completed…… and I’ll be cycling for many more years, although perhaps a little less intensely. I think I’ve also learnt that…. you know what…?.... I’m pretty damn good at it too !!! Ha ha, hope this doesn’t sound conceited, but come on…. So many of us just completed the whole of the toughest cycle race in the world, (OK, we didn’t race it… but we did 3,700km and 50,000m ascent). You can’t keep claiming “I’m not really a cyclist” (as claimed by myself and several people at the initial briefings) anymore! Let’s face it…. We’re cyclists, and pretty hard core too!! Chapeau to all my new found friends !!
But now it’s time to look back….. to summarise the ride, and so I will and I’ll start as usual with the usual statistical facts….plus a few “noteable” extra’s:-
Tour de Force (28 June – 21 July 2014) Totals:
|Total Elevation m
|Ave Speed km/hr
|Max Speed km/hr
|Moving Time hrs:min
|Ave Heart Rate
|Max Heart Rate
|Crashes on my bike
|Temp Range degC
|Energy Bars Eaten
|Beers Consumed *
|Wines Consumed *
*Does not include final boat trip party !!
If you are interested.... Vincenzo NIBALI (who won Tour de France this year, yellow jersey) finished in 89 hours and 59 minutes. Cheng JI (the guy who finished last - known as Lanterne Rouge - 164th out of 198 starters) finished in 96 hours and 01 minutes.
My time was 161 hours and 08 minutes. We cycled a bit further (to and from hotels etc) and dealt with traffic lights, and traffic in general ...... we also took photos, ate food, rode ALL of the cobble sections (!) and didn't ride in a peleton most of the way. Now, I'd say this probably slowed us down by about 66 hours, or so, don't you think? Therefore by my calculations, and had we had closed roads...... I wouldn't have won the 2014 Tour de France...... but I wouldn't have come last either . Would you agree? he he.
But far more importantly...… I managed to cycle 3,733km without a single puncture or without falling off. Amazing hey? Gatorskins…. Brilliant tyres. I left an old pair of them on for Yorkshire and London ….. then decided to leave them on until after the cobbles…. then realized weight is irrelevant and I’d wait till rest day. Then there was rain forecast which washes out all sorts of puncture causing material….. and then finally couldn’t really be bothered as there were only a few days left. My tyres were over 6,000km old by the end (and they’re still going strong!)
I did however almost wear out a front rim due to all the wet weather braking, break another spoke, and I did kill my free wheel hub (4 year old wheels, should have bought new ones beforehand, ooops, silly boy)
Eating is NOT cheating:
A typical sized 3 course evening meal ........
Healthy stuff Filling stuff Chocolate stuff !!!
The most popular question I have received since finishing has been along the lines of “You did seem to go on about the food quite a lot, just exactly how much did you eat each day?” So…. Here is a list of what I ate one day in France….. and for anyone who doesn’t know me, I am 5’11” and normally weigh around 73kg (11.5 stone). I lost a bit of weight on the tour (1 or 2kg) but not as much as many people. So pretty normal really, a bit on the skinny side I suppose, definitely not an ounce of fat! And yes, I do like my food!
6am Breaky: 1 bowl of muesli, with milk and a yogurt poured over. Some bits of fresh fruit and nuts added. Glass of orange juice, cup of black coffee. 3 pain au chocolat. 1 croissant dipped in a honey sachet. A 6” baguette filled with ham and cheese (carried out to eat as I checked out my bike and got ready to go). An egg, a banana, and an apple.
9am 40km Stop: Drink of water. 3 slices of flapjack. A piece of briochette (French cake), a handful of nuts, a handful of dried apricots. 2 bananas (ate one, stuffed one in my cycle shirt pocket)
11am 80km Stop: Fresh coffee. Drink of rehydrant powder added to water. 4 baguette style sandwiches (peanut butter, jam, cheese, chocolate spread), a few biscuits (bourbons even!) and several quarters of fresh orange.
1pm 120km Lunch: Big plate full of pasta with some sort of veggies and mild chicken curry mixed in. A second plate of rice with other bits of vegetables and stuff in. Some cheese, some bread, some pastry things. A piece of chocolate cake….. and a banana!
4pm 160km Treats: A can of coke. 2 bags of crisps (smokey bacon and roast chicken no less!) and 2 chocolate bars (bit like a French bounty bar, and a praline bar... yum yum.) It was at this point I usually discovered the banana I had been carrying all day, so I ate that too!
6pm 200km Finish: Leftovers from pasta lunch, some stale bread and a couple of bikkies, just to tide us over till dinner. My own protein recovery drink mixed into 0.5 litre of water.
8pm-10pm Dinner: Starter of various cold meats, some quiche and tomatoes. Loads of bread whilst waiting for the main course to arrive! Main was Grilled Chicken breast, green beans and garlic, some fancy French potato creation. This was quite small so a big bowl of more green beans and a bowl of pasta with some sauce was circulating…..so I had a generous portion of that too. Pudding was a lovely apple tart typical French slice thingy….with cream. I found sitting next to a girl at this point was quite clever, cos they usually allowed me to “help them out” with a bit of the desert…. but not always!
I have been known to nibble a leftover choccie bar or banana in the room before bed…. But not every night, that would just be greedy. he he......... Sleep……. and digest
Looking back. Reflections:
I don’t want to get too emotional here and offer up the inevitable Q&A’s to “Has this changed my outlook on life, changed me as a person, will I do it again?” etc etc…..because in all honesty I’m too old and set in my ways for changing!.....plus of course, as I mentioned a few times along the way in my blog I’ve had enough character building events in my life already, and I think mines built up enough, thanks very much. TdF was brilliant fun, and an incredible experience, and damn hard work at times, both mentally as a well as physically, but it hasn’t changed me….. I don’t think. I revel in this sort of challenge and will seek out something else at some point I am sure…. Not sure quite what yet though (or I’m not letting on here anyway!! )
All the "Lifers" in Versailles. Officially not on this years Tour de France, but we rode through, as it's too good to miss!
Learnings: and Top Tips:
What I do think is useful though is summarizing a few learnings from my experience, and perhaps they can act as a few Top Tips for any budding long distance cyclist or future TdF-er out there. I know I learnt a bit from previous riders blogs, and if this can help someone in the future and add to their enjoyment, then that’s great. Here’s my impression and learnings…. They may not be everyones… of that I am sure, but they are mine…. And they are honest! (as you know I like to be with these things)
So what did I learn? :-
1) Wash out your shirt, shorts, socks every night. To dry, simply lay your kit on the towel on the floor, roll it up in a sausage and then stand on it. Unwrap and hey presto it’ll be basically dry! Brilliant. Hang up over night and yes, honestly it will be bone dry in the morning. I learnt this on day 2 and wow, what a revelation! (Do this after showering in hotels with only 1 towel!!)
2) Extensive multi-day Training pays off. Not only did it develop my speed, stamina and general fitness but it also taught me that saddle sores are a reality and need to be avoided at all costs! No multi day training and I wouldn’t have discovered this. A comfy saddle, and lashings of cream! (“Second skin” mail order from Germany worked for me, plus Assos for the chamois, and sudocrem (baby nappy rash!) for the nights….. heaven).
3) Writing a blog (diary!) really is an essential means to having any chance whatsoever of remembering anything on such an undertaking as this. If you are going to ever do anything like this for goodness sake do it. Whether its pen and paper, rough notes or a ridiculous electronic blog like this, just do it. I wouldn’t have remembered anything without it! 3 weeks is a long time. It’s hard at the time, but I am soooo happy I made the effort, and stayed up late doing it.
4) Having a very good mate at home (called Craig - who even set up the website for me a year ago) to send photos to on a daily basis saved me hours of frustration trying to download pictures onto the blog site at awful snail pace internet hotel wifi sites, with 65 cyclists suddenly all trying to do the same thing! Thanks so much mate, the blog was so much better for having pictures. You are a star.
5) You don’t need to shave your legs. You don’t need white shoes. You don’t need a fancy bike. (sturdy and reliable beats lightweight and troublesome…. cheaper too!). You do need good legs tho!
6) Day bag management for spare gloves, waterproofs, arm/leg warmers, creams, drink powder etc etc can really make your day. Share with someone else and have bags in both vans (every 40km). Double up on waterproofs/gloves etc so you can always collect or dump at any van knowing you’ll have the same at the next van.
7) Energy bars, gels! Pah, take a handful if you must but no more. Wrap a piece of flap jack up and stuff a banana in your vest….. tastes better, is better for you, saves carrying all round France for 3 weeks unnecessarily! Drink powder and electrolytes though are well worth it. Hydration, hydration , hydration.
8) Ride alone for at least once every day. Look up, take in the view. Stop occasionally. Take pictures. Enjoy. Pick some fruit, steal a grape! You will always find someone else to ride with from the next feed stop.
Here's one of my favourite pictures taken by my crazy friend "Pippy". She stopped and observed so much...... Should we call it "The yellow sheep in the peleton" ? Look closely..... who else would have noticed this if their head had been down pedalling frantically?
9) Do it. I wasn’t much of a cyclist a year ago. Put in the training. Have courage. Do it !!
10) Do it. Yes I know I’ve said it twice. Whether its as a Lifer or a shorter Tour Taster you will meet the wonderful Wates family, the tremendous TdF organizing/support team, and many more perfectly brilliant people, who ride bikes!
There are too many thankyou’s to mention individually. But most important is to thank YOU… the people reading this blog who have contributed to the William Wates Memorial Trust. You have made a difference to some child less fortunate than yourself. Your money is spent wisely I can assure you. On their behalf, Thanks a bundle. My total raised is over £8,000. Amazing.
Thankyou to the Wates family for this inspirational set-up. Thankyou for your personal touch and individual comments. You are a wonderful family.
And thankyou to everyone who met me en-route, sent me a message of encouragement by text, email, facebook or this blog page. It really did help and it was lovely to receive, and helped make the ride so special. Thankyou everyone.
The End …....… (to this little adventure at least ! )