For those of you who may be reading this blog for the first time, it is my attempt to let everyone have a small insight into what goes into preparing for and riding the Tour de France one day ahead of the actual race. At the moment it is monthly but will go to weekly then daily. I’ve ridden many major charity challenges over the years but nothing anywhere near this magnitude!
It’s the January club 100 miles ride, the first 100 of 2020. A necessary but not particularly enjoyable part of my training at this time of year. I’ve already ridden 120 miles this week plus an indoor session. My first ride of 2020 was in Cornwall on 1st January as we were there for New Year and naturally involved a number of long steep hills (nothing in comparison to the Tour de France of course!) – starting as I mean to go on!
This week it was back to the more mundane which included riding to work and back which is over the Lickey hills in the dark, cold and then rain on the way home – such fun! and an evening club ride to Worcester and back in the dark and wet.
It’s Saturday morning and today it’s a ride of over 100 miles from Bromsgrove through Tenbury Wells down to Ledbury and Newent and back through Upton and Pershore. I’m up at 07.00 for a 07.45 start again to meet the other guys at 08.30. As always I fuel up with a massive bowl of muesli, shredded wheat and fresh fruit and a large glass of water with High5 zero and I have 5 energy bars for the ride. Outside it’s dark and cold but dry for once and when I leave the house I have to ride with lights on for the first 5 miles.
We meet just before 08.30 and there are 5 of us riding today 3 men and 2 women (including Nathan who’s riding his first club 100 with us and wondering whether he’d have been better off staying in bed). Away we go and as has become the norm for the out of season 100 rides I’m on the front. Although by my standards I’m not in top shape, I’m currently fitter than the others and it means that with the slower pace I still get a tough workout – and I don’t get as dirty!
The weather forecast is reasonable – dry and up to 10 degrees and the ride starts off as normal. Then at about 15 miles into the ride (just before the first hill) there’s a bang and a shout. We pull off the road to find that Nathan has broken a spoke in his front wheel. It’s wobbling and rubbing too badly to chance the rest of the ride so he decides to head home. He tells us very unconvincingly that he’s devastated not to be able to complete the rest of the ride.
We’re off again and I get into my usual mode of counting the miles down on my Garmin computer and looking forward to the reprieve of the lunch stop at about half way. The first half of the ride is going over a number of nasty hills and will be tougher than the last one. It includes the one at Abberley which was where a friend who I’d cycled with for many years had a heart attack and died on one of our rides to wales 11 years before. I’d put a memorial plaque there after it happened and the guys stopped whilst I took a picture – and we remembered how lucky we are. Time flies as it only seemed like it had happened a few weeks ago.
Then it started to rain and it became apparent that the forecasts we’d looked at were very local and the further south we went the wetter it was. It was also far colder than forecast and didn’t go above 7.5 degrees all day. To make matters worse the headwind got stronger and stronger which is tough going when you’re on the front and it was more than a little uncomfortable at times with wind AND rain. It was especially uncomfortable up the gradual climbs! If it gets particularly hard (as it did a few times) I just think of what my dad went through and that none of my suffering can ever be that bad.
Even though our average speed had seemed low, we seemed to get to the coffee/lunch stop in Ledbury quicker than I’d expected. Although it was a welcome brief rest and great to get food and coffee and take off some of our wet tops, we knew that it was going to be horrible putting them back on to go!
The first half of the ride had been very hilly and Lawrence had found it pretty hard going at times, so he was checking train times to see if he could get a train back! As previously he was persuaded to carry on and suffer (I’d have thought he’d be used to it by now) persuaded partly by the fact that I would have made a big reference to him bailing out in this blog if he had! We set off in the rain and it was pretty cold for the first few miles.
Knowing that we were fitter, Jackie and I had arranged as before, that she would ride as the last rider so that we’d know if either of the others suffered and dropped back. Otherwise it would be easy to ride for miles not realising someone had dropped off. I kept the pace fairly slow on the hills to try to keep everyone together.
The ride back was flatter, faster and drier and for parts we had a tail wind – I was actually enjoying the ride for a while. Lawrence actually seemed pretty comfortable and pleased that he hadn’t taken the train! We were joined by a couple of other club riders with about 15 miles to go and they commented how clean I was compared to the others – there is method in my madness in being on the front – no spray from other riders!
As I counted down the final miles I was beginning to think about a hot shower and warm clothes and that the ride wasn’t so bad after all. My ride began before the others as I’m not so local to the start so I dropped off and headed home a few miles before the formal finish – and left the others to decide who rode the last few miles on the front! I rolled onto my drive with 107 miles completed.