When I look back over the last few years I’m always pretty shocked about how much I’ve accomplished on a bicycle. From the London to Brighton and London to Paris to the Ride London I’ve completed things that, 10 years ago, would have been impossible for me. I have got fitter, but I haven’t been one of those people who has a diet that takes all the fun out of life and I certainly don’t deny myself treats or nice meals or the odd takeaway.
I’ve had a bumper year this year; Paris-Roubaix, cycling in Sweden, Ride London and a visit to the UCI World Championships have made for some brilliant experiences so my mind started to turn towards 2020 and what I could possibly do as a new experience. The tests with the doctors on my breathing and the subsequent assertion that I have no lasting damage from smoking made me dream big, a big adventure or challenge to really test myself and raise some much needed money for a deserving charity that is, as yet, to be determined.
….but what could I do?
A conversation between myself and an old friend, Ben, including some cajoling and light-hearted teasing led me to the answer. Next year, in July, I am going to be taking part in the Etape du Tour where c.16,000 riders complete a stage of the Tour de France a few days after the pros have rolled through town. This will be the single biggest and hardest thing that I have ever attempted, I am both scared and excited in equal measure.
The 2020 edition of the Etape starts and finishes in Nice in the south of France. The 177km route sets of from the Promenade des Anglais and circles round in a loop including three key climbs; the Col de Colmiane, the Col du Turini and the Col d’Eze meaning a total of 3,570 metres of climbing! Time to lose some weight!
Ben and I have booked our trip through Lovevelo so that all our accommodation and transfers are taken care of, a couple of easyJet flights later and we’re locked in! Ben has completed the Etape before, on the Col d’Izoard in 2017, so this holds no fear for him as he’s a proper mountain goat but I think he’s pleased to have me along for the ride (until he drops me after a kilometer anyway). For me, however, this route is going to present some serious challenges…..
The Col du Turini is fairly fresh in the memory as it was a mountain-top finish in this year’s Paris-Nice stage race. Dani Martinez (EF Education First) rode away from a group with Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) to take the win
It is also an incredibly popular destination for cyclists from around the world
Now I know from my recent visit to the nurse that I need to lose some weight. It will help not having to carry as much bulk uphill but it will also help with the breathing element as less fat around the gut means that there is more space for the lungs to inflate when breathing in and therefore a greater capacity of air can be inhaled. I weighed in at 85.1kg which, according to pretty much everything, marks me as overweight! For a man of my height (5’8″) I should be weighing in between 55kg – 75kg
…..so I have at least 10kg to lose (1st 8lb). Pretty scary, but I have a target and I know that will give me such a boost.
The story starts here. From here to Nice, with all the bumps along the way, the Etape du Tour is calling. I’m incredibly excited about scaling some of the Cols that I’ve seen on the TV over the past few years in the Paris-Nice week long race but I know there’s a lot of hard work to put in before that
….stay tuned for updates!
So, a few weeks ago I went to the doctors to talk to him about my breathing. His initial thoughts were ‘exercise induced asthma’ so he prescribed me a Salbutamol inhaler, he also gave me a peak flow meter and asked me to measure my breathing (morning and night) for two weeks. The results of this are below
The numbers mean very little to the common man, the only analysis I can give is that 460 was the high and 340 was the low. To put them into context the below shows a peak flow measuring chart
So, for a man of my age and height, the normal peak flow number should be in the region of 620, clearly not what I was producing! I will caveat my numbers with the information that I have had a cough and a cold pretty much since I got the device so I don’t think that helped!
What was interesting, however, was the impact of the inhaler. After exerting myself on Zwift with the use of the inhaler I measured the peak flow again and my reading had jumped to between 550 and 580!
I returned to the doctor and he referred me to the nurse for a spirometry test which I took yesterday. All my resting readings were normal, with a slight rise in performance with the inhaler, so she asked me to return after taking some more pre, post and post inhaler exercise. Her initial thinking was that I have a slight form of exercise induced asthma that is brought on by one or more factors like pollution, pollen etc.
Probably the best thing about the appointment (aside from a good blood pressure and oxygen check) was the nurse telling me that my readings suggest that there is no lasting damage caused by smoking. For that I am relieved as I have some pretty big plans to tell you about soon……..
On Sunday (13th October), Adam and I ventured over to Yorks Hill near Sevenoaks to watch the 124th running of the annual Catford CC Hill Climb. While not the longest, it is the oldest continuing hill climb competition in the country and therefore has a prestige associated with it for hill climb aficionados.
The climb itself starts at Yorks Hill Farm and extends for 0.4 of a mile at an average of 12.4%, but that really doesn’t tell the whole story. The climb is a narrow, tree covered affair with steep banks either side of the road. Rain washes debris into the road and leaves can cover a multitude of watt-sapping imperfections in the road surface. The members from Catford CC did a great job of clearing the road the day before and, thankfully, the rain looked like it would stay away.
To give an additional idea of how difficult this ride is, the course record of 1:47.6 has stood since 1983, over 35 years!
Nearly 150 riders attempted the climb on Sunday and we cheered every single one of them on to the top. Young, old, male, female – they all made it up this brute with many going on to compete in the Bec Hill Climb that afternoon! Nutters! Enjoy the slideshow!
The overall competition was won by Calum Brown in a time of 1:49.0, the closest we’ve seen to the course record for those 35+ years. A great ride and fully deserving of the title.
Bill Bell was the fastest male veteran, Amy Marks was the fastest female senior, Alice Gilmore the fastest female junior and Theo Tadros the fastest male junior.
The greatest thing for me was still to come, Cycling Weekly picked up my pictures on Twitter and used them in one of their online articles. I was pretty stoked about that!
It’s a great event, plenty of people on the hill to cheer the riders on and a special mention for the guy on the PA who kept us laughing throughout
It was September 1982, at Goodwood Motor Circuit, when the cycling World Championships were last held in the United Kingdom. 37 years later, I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see the pinnacle of the cycling season first hand after being invited by Alpecin Cycling. I’d already missed some pretty sensational performances in the time trials, especially from Chloe Dygert and Rohan Dennis, by the time that I travelled up on the Friday. The rain was bouncing as I reached Leeds so I pushed on the next train to Harrogate to meet some of Cycling Twitter’s finest in the Alexandra Pub
I’d not met most of these people before, only conversing with them through Twitter on our mutual love of cycling, so it was great to be able to buy a few drinks (to have mine spilt – Jamie!) and share a few laughs with a great bunch of people.
As the evening went on we headed down to the Old Swan Hotel where the Alpecin Cycling ‘Caravan’ was parked up, we’d also heard that the Dutch and USA teams were staying so I was hoping to grab a few words with Mike Teunissen to say hello and wish him all the best for the Sunday coming. As the hotel was located right by the Flamme Rouge we headed outside to watch the U23 race come by, what we hadn’t banked on was watching the end with Dutch great Annemiek van Vleuten on a mobile screen. Pretty surreal.
Our joy at Nils Eekhof winning was short-lived however, as he was subsequently disqualified for illegal drafting behind the team car on his way back to the bunch after a mechanical. A real shame for the lad.
I managed to grab a few words with Mike in the hallway after he’d given an interview to the Dutch press, we (he) had a laugh about Arsenal beating Forest in the cup and he told me he was feeling good but (and I think the quote was) “it’s all about Mathieu, eh” referring to the great Dutch hope, Mathieu van der Poel.
My best efforts to go to bed early in preparation for Saturday’s Alpecin ride out were, at best, incredibly poor but ride we did and we met some great people along the way
We covered 65km which was more than enough for me following a few beers and a week with a sore throat! Thankfully the rain gave way to some lovely sunshine, albeit coupled with a fairly stiff breeze. I got to ride a Canyon Aeroad CF SL which was lovely, I’d never ridden on rims that deep before and they did cause me a few issues in the wind but it was a lot of fun.
After lunch we headed into town as the Alpecin Cycling team had got us places in the UCI Hospitality Tent to watch the end of the Women’s Elite Race. Our own cycling done, we were free to sample the free food and drink including some pretty amazing pies! We watched, amazed, as Annemiek van Vleuten attacked with 100km to go and rode away from the rest of the pack, soloing all the way to the line. Our fortunate placement meant that we were on hand to see that close up!
It was a quite phenomenal ride, a ride worthy of the Rainbow Bands. We headed back to the Old Swan to join in the celebrations and to meet up with the rest of the Alpecin team. While we were there, Annemiek van Vleuten rode back in sporting the rainbow jersey and her gold medal to rapturous applause from the gathered fans
Not even a rogue fire alarm was going to spoil her day!
The rain returned with a vengeance for Sunday’s Mens Elite race, so much that the race was shortened and the possible attack points of Buttertubs and Grinton Moor were removed. It looked appalling from the pictures, many of us wondered whether the race would go ahead at all. We headed down to the Old Swan to see what the craic was for the day, first stop a haircut!
Ben (the barber) was a genuinely good lad, loves his bikes and racing and is a bit of an Instagram star as well as running a few barber shops in London, nice fella so give him an Insta follow @ldn_brbr
That done we were headed back towards the UCI Hospitality which we were all glad of due to the weather, but Kirsty from the event team had one more surprise for us. We had been given the chance to go out in the lap cars that follow the riders around on the Harrogate finishing circuit. This was a once in a lifetime experience and I wasn’t going to miss that. It was everything I had hoped for and more – despite the rain the crowds were absolutely AMAZING. Cycling fans are a hardy bunch and they know how to have fun while passing the time till the riders come round again!
Back in the hospitality tent I watched as Mike Teunissen followed some attacks and made his way into the front group, I started to get a bit excited about that. He looked in good shape, however with 2 laps to go his legs deserted him and he drifted back to the pack. It was that moment when MVDP made his move and took Trentin with him. We planned our move outside to perfection, securing prime real estate on the finish line….
When MVDP bonked on the Otley Road I don’t think anyone really believed it. Trentin was definitely the fastest finisher so he was definitely going to go on and win the rainbow jersey, wasn’t he? Well, Mads Pedersen had something to say about that. He sailed past Trentin, arms aloft to take the jersey at the ripe old age of 23.
It was a great performance and a deserved win, any rider who wins in those conditions fully deserves their title. I don’t know why it was such a surprise, here’s a lad that finished 2nd in De Ronde last year.
I left Yorkshire that evening, having had a great weekend. I’d cycled, watched cycling, talked about cycling, dreamt about cycling, drank some good beer and ate some pretty nice pies.
As I said, I met some great people on my travels so give these people an Instagram follow:
@glorious.cc, @danevanscycling, @jess_rides_bikes, @ldn_brbr
Those who have read this blog, or who know me well, will know my history with cycling, how I gave up smoking nearly 6 years ago now after 20 years on the fags. It was that event that caused me to find this hobby as a means to get fit and find something to focus on. I never imagined it would lead to what my wife would term an obsession.
As I approached the end of September, which will mark that 6 year anniversary, I started to look back on how far I had progressed. I’ve done some wonderful things that I never would have believed possible; London to Paris, Brighton and back, Ride London x2 were huge achievements for me, but I couldn’t help but feel that I should be better than I am. At the top of Clarks Lane, a couple of weeks back, I slumped on my bars and gasped for some air. I’d ridden this short and gentle climb numerous times, it’s only 1.3km at a 4.1% average gradient, yet it always knocks the stuffing out of me regardless of whether its the first or last climb on my ride
I made the decision there and then to go to the doctors to get myself checked out, if I had been 2 years into non-smoking I may well have felt differently but I have trained and worked hard on my cycling over the 6 year period and my gut told me that I wasn’t improving. I fully understand that my smoking could have done irreparable damage to my lungs and breathing but I wanted to get checked out, just to be sure.
This morning I went to the doctor’s surgery and sat down with him to discuss my situation. I think he was quite impressed with the wholesale changes I have made to my lifestyle and he hypothesised that I am possibly suffering from exercise induced asthma. He prescribed me a peak flow meter which takes readings of air flow out of your lungs and I have to do this when I wake up and before I go to bed for two weeks in order to collect data that may help to determine whether I need full preventative asthma medication
In addition to this he also prescribed me a Salbutamol inhaler, the substance at the centre of the Chris Froome scandal last year. This is reserved for the days where I do exercise, I’m to take it before I go out cycling and carry it with me in case I feel the need to ‘top up’.
This is my ‘Icarus moment’ (for those who are unaware, Icarus is a Netflix documentary where Bryan Fogel explores doping to win a cycling race), however mine is completely legal! I am at the point where I know my abilities inside out, I really do think I will be able to spot any changes in performance and overall condition from the introduction of this medication. I’m thoroughly therapeutically exempt, I have the signature! Flippancy aside, I am both interested and excited to see what happens and whether my cycling improves as a result. Clarks Lane will be my ‘control’ segment, I know how to ride it and changes will be easy to spot.
Last thing on this, the UK NHS service is a wondrous and amazing thing. Anybody trying to tamper with it or dismantle it should be ashamed.
In three week’s time the best of the best in world cycling will descend on Harrogate to battle it out for the right to wear the rainbow bands in the respective disciplines until they are fought for again in Aigle-Martigny in September 2020.
The good news for me is……..I’ll be there! Following on from Alpecin Cycling’s event at the London stage of the Tour of Britain last year, this year they are hosting an event at the World Championships and I could not be happier that they’ve invited me! I’m hoping to catch the Mens U23, Women’s Elite and the Men’s Elite races as well as donning the Alpecin colours once more for a ride out around the Harrogate finishing circuit.
I was intrigued, therefore, when Zwift finally released their Harrogate World Champs course into the public domain today. A stomach complaint put paid to my chances of an outdoor ride so I decided to take a leisurely spin round the new course. It is completely what you would expect from a UK based course, hardly any flat sections you are either going up or down and nowhere in between. No lengthy, steep climbs, this is one for the puncheurs with a decent engine. There are long drags at 2-3% that don’t seem like much but will sap the energy of the riders as well as a couple of short, sharp, stinging lumps to get over
Out of the start/finish you turn right onto Otley Road and it becomes clear that this is not going to be an easy cafe ride
I can only imagine how a UK road surface will make these drags sap energy as the pros go round their seven circuits, any inclement weather and this will get ten times worse!
The Zwift course is well designed, looks great and is fun to ride.
The sprint to the finish line is another uphill drag so it won’t be a pure sprinter that wins the rainbow bands this year. Indeed, the corner that turns into the finish is an absolute brute. There’s not an easy run in to set yourself for the final sprint, this will all be about positioning. This could be the one downside for MVDP, this is top level cycling and the likes of Sagan, Alaphilippe and Gilbert will know immediately where they need to be. MVDP will have the backing of a strong Dutch team and I’m sure Mike T can help to put him in the right place.
The other thing I found out today is that I have a broken smart trainer. The cadence keeps dropping out or is ridiculously high and the watts definitely aren’t correct. Looks like that direct drive trainer is nearer in my future than originally expected!