Monday, 29 April 2013

The power of the ride... and the Lakes

This weekend saw me head to the Lake District in the north-west of the UK to get in some serious mileage and climbing with my friends Matt and Allan.

Although the actual event is not until the second week of May, we decided to take on the route of the Fred Whitton Challenge ( This is a stunning tour of the Lake District, taking in all the main passes and postcard vistas. It is also a challenging day in the saddle. 116 miles later, 3,500 metres climbed and 8 hours 30 minutes having passed, we made it back to our B&B.

It is not until you are changed and showered after your ride that you really start to appreciate what you have just done. It must be part of the recovery process - a post-ride creep of endorphins to wipe away memories of suffering up those 30% gradients. What amplifies this feeling further is that on a day like Saturday, this was a shared experience. To spend so long with your friends doing the same thing and supporting each other through such a physically and mentally demanding activity builds strong bonds. Regardless of where you find yourself in life, the bike is a powerful leveler and a shared bike ride brings you together. That and a truck load of juvenile toilet talk.

Never underestimate the power of the velo.

There is no truer statement when it comes to my friend Simon Evans. He spent 18 months cycling around the world with his mate Fearghal O’ Nuallain between November 2008 and May 2010. Check out their story here Simon is now a bicycle designer ( hoping to change the face of children's bikes forever.

So, in summary, a great weekend had. After Matt and Allan departed, I got in another 35 miles (in the Sunday wind and rain) to reach Oxenholme station. I felt I had earned my weekend first class upgrade back to London. Without doubt the TdF training has upped a gear. So far it's all looking good for the May build phase and hopefully the perfect peak for the start of the TdF on 22 June.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Presenting... the Italian stallion...sort of

Granted, the post title may be a bit mis-leading (there is not much Italian engineering going on here, it's more Taiwanese carbon and Japanese components than Tifosi steel) but there is no denying the Colnago name, "Ace of Clubs" mark and understated geometry gives it that Milano flair. God bless Ernesto and his wonderful bicycling vision of 1954.

I found this beauty by chance whilst on a trip to northern Italy last October, ironically for some mountain bike action. There she was sitting in the local bike shop's basement, second hand and unloved. I've never owned a full carbon frame until now and was fairly sceptical about making my first entry into the market with a pre-owned machine in a foregin land. The problem with carbon is that unless you know the history of the bike, it is difficult to spot compromises in the frame.

The bike shop owner gave me the low down on its history - one owner, a doctor, decided after 300 kms use that he wanted to spend 7000 Euros on a super-velo. My layman eye could not spot any cracks or dings. Too good to be true? Maybe, but we all love a holiday impulse buy and this was going for a song. Luigi let me test ride it. Love at first pedal - light, racy, stiff and transmitting all my power into forward drive. With one eye on riding the 2013 Tour, the deal was sealed.

Later and suffering a touch of buyer's remorse, I was relieved to hear that the northern Italians trade their bikes as often as footballers their WAGs. They are a fashion conscious lot, obsessed with their velos and looking their best on the Sunday club ride (or Tuesday in the middle of the day when I was there!). Usually they'll part exchange their bike for the latest model at the end of the season, meaning that there are some lovely second hand bikes kicking around. Shop owners want to do quick sales at good prices to clear the shop space. If you are on the look out for a new pre-owned top end bike, you could do worse than heading to San Remo for La Primavera and shopping around.

So here she is - the bicycle that is going to roll me to TdF glory. Full carbon frame, Dura Ace components all over. Light as a feather. Wheel upgrade, some proper pedals, a pro-fertility saddle and we are good to get on Tour.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


Day 1 of blogging. Brave new world. Follow my build up to riding the 2013 Tour de France for the William Wates Memorial Trust ( and then enjoy reports from the Tour. Loosely based cycling topics and rip roaring articles on  three weeks in lycra guaranteed. You may get to see raw athletic talent from the pros but you won't get anywhere near the prattle you'll read here. I have already dusted off the libel books.

In the meantime, feel free to get on board the fundraising train and help the WWMT by sponsoring my Tour efforts here