Thursday, 27 June 2013


Bonjour tout le monde. Je suis revenu en France propre. 

And what a transition it has been. Having boarded the overnight ferry from Bastia and embraced the Euro disco in the hull, we arrived in Nice at 7.30am for the team time trial. Like any hard working sailor I was met by my beautiful woman on the quayside. Em made the trip out on Monday night and we had a good day on the beach once the TTT had been seen off on Tuesday. Speedy it wasn't due to traffic and lights, but nonetheless the 25km stage was completed. 

The next day was rather epic. 141 miles over rolling terrain in the heat and Mistral winds from Nice to Marseille. One of our mechanics, Pete, lives in a village, Lourges, which lies on the route of stage 5. Pete organised his local velo club to come ride the route with us, whilst their wives prepared a fantastic lunch in the village square. Three highlights for me included practising my pigeon French on the local riders in the peleton, many of whom couldn't understand a word I said, meeting the Mayor of Lourges and making the local press, and the Madames' home made quiche Lorraine. Despite eight hours in the saddle, it was a wonderful day and topped off by Lourges Velo Club's donation of 300 Euros to the WWMT at dinner. The Tour de Force at its best. 

Today started with a 5.30am rise before transferring to Aix en Provence for the 110 mile burn up to Montpellier. Our lead rider, Phil Dekker, suggested that this flat day should be a recovery ride but the front group were having none of it. Our logic being the sooner we arrived in Montpellier, the quicker we can start to recover. Flat it may have been but the Mistral blew hard. Fortunately we had a motivated and well organised group  working today, putting in big pulls at the front against the wind. Had it not been for the neutralised zone at the start, today would have been my first 100 miles under five hours. We were moving at pace and my body is starting to perform feats I did not think possible.  

In general things are going well on Tour. The legs certainly feel tired after the last two days and the pace in Corsica is catching up with me. We head into the Pyrenees for the next three days before the first rest day and a transfer up to Brittany. Tomorrow is foothills with two big Pyrenean stages coming back to back the following days. I am dominating the massage table at the moment and working hard to keep eating to ensure the petrol remains topped up. Banter is at an all time high at the front and I am settling in there well. The pro tan is coming along nicely and stay tuned for pictures on the first rest day. The most difficult part is sleeping as the heart rate remains high helping the blood flush out the day's toxins. A new hotel and different roomies every night (I've lost Morten to his single supplememts) are also things to adapt to. It will come a point where the need for sleep overrides all this and a pass out ensues. 

A couple of snaps to finish... Members of the Lourges Velo Club looking dubious in their questionable orange lycra, Simon aka Lars Boom looking delicious in pink ahead of the chic Nice TTT and the Colnago in all her glory on Tour... 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Corsican carnage

Although a relatively short hop away it was a long day on Friday travelling to Porto Vecchio. A lot of us arrived late for our Tour briefings as the plane left Nice late. Not a great start but the experience of flying in a propeller job is always great value. Landing was like a roller-coaster ride. 

The first thing that struck me on arrival is just how organised the Tour is. There are a crack team of mechanics, physios, doctors and soigneurs dealing with 80 riders at the moment. Nothing is too much bother. It is a military operation, but definitely assisted by the great attitudes and friendliness of the riders. We room share on Tour and it is a good way to get to know your with team mates. Having been to British boarding schools growing up I am well versed at mucking in and getting on with it. I'd say that formative experience has also prepared me well if I ever end up in prison. That's a tale for another day. My roomies Andy and then Morten the Dane have been spot on. 

The second thing that struck me is just how good some of the riders are here and how much I am enjoying getting in the mix with them. It's a real test. Stage 1 saw us cover off 130 relatively flat miles at a roasting 19.5mph average along the coast road to Bastia. Cooking on gas. Stage 2 today, was a 105 mile test through the Corsican mountains in 34c. I tried to stick with the climbers on the first climb but backed off on the 1200m second peak. Even still, I was hurting by the end, probably paying for yesterday's efforts and not yet having found my alpine legs. It will come, patience being the key. 

Tomorrow is our last Corsican stage before we board the overnight ferry to Nice. We roll off the boat in Nice earlyon Monday for the 25km time trial (fashion parade) before having the rest of the day to ourselves. I've enjoyed Corsica - it's a beautiful place - but I'll be pleased to get back to the mainland. For the Tour, it feels like a bit of a sideshow with the main event really getting started in Nice. One to come back to for a proper holiday, whatever they are!

Here's a few snaps to give you a flavour... a nice view to wake up to this morning, yours truly sporting the Italian fluro look and the main guys I've been riding with at today's finish...Elton (John), Phil and Simon. Top lads. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Bon voyage

Goodbye Angleterre for three weeks. Let the journey begin. Considering what lies ahead and the insane amount of carbon offsetting I am committing to, I thought a taxi to Clapham Junction for the airport train was acceptable. Thank you to everyone at EDF ER for a wonderful send off yesterday evening - I am perusing my Rapha Tour journal in the back of the cab for that last bit of inspiration. No udder cream applied just yet. 

Not much sleep last night as the adrenalin started kicking in and I packed, re-packed, re-re packed in a vain attempt to distil the kit bag contents. I still reckon I am tipping the scales and unlikely to need half the toot in there. 

The next post will be from Corsica, but for now have great Fridays. Bonne journee!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Use the Force...

In the pre-tour preparation whirlwind, just a short post to thank Force 9 Energy Limited for becoming my single biggest sponsor to date with a quick fire £500.00 pledge yesterday. Force 9 offered to support within twenty minutes of my shameless plug.

In its own words, Force 9 is a successful UK based wind farm development company which was formed in 2002. The company is “passionate about the need to utilise the natural environment and onshore wind capacity to deliver the country’s energy needs from renewable resources”.

Thank you to David Butterworth, CEO, and his team for their support and encouragement – it is great to have Force 9 behind the TdF.

For more information on Force 9, please visit their website here


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

I got 99 problems...but my bike ain't one

So here we are. Just over a week until I trust an efficient yet rustic combo of Air Norway and Corsica to deliver me to Le Grand Depart.

The training is done. The steed is sparkling and chomping at the bit. She cruised along effortlessly on Sunday's final long ride. The drive train purred and the new saddle is now perfectly broken in. I will be dropping her off on Sunday for collection into the Corsica bound van. It will be an emotional week apart but our joyous reunion in the Med will be the stuff of fairy tales.

Work on the other hand is far from done. That is where the focus lies from now until next Thursday evening. I should think there are not many bosses out there who will nonchalantly sign off on one of his charge's three week holiday requests and I was lucky to be granted my leave stress free. However with this award comes a certain degree of responsibility to not leave your team mates in a world of pain whilst you pootle around France on your bike. The decks need to be cleared and the usual sources of work flow mitigated.

My CEO was kind enough to give me a platform to speak about the TdF at our summer company event last week. It has been a bit of a poisoned chalice. A great opportunity to promote the TdF and I got as close as I'll ever get (I think) to being a stripper with the kind donations colleagues chucked in my direction after the performance. However, it also put my colleagues on notice of my prolonged absence and work traffic is up significantly this week as they rush to get their matters seen to. Quid pro quos all round. All in all, work have been very interested and supportive of the TdF so no complaints.

In this last week to lift off, it is hard not to think about what lays ahead and reflect on what lays behind. A few thousand kilometres of tarmac in both directions. Current fad seems to be an obsession with hygiene and meds on the Tour. I have gone a little over the top in Boots at lunch. Hopefully all this will stay in the holdall and not see the light of day. Perhaps it is a good thing to be solely concentrating on work this week - it may save me from burning all my money on pointless pharmaceuticals.

Knights of the Round Table... the Tour of Wessex

Just like the pros at last week's Criterium du Dauphine, my pre-TdF shoot-out was at the Tour of Wessex over the last May bank holiday weekend.

What a cracking weekend it turned out to be… once I actually got there. Turns out I had been given a major part in the Friday night's stately half term traffic procession down the A303. Rolling onto a thermarest at midnight, having gorged on service station sausage rolls, is not exactly the ideal preparation for a weekend of hard riding.

Even before a crank was spun in anger, there were two excellent side benefits to taking part in the ToW. Most importantly I got to ride with my old pal Ben for the first time in a long time. Ben and I know each other from our days living in Cambridge. We both caught the roadie bug and an insatiable desire for lycra at the same time. A load of UK sportives and triathlons later, and a baptism of fire at the Marmotte, Ben decided to swan off to New Zealand for 18 months. I was bitter but more than that gutted at my riding buddy’s departure. The ToW was a chance to get over it and stop dropping his abandonment into every other conversation. Secondly, I had hired a Transit to act as our bike store, workshop, kitchen and tent failure mitigation strategy. Forget your top end sports cars, there is no better feeling on the road than flooring a Transit, Yorkie bar in the glove box, Daily Sport on the dash and a precious cargo of carbon fibre in the back.

The positives at the ToW just kept coming. Clear cold nights and sunny warm days, fantastic scenery, fast moving peletons and all round decent clientele. It was certainly one of the best organised and most friendly events I have attended – a real festival of cycling.

On both days that I rode, I felt good form and more improvements. The sun helped as did the quality of the riders taking part. It was great to be working on the limit for a lot of the time. On day one, Ben and I managed to latch onto the back of a London Phoenix group and we were hanging on for dear life. To be consistently moving that fast in an organised group is an exhilarating experience. The whirring of chains and the hum of tyres on tarmac was our soundtrack to fiercely focussing on not losing that back wheel.  The day had everything, tight Ardennes style lanes, a stunning climb through the Cheddar Gorge, technical descents and chocolate box villages dappled with sunshine. 108 pleasurable miles.

After tucking into Ben’s recovery nosh and getting a half decent night’s tented sleep, day two started well. Inspired by my new Italian fluro look and getting the white pumps out for the first time this spring, everything felt good. I bottled out of latching onto the London Phoenix train at mile 7 thinking the pace was too hot. Softly softly catch that monkey. That was a mistake. Losing Ben early on due to his non-existent training miles, I found myself riding on my own for a lot of the time in the first 40 miles. Serves you right for starting last and not jumping on the train. Fortunately by the time we had reached the Dorset coast at mile 50 and gone over the major climbs, there were plenty of groups to get stuck into. All was looking good until mile 105 when the back wheel went pop and my ambition deflated with it. Punctures are a pain but a fact of velo-life. Some are shoulder-shruggers others infuriating. This was an “infuriator”. Twenty minutes later after a swearing match with a CO2 canister and having dealt with my tantrum, I re-mounted and limped home. C’est la vie.

And again, just like the majority of pros withdrawing from the last stage of the Dauphine, keeping one eye on Le Tour, Ben and I decided enough was enough – day three would not be required. Instead we packed up, fully serviced the bikes, headed home for some recovery and a local ride on the holiday Monday. Mine involved taking the Transit down B&Q to collect some garden furniture, but like I've said before, it's tough trying to live like a pro.

Great weekend – cheers mate.