Stupid me #1

It’s amazing how much you can learn in the first few days of the Transcontinental Race, things that you would have thought you might have picked up before hand. I decided to make a list of some of those points in the hope that I’ll remember them for TCR No. 5.

At least that is the hope! Failing that, it makes for an entertaining list of stupid or funny things that I did, or should have done, or that just happened during the race. I’ve a feeling this is going to be a long ish list, some funny, some just plain dumb, others a little concerning and questionable decision making. At the end of the day, a list things not to do next time round. This is part 1 for now, we’ll see if there’s enough to add (remember) from the rest of the race.

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Start -> CP1

  • Not drinking enough. Really dull, I know but was an important lesson I learned quickly. I made sure that my hydration drink was doubled up with tablets to make sure I got my salts
  • The route I took. I wasn’t the only one, and it wasn’t that stupid, but it was really hilly. Lots and lots of rolling ups and downs on rural French roads. I did about 6,000 meters on the first day even before I got to CP1.
  • Not sleeping in the night. I was really sleepy at one point on that first night, and was rolling through the countryside looking for a suitable field to bivvy in. I had zero experience of bivvying, knowing where to bivvy, or more importantly where not to bivvy. In the early hours of that first morning I was about to stop. One look over my shoulder and the sight of a Dynamo light set my mind straight – ride through the night. Its not the daftest thing, and maybe done me alright in the end.
  • Seeing things/hallucinating at night became quite unnerving. I’m really quite comfortable in my own company, but I think a big part of me needs to have people around or to interact with. When I was tired, alone and looking at the shadows in the trees from my dynamo, a combined sign and street post, I would see people, faces and all sorts. Some were downright scary, others were just weirdly familiar. The first two nights before I got any sleep were so bad for this.
  • Not stopping to put sunscreen on Day 1. Again, a rider was following me. I felt like had to get away, but they kept getting closer and closer… All very daft. I ended up taking a detour down a random road and found some shelter from the sun and lathered on the sun screen. But not before my hands, arm, face and the palms of my hands (upturned while on the aero bars…) were red with sunburn. Everything was sore already!
  • No Chamois cream. I’ve not used any in over a year now. Day 1 on the TCR my arse was shredded to bits. I yearned for chamois cream, or something to take the pain away. I did learn that after about 4 hours, the pain subsides. Until you shift your position in the saddle. Then there’s another 4 hours of pain.
  • Not stopping for proper food. I found a boulangerie in the morning on Day 1 and bought some choquette’s and two pies. I saved one, ate the other. Everything else I ate that day was junk – crisps, chocolate, ice cream, haribo, fruit mentos. A baguette and some cheese should have been the order of the day.

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  • After nearly 600km from the start, I decided I was too tired to go on. I crept into a field where straw had just been harvested. Clumps of 2 inch high straw stems littered the field like an inviting bed of nails. I crept into the field, made my bed and suffered the discomfort
  • Banging my shin on my pedal. This field was close to a farmhouse so I wanted to be as quiet as possible. I banged my shin on the pedal and all I wanted to do was scream! It instantly swelled up to a tennis ball size lump on my shin with a trickle of blood.
  • Not really making my bed and laying on the straw. I just laid down in the warm evening covering myself with my gilet, looking up at the stars and drifted off to the throbbing of my shin. I woke up maybe an hour later with light rain falling shivering heavily. No other option than to pack up and get moving.
  • Riding through the early dark morning when dead tired. Aero bars, night time, 6oo KM in the legs with 1 hour sleep = drifting off/micro sleeps on the bike. I managed to catch myself before it got to far, but should have got myself more sleep
  • Racing another TCR rider through Clermont Ferrand to CP1. I make it to the checkpoint start, and forget which is the checkpoint hotel. When checking my notes, the rider I had just raced arrives and rocks straight up to the correct hotel, ahead of me.
  • “Up the stairs, to the left of the lift” is what she said. I got in the lift and went up one floor and couldn’t find the bathroom. Back down and turned right and there it was.
  • The state of my shorts. And my arse. Sore. I lathered sudocrem and savlon on the sore bits. Really don’t think it helped much.
  • Chamois cream? Damn it.
  • Following the CP1 parcours loaded on my GPS. I was so focused on following the parcours exactly, I wasn’t really looking where I was going. Off route came too many times
  • Not listening or writing down what sign or date I needed to look for at the top of CP1 parcours as evidence of completing it. It was a date on a sign in a window. I think..? No one asked for this information anyway, but I wasted about 10-15 minutes at the top looking for it… Was anyone else sent on this treasure hunt?!

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If you have enjoyed this, let me know in the comments below as I have many more tales of woe and failure to divulge.

TCR No 5 Training Update – Feb to May

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, and there’s a lot that has happened in that time. I thought I would share some of the things I’ve been up to as part of training for the TCR (aka just having fun riding my bike… mostly), and then give an overview of where I am in my training and preparation.

The Curve Belgie Spirit

The first thing to mention is I managed to build up my ‘adventure’ bike at the end of February. I’d trained an awful lot over winter on a fabulous Colnago aluminium CX bike, clocking up over 4,000 km since December, but it was time to put the Ti to the road.

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😍

Wales – Mac n Cheese Tour

My first big trip/ride of the year was to see my mum in St. Davids, West Wales. I’ve done this before and learned an awful lot about riding a bike, and riding through Wales (and where not to ride…) – last year’s adventure is blogged here [LINK]

This year I went much earlier in March on a Friday, took a much more direct route, got utterly soaked and frozen, but arrived in St Davids in considerably less time than last year, beating sunset by a couple of hours. The Mac n Cheese was incredible as ever!

I rode back to Bristol the Sunday to get the train back home in some appalling wet and (tail!) windy conditions. A really good ride though!

  • Strava: Dwr Cymru
  • Distance: 242km
  • Elevation: 2470
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The infamous ‘Mac n Cheese’. Well earned!

Mini France Tour – Abandoned

I had planned a 500km weekend, 100km to newhaven, 300km Dieppe to Caen via rural France, then 100km Portsmouth to home over 36 hours, using the ferries as my ‘hotels’. I bailed on the way down to Newhaven after getting soaked on the way down, getting a train home from Lewes. The next day was spent with some mates riding from pub to pub in one of the warmest and sunniest weekends of the year to date.

Crashes

The next day was my first crash. Lost the front of the bike on a descent and went straight down on my left side causing a small amount of road rash and a little dented pride. No harm done really, but cut my G!RO Sunday ride short to go nurse my wounds.

The following weekend, I’d signed up with some TCR vets (the Gravélo Test Team) to do a Gravel ride with the Sunday Echappee team – a 200km mostly gravel ride north of London. I lasted about 50km, even before we hit gravel. I went down on muddy, greasy corner that was a concrete farm road. I went down really hard on my right side, in the process snapping both of the shifters on the Curve. I felt ‘fine’ at the time, but a taxi to the train and a long journey home allowed everything to develop.

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Not supposed to look like that… 😪

Roadrash was bad on the leg, left hand/wrist felt unusable, ribs hurt when I sneezed and right shoulder was sore.

My immediate concern was for the wrist so got that checked out on the Monday ahead of the trip to Girona on the Thursday, followed by a weekend in Ghent for the Tour of Flanders. Not ideal.

G!RONA

This trip had been one I looked forward to for quite some time. With a group from G!RO, we signed up with the guys from Sommet.cc for 4 days of Spanish sunshine, food, drink, and amazing cycling. We were looked after by the team running the Service Course, Espresso Mafia and La Fabrica – run by the retired pro cyclist Christian Mier and his wife Amber.

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Oh yes! Espresso Mafia produces the goods

Day 1 was a short bike check in the afternoon after arriving. At this point my hand worked OK, but I’d managed to lose all confidence in descending. Strava

Day 2 was like we’d been transported to Flanders – cold rain meant a very damp run to the coast, but totally worth it for a fabulous stretch of road. Strava

Day 3 we hit up the Mare de Deu del Mont – a really challenging but incredibly rewarding climb with many characteristics of the Hautacam in the Pyrenees – steep in places, but no consistent gradient to allow any sort of rhythm. The views from the top were spectacular. Strava

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G!RONA

Day 4 was a short ride, then pack up and fly home. I’ve never, ever, ridden with such a bad hangover. A spin up to Els Angels and some really stunning winding roads made for some great riding – just not for me. No confidence and feeling rotten – should have stayed in bed! Strava

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A rare picture of me in a dark place.
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G!RONA

Mike Hall – Ride in Peace

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Mike, doing what he loved. Pic: Indy Pac 

I’d become an avid watched of the Indian Pacific Wheelrace, and was enthralled with the race that had developed between the leaders, Mike Hall and Kristoff Alegart. Tragically, Mike was killed in a collision with a car on the 31st March. The race was cancelled following the incident.

Mike Hall has had a profound affect on my life, and his loss also affected me deeply. Since I took part in the TCR last year, the possibilities of what can be achieved on a bike; the places you can go and the distances that can be travelled by bike have made the world a much smaller place for me. This wouldn’t be possible for me if it had not been for Mike Hall, the man behind the Transcontinental Race.

I had only met him a handful of times at the TCR, and chatted a few times through email. Even so, he has led me to aspire and to achieve many things that wouldn’t otherwise have even been considered rational, let alone achievable. I’m not alone in this, and his work and inspiration has led to ultra distance riding and racing becoming mainstream and accessible to many.

Ride in Peace, Mike.

Flanders

An annual trip out to Flanders with a few regulars from G!RO is always a good way to clear the head. We head out on the Saturday, drink, watch the racing on Sunday (with a hangover), then ride on the Monday before heading home.

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Tom!

After the news of Mike, I made a point of plotting the ride to take in Geraardsbergen and the Kapelmuur. It was strange being back there, but felt the right thing to do. It was also a lovely ride, having organised a group ride with some guys from Bike Radar, Peloton de Paris and few others.

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Flanders

Belgie Party! Wales #2 – Easter Holidays

After a short spell of cold, I fixed up the Belgie with some new Shifters and began plotting. For Easter I’d planned to do something a bit extra, and to try and encompass the #BeMoreMike attitude to riding. Originally I had no set plans, but as things turned out it became clear that I had to go to Wales the long way, then once there head to my mums again. This time taking the hilly route.

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Black Mountain, Wales.

The ‘long way’ to Wales was heading South West to the New Forest, across to the Mendips and Cheddar Gorge before crossing into Wales.

After an overnight stop in a Hotel, I headed to the Brecons, taking in some of the Dragon Ride climbs – the Rhigos and the Black Mountain (from the South), before heading into Ceredigion and finding the lumpiest route to St. Davids.

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The Belgie loves Wales.

It was a tough tough day, riding uphill into headwinds all day, but I was rewarded with some more of my mums amazing Macaroni cheese.

 

Audax – Oats and Coast: Abandon..

I think Wales took a little too much out of me. On the way back (again to Bristol and the train) I noticed my right Achilles tendon was sore. I thought little of it, and continued as planned the following weekend to do the Oats and Coast Audax with a group from G!RO.

I only managed to make it 130km around before I had to bin it and get the train back. I’m still to complete an Audax, with the only other one I entered I abandoned after 50km due to heavy snow.

The 'I've had enough' look. 📷: @jfrowland

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Injuries

With a London 2 Paris ride and a week in Sardinia I decided to get someone to look at my Achillies. While I was at it, I also wanted to get my shoulder seen to as it was still painful after the crash in March.

Fortunately I’m covered with Bupa through work and was soon speaking to a Physio about my problems. It turns out the Achilles is less of an issue, but the shoulder is a torn rotator cuff. I’ve been having physio on this for over a month, with more sessions to come, but with the plans in May and the TCR on the horizon, I felt it’s best to get fixed up smart.

Challenge Sophie London to Paris in 24 hours Sportive

I did this last year, and likely will again next. This is a fully supported ride from Greenwich to Paris in 24 hours. A great route supported by a slick team meant a really enjoyable 24 hours spent riding and meeting new people, breezing into Paris in around 23 hours. I had planned a solo ride home afterwards, but with the achilles still not 100% I felt resting ahead of Sardinia would be for the best.

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PARIS

Sardinia!

I first went to Sardinia in 2011, not long after I started riding a bike in the quest to get a bit of after summer sun, and explore somewhere new. When I was there I borrowed a hotel mountain bike and discovered some epic climbs for the first time.

I had to go back and conquer that climb, and as many of the others that I could in week long bikepacking adventure around the Island.

Dropping my bike bag off at a hotel I would stay for the last two nights, I headed around the coast clockwise. Stopping in pre-booked hotels, I was able to hold a firm goal each day to motivate me and help keep going.

Sardinia is a stunning place to ride a bike. Lots of climbs, switchbacks vistas, coast roads and descents. I covered about 1,100km in the week, with about 4 & 1/2 days of cycling. I took a planned rest day after 3 & 1/2 days, as well as final day by the pool at the end. The weather was all sunshine, but did get a little hot at times.

I can heartily recommend some of the roads south of Alghero; I rode up the coast at sunset and it was a particular highlight. The two days I spent riding in the East mountains were very special. Lots of incredibly quiet mountain roads, with the occasional small town or village here or there. Many adorned their walls with murals depicting some of the history of Sardinia – exploring Orgosolo is a must as this town has some of the best murals on show.

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Full route followed can be found on Spot Walla: https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=13c7858e7753faad80

 

TCR No 5 is ON

After a really difficult time processing the passing of Mike, his family and friends and sponsors of the race came together to work out a way to make sure the TCR goes ahead. This was confirmed pending clarification of some of the finer details before the end of the May bank holiday. Almost everyone I’d spoken too was keen to at least be there in Geraardsbergen in July, but having an official and controlled race is such a great way to honor Mike and what he created with the TCR. It was also crunch time for many, being a huge commitment in planning, time, money and mental preparation in order to be ready in time for the start.

 

G!RO to Paris in 24 hours… and back again!

Finally, the last training rides in May was a G!RO to Paris adventure cooked up at a New Years Eve party. Jordan who runs G!RO, Jon and myself made for a neat group of strong riders, even if some of us hadn’t been on a bike in a week or so (tapering!).

Jon and Jordan arranged to meet their wives in Paris to make this a much more of a civilised trip, unlike the trips to G!RONA and Flanders.

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G!RO 2 Paris Squad

We set off from G!RO around 5.30 pm and we were joined by another G!RO regular, Dan for the ride down to Newhaven on the Friday in absolutely perfect conditions – a beautiful summer evening in the lanes. A quick pitstop in Lewes to load up on some food for the ferry and breakfast before hopping on to the boat for the night.

The overnight Newhaven – Dieppe ferry is a dark dark place. It’s maybe a 4 or 5 hour ferry ride, during which you probably are able to sleep for about 30 minutes in total.

We docked in France just before dawn at around 5am and slowly made our way down to Buchy for breakfast at around 50km. None of us had a lot of energy, but some coffee and a pitstop at a boulangerie help recharge the batteries. The next 100km was just perfect – weather, roads, mates, a stop by the river for a some lunch and then some ice cream.

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PARIS II

It got really hot after that, and the last 20km as always was a bit of a slog into Paris. We all arrived with no issues in just under 22 hours.

The return leg was a solo run, leaving at 4am to catch the 12.30pm ferry back, followed by a 100km spin back home. Managed to make excellent time to Dieppe, covering 173km in just over 6 hours. The total time back was just under 17 hours, a personal record for me.

TCR No 5 Training Progress

So I’ve done almost all the riding I wanted to do with regards to training for this years race up until this point. I’ve managed to get a great week in Sardinia as part of some multi day experience, albeit more of a touring holiday I managed to learn a fair bit about myself and plenty of distance on the new bike.

The injuries and crashes have set me back mentally somewhat, and have been a challenge to overcome. I’ve lost my way a bit with looking after myself and diet, which was on track until the crashes. I was on track for my target weight of 78kg, but since March it’s only been going up. Now the confirmation of the event is there, I will be focusing on using that to motivate me to eat better and look after myself. I’ve also given up drinking again – this is always the fastest way for me to drop kg’s!

I think I’ve done as much endurance training as necessary, so now its time to focus on building up my fitness with higher intensity training, as well as focus on working my core and healing my injuries with some physio.

I’m not worried about my shoulder, but keeping a close eye on my achilles – this was a common cause of scratching in last years race.

In the meantime, I do have one last adventure to plan for – a long weekend in the alps playing in the mountains!

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La Toussuire, France. Switchbacks 🙂 

 

 

Heading for Some Mac n Cheese

Its time to take my new TCR machine on a test ride to my mums for some macaroni cheese. She makes the best. Trick is, she lives 430km away in St. Davids, in South West Wales. You can read all about my trip for Mac n Cheese last year here: TCR Training Ride

This year, I’ll be riding my new bike from Curve Cycling that I bought from G!RO Cycles, a Ti Belgie Spirit built with most of the parts from the old bike. I’ve had a couple of rides so far and I’m seriously impressed. I’ve been riding with a huge grin on my face most of the time.

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I’ll be raising money for Action For Kids charitable trust again in the lead up to, and during the TCR. I reckon this little adventure is a great way to start raising some funds – so don’t be shy, click the link below to donate, it’s a great cause:  http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/matthewfalconer

You can follow my progress through a bit of dot watching as I’ll also be testing my own Spot tracker. After the loaner on the TCR failed and I still don’t know if I’ll get my deposit back, I figured I might as well get my own as the deposit/cost is not much different and will have plenty of other adventures to get the most out of it. I’ll be setting off a little after midnight on Friday morning – you can follow me here.

Also, keep an eye out on http://instagram/b1rdmn for some posts of the journey.

I’ll also be cycling back some of the way on Sunday. Due to work and time constraints (also, have you seen this weekends weather?!), it’ll only be to Bristol but tracking will still be active.

Why am I doing this? A great excuse to get a proper test ride in on the Belgie, a bit of endurance training, see my mum and eat a bucket load of pasta and cheese sauce. I also just really enjoy riding my bike, specifically riding it in Wales.

Happy Saint Davids day!

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Pre-Race: Final Training – June & July

I’ve been a bit lax with blogging in the lead up to the Transcontinental Race. I was busy with work, riding and the final preparations and it was one more thing that I figured I would put off until the end. There is now an awful lot to tell you about! First up, I had some great fun in June & July with some awesome rides, carrying on from my theme in May, #RideWithMates, and some TCR training rides I’d been putting off. It was a very good couple of months!

Wiggle Dragon Ride

I was fortunate to win a place in the Dragon Ride thanks to the guys over at Sigma Sport. I put my name down for the 300km Devil, and plotted a weekend of fun. It was touch and go at first, as I had no time off work available, and no lift to get to the ride. So naturally, I decided to cycle there and sort out a lift back when there.

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The ride up was spectacular, a 300km spin up to Porthcawl trying out the aero bars for the first time. I set a really good pace, relaxed and enjoyed the journey without any real pressure. A loose invitation to share dinner with a friend who was also staying in Porthcawl was an easy target, giving me a good 12 hours or so to get there. This lack of any pressure, fantastic weather and glorious scenery made it one of the nicest rides I’ve had in a long time.

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It turned out that about a dozen riders I know that was also doing the ride, including one good friend Paolo who was staying not far from Porthcawl. I managed to bump into him in South Wales at a cafe for a quick bite, coffee and ice cream. This stop was perfect TCR training, and I liked it!

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I chose to do the Grand Fondo over the devil, largely due to the time constraints of the lift I’d managed to blag back to London. It was an incredibly hot day in Wales, quite remarkable weather that became a bit of a challenge for many. I was coping quite well with the heat, but it had an affect on many, including my friend Matt who I’d met along the way and rode with for the majority of the route. As the heat and the elevation began to take its toll, I decided to push on and make it back for a lift home. Fortunately for Matt, he managed to get to the last feed stop, rested for a good hour or more and finished not long after me.

This was a bit of a highlight for me:

Now only if this was on all the climbs. Epic day on the @humanraceevents #DragonRide

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#RideWithMates

The next weekend was a wonderful tour of the south of England hosted by James. Down to the Devil’s Punchbowl, across to Crawley and looping round to the East. It was a mixed day weatherwise, but a perfect day out with some great friends.

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Druids Ride

The following weekend, it was time to make the most of the long days. For some time we’d been plotting a ride to visit some stone circles. At this time of year, although Stonehenge is an obvious choice for this, we decided to go for somewhere that would be much quieter. The oldest and largest stone circle was the target, in Avebury, Wiltshire.

I put in a nice long 250km route with some decent climbing in, trying to capture as much of the druid vibe as possible.

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It was one of those days, such a great group of guys, all of similar level, on a mini adventure to see a little bit of history. We were fortunate with the weather all day, and treated to some of the best scenery to be had en-route.

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Dawn Raiding

Dawn raids were also a feature in June, and through July. Often a Friday morning, we were treated to some fantastic early sunshine followed by coffee and breakfast at G!RO Cycles. Meeting up outside the empty cafe in the deserted streets of Esher at 5.30am, usually 6 of us would roll out into the hills and enjoy the first few rays of the day. It’s a really good time to ride your bike, and we made the most of it, often heading up through the vineyard in Denbies wine estate.

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Hot Chillee Rides

Teaming up with Hot Chili, G!RO joined up for a couple of group rides out, one down to Brighton/Ditchling, and another long fast spin through to Midhurst and back. These were some pretty fast and fun riding, some big groups and some great people!

Final TCR Test ride: Chasing the Sun

With the TCR fast approaching, I still needed to do a decent simulation ride, fully loaded, and bivvy out under the stars. I wanted to do this well ahead of the event, but the only time available was the first weekend in July.

The day didn’t start too well, and I was not quite feeling up for the ride on the day, but after a bit of faffing I managed to get going about 9.30am. The later I left it, the less distance I would need to go before I needed to bivvy!

It was a lovely day, but the wind was against me the whole time. I was enjoying it all the same, and managed to get into the swing of things fairly quickly. A couple of 7/11 stops and I was getting lots of practice in selecting snacks and drinks. My route took me southwest down to Winchester, and across to the New Forest. It was here the weather turned. I managed to get caught in a huge thunderstorm just as I was about to ride out onto the open top of the New Forest, so made a hasty retreat back to a pub at the bottom of the hill.

Well that escalated quickly

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Once the storm cleared, I pushed on to Salisbury angling for the Mendip hills. The rain was heavy and brief, but once cleared was a sunny and warm day. The headwind remained however, but this made good practice using the aero bars.

IMG_6953I made it to Cheddar Gorge just before sunset and found a Chinese restaurant. While there, I weighed up my options. First order was finding a hotel, as it turned out I had not packed a sleeping bag. Bit of a faffing fail, but was to be expected considering my state of mind in the morning. Unfortunately, there were none available. I doubt that was true, however I guess the time may have had something to do with it. Next options were: keep going through the night, or find a train home. My final decision was made – the last train was in 50 mins from Weston-Super-Mare. I made a 25km dash with a slight sense of failure. Would I give up so easily in the TCR?

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Final Rides

The rest of my riding was mostly scaled back in July, with the idea of tapering to the start line. In reality, it meant I started putting weight on, so had to get back out on the bike in order to stop that getting out of hand. Other than that, it was just a case of having a few short chilled rides with the crew from G!RO fully loaded with bikepacking bags and all the kit. This was really useful to get the feel for the bike and setup.

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May Update: Ride with mates!

May has been a great month for enjoying riding my bike. I’ve ridden further in May than any other before, and have had the best time doing it. Riding with mates makes training so much easier, and much more fun! I’m really quite fortunate to be part of a small group of really good friends who are more than crazy enough to take on some bizarre challenges on two wheels. This month especially so.

London 2 Paris 24h / Paris 2 London Solo 24h

So what’s been going on? This month started with an absolutely fantastic weekend cycling to Paris and then back again. You can read (and probably more importantly, see) all about this here: https://b1rdmn.exposure.co/.

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Time Trials! – strava file 1 file 2

Following that, I’ve continued with some Individual 10 mile Time Trials with Westerley CC at Hillingdon. This is one part training and one part meeting cool new people, and is genuinely great fun. Smashing it around Hillingdon away from all the traffic means you can just enjoy riding hard. Training and experience is always a good thing. If I’m honest, I not really sure how much this will help a great deal in getting to Turkey, but for me it’s just another way to enjoy riding my bike.

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Night Rider – strava

If that wasn’t enough, my birthday weekend early in May involved a rather special all night long ride with some great friends I’ve met through the bike. We all convened at a pub in Esher on a Friday night at 10pm, before setting off on a 10 hour /240km tour of the south of England. Riding through the night was hard work, but I’ve taken so many things from the ride that I know will help me get through some tough nights en-route to Çanakkale in the TCR. In my mind, all of the guys on this ride will be with me helping through some of the toughest times one can have on a bike.

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G!RO Sundays – strava

Ride with mates. Hard to describe how much I enjoyed the Sunday shop ride after night ride. I chose a really glorious route that took in as many bluebell woods as I could recall, and it genuinely was one of my favourite rides of the year. Green Deene, Radnor, back of Coldharbour, and Denbies wine estate. And the most perfect weather. This was a winning Sunday, and continued through the afternoon at the Wheatsheaf in the afternoon Esher sunshine. Beer flowed most freely!

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London Revolution

The next weekend was one thats been on the calendar for the past 4 years – the London Revolution. I met some guys who were training for the RAB on the first one I did and have been enjoying riding with them each time since. I’ve not yet ridden with them outside of this event, but always look forward to catching up with them at the start of this unique two day sportive around London.

Day 1 is a spin south through London from the Lee Valley athletics centre near Enfield, pushing over the North Downs into Edenbridge and heading west across to Ascot for the finish of day 1. This is a great route, timed perfectly to get the sun in Surrey. I don’t know who they pay to get the weather for these two days each year, but so far it’s not failed us.

A good bit of team work always gets a good group to the foot of Pitch Hill in Ewhurst where it traditionally becomes everyone for themselves until Ascot, for the last 30 km or so. This is fine, and always makes for an interesting run in to the day 1 finish. The last 3 years now we’ve always managed the first 10 finishers on Day 1.

Day 2 heads north from Ascot and into the Chilterns. These roads are some of my favourite in the South East, and always a good leveler in the event. As has been the case for the last few years, no one wants to sit on the front of the first group from the start. I can’t blame others for this, but personally, sitting on the front is the place where I’m happiest. Control freak? Perhaps, but it’s judging by the train following, everyone else was also happy thats where I was!

The group selection has been very similar for the last couple years, and it was the usuals again this time around. Doing rides like these with regulars that know how each other ride is great fun. Once some of the major climbs are cleared, the route angles gradually downhill for about 20 km. Averaging 40 kph for long periods really gives the you a boost. We all smashed it and were again the first group to the finish. Plans and promises were made for more rides together soon.

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G!RO Prestige Racing – training

G!RO cafe in Esher has joined up with a youth development team to create G!RO Prestige Racing team. It’s a neat set up, where we have some invaluable and regular coached training sessions at Kempton Park. This is a great way to practice race techniques and fitness training that can only add a huge advantage when it comes to racing.

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G!RO Crew!

The best part of riding my bike is riding with mates that I’ve met through G!RO Cycles cafe in Esher. Be it the regular Sunday shop ride from G!RO, bizarre 200+km all nighters, Chaingang rides or Dawn Raids; I’m incredibly lucky to have some good and down right crazy bike riders to join me at all sorts of times on all sorts of rides.

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Month Stats – biggest one yet!

  • What a month! Biggest distance ridden in 1 month: 2,467 km
  • Elevation Gain: 22,901 m
  • Moving Time: 3d 19h 35m
  • Training Log

Whats Next?

Coming up next:

  • 2 months till TCR START!
  • Dragon Ride  (TBC): Getting there, and away…!
  • G!RO 100’s revival June 11th
  • Druid ride – dusk till dawn on the 18th June
  • Final preparations for the TCR

April Update – Cold Inspiration

The past month has been an interesting time, with lots of plans rewritten as a result of a spell of illness and not the best of weather for this time of year. It’s been far from a bad month, just one that hasn’t gone to plan.

Tour of Flanders

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A lads weekend away to watch the Ronde van Vlaanderan. What could go wrong? At the last minute, our driver and organiser and all round legend Jordan, had to drop out at the last minute to look after work commitments, which mean that we had a last minute call to fill the space, and I needed to drive the van and bike to Ghent.

It was a great weekend, and Jordan turned up late on the first night after driving separately once the work commitments were sorted. We were all basically wasted by this point, but ended up going out again…!

The Sunday was spent watching the Tour of Flanders while I (not so quietly suffered). Watching both the men’s and women’s pro teams battle up the Oude Kwaermont is one of my favouite places to watch bike racing.

We stayed over on a much more subdued Sunday night (I’d only managed to keep anything down till late in the afternoon…) and went for a ride on some of the best cobbled sectors on Monday. Early morning rain, followed by some steady winds and strong sun made for a really awesome day out on the bike.

Audax UK Heart of England 300

My First Audax in the fabulous English countryside was a lot shorter than advertised. I really enjoyed the whole vibe, but shortly after we left the church hall in Cirencester snow started to fall. Gradually, this snow got worse and worse, and even though we added layers and layers, the cold got into our fingers and legs. The pain from this cold is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The snow began to settle, and with the lack of braking and finger dexterity, James and I decided to call it a day and headed to the nearest town where we hugged radiators while waiting for the taxi to arrive to take us back to the car

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Hills Hills Hills!

Making people suffer, or at least making them enjoy suffering and giving a sense of achievement is something that I enjoy. What started with a couple of friends taking on lots of hills turned into a large group ride with 12 showing up.

It was a great opportunity to find new climbs and join them up together with some of the old favourites. 140 km in the Surrey hills with 2,000 m of elevation in some fantastic weather made for a great day out with some great mates – old and new, and was good training to boot.

London to Paris 24 Hours… and back again!

Finding inspiration when I was just going for a bike ride (well, a really long one) – the people you meet through cycling always never fails to make me happy.

300 km to Paris in 24 hours, a short break and 260 km back home. I’ve written up a separate photo blog over here: http://b1rdmn.exposure.co/

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Whats next?

May is promising to be a fairly epic month, following hotly on the heels of London-Paris-London

  • Racing – Time Trial series with Westerley CC 10 Mile Time Trial at Hillingdon & Race Training with G!RO Prestige Racing
  • All night long – overnight ride with some crazy mates: 225 km over 9 hours
  • London Revolution – A clockwise circuit of London
  • … Some more hilly epics to come. Watch this space!

Training for the Transcontinental Race

How do you train for a 2,500 mile solo unsupported bicycle race?

I’ve never done one before, so in all honesty I don’t really know. What I do know is that I love riding my bike, and I believe that as long as I’m doing that I’m at least on the right track. Now, what I do know has led to me a basic plan. A lot of people have asked me what training I’m doing, and I thought I would share this loose plan in order to ‘get fit’ for this race. There are a few parts to this…

1. Consistency

I’ve always believed that this is fundamental to training for anything, and as long as you get this right, training regularly and maintaining consistency, you will go a long way. Fortunately for me, I’ve got a core  outline of training available to me.

  • Daily Commute: Riding 45km every day as a minimum through the week has been the core for my bike fitness for years. Ok, I’ve only been riding my bike 5 years, but this has been the basis for me losing 5 stone in weight!
  • G!RO CHAINGANG: Once a week, a short high intensity ride with mates followed by a short high intensity session at the pub! I’m still not quite sure if I undo everything I put into the ride while drinking beer and grazing on crisps & nuts right after.
  • Weekend café rides: My favourite part of the week. A social ride from G!RO Cycles in Esher every Sunday all year round. Although it’s not always what could be described as a training ride, getting out there and enjoying riding my bike is what its all about. Obviously there’s always the sections where you sprint for the sign, or a section with a bit of full gas just for fun helps a lot, and adds to the enjoyment.
  • Big rides on Saturday: These don’t always happen, but taking the odd Saturday out to head to the coast, find new lanes or just an old favourite are a treat. I’m lucky that I’ve got various cycling buddies that are foolish enough to come with me on these rides through the winter, and means that I can get a really good bit of distance in the legs along with some great mates. I’ve helped work with G!RO Cycles to do a monthly G!RO 100 (miles), a big ride 130-190 km depending on the route that has helped me find even more mates to ride big distances with

2. Mixing it up

Ok, so as not to contradict consistency, what I mean has a few layers:

  • First, keep the training varied in order to keep it interesting. I have the basic outline in order to do this, but it is just that – I often add extra KMs in the evening through the week, more so now there is much more light in the evening. 45km can easily be extended to 80-100km. On top of this I like to add in some higher intensity rides into the commute. This basically means sprinting from and to every set of traffic lights. I won’t ever jump a red light, as it’s another chance to put in a sprint effort!
  • Secondly, a little bit of cross training is good. I’ve no real idea if running is actually any good for cycling fitness, but I occasionally add a run in through the week to break up the train journey to or from work. If I’m honest, I don’t really like running, and my body tells me that it doesn’t after each short run, but I do get a buzz out of it.
  • One thing that I’m looking to do next in this area is around strengthening my core and improving my stretching through physio & Pilates, as well as keeping the basic stretching in order. With the amount of training coming up, injury prevention is going to be critical.

Diet & Weight Loss

So I think this is one part of my training that will give me the most benefits all round, especially when travelling through the various mountainous regions of Europe, but is also the one area that I struggle with the most.

At the start of the year,  weighing in at 87kg I set a target weight of 75kg. For the start of the Transcontinental race, or at least the start of the mountains – i.e. going in a little heavy so I had something to fuel getting there. Still, a big goal.

It has been a real struggle for me to get there. In January, I quit drinking, stopped all sweets & snacks, and within 3 weeks was down to 84kg, which was the best part of Christmas burnt off. Then I went to the US with work, started drinking and really fell of the wagon with my diet. Food is full of sugar there! I managed to recover somewhat in February, getting down to 82kg at one point, but I keep bouncing back to the 84/85kg mark.

The yo-yo is a struggle, and definitely means I have to reassess my target weight for 29th July, but as we get nearer and pressure builds I believe I’m going to get closer to this. I also think that as we get closer to the summer months, riding more will be easier. As long as I don’t eat more, losing weight will happen naturally. Don’t get me wrong, I will be adjusting my diet more and more. I’m no dietitian, but have a good idea of where I go wrong every day, and have a good idea of what I need to do to fix this. I will look at posting a weekly food diary at some point, just to give you all an idea of where I go wrong

4. General Health & Wellbeing

I think this is something that when I started out on this training path I hadn’t considered. The closer the TCR gets, I think this is going to be key for me to get to the start line. Here are a few things that I’ve started to try, and are in some ways really quite natural to me:

  • Work life balance: I started this year at work at 100 miles an hour. This probably feeds into many of the other points here, but it’s important to get this right. Training time, eating right, managing stress and whether I am happy or feeling down depends on this. I nearly forgot how to switch off from work when I leave the office, and in some ways not getting this right was affecting the work I was doing as well.
  • Attitude: I’ve always had a very laid back and outwardly relaxed attitude. I don’t like to panic or get stressed, and I’m rarely productive when I do. I’ve been able to spot when this starts to happen, and being able to control it. When I can’t, I find that riding a bike really helps me clear my head.
  • Illness: I’ve been reasonably fortunate not to get too many issues. I’ve been quite cautious when colds or minor bugs have come along and rested when they have. I’m currently writing this with tonsillitis and haven’t ridden my bike in over a week which is really frustrating.
  • Rest…! : I’m really bad at this, and is possibly why I’m sick right now (absolutely nothing to do with all the excess at the Tour of Flanders..). Rest is one thing that I’m going to be baking more into my training schedule.
  • Enjoying Riding: I said it many times; this is the most important part for me. If I’m not enjoying riding my bike, then we’re in trouble!

5. Endurance Rides – Learning

You’re probably wondering why this is so far down on the list? I don’t really know how much distance training is needed, or how valuable it really is to my fitness, but I do know it is required.

I’ve been doing ‘100’ mile rides, or there abouts, pretty much every weekend since November, but regular training rides in excess of 200/250km I’m not convinced will really add much benefit physically and potentially do harm. They also take up a considerable amount of time!

All said, I’m relatively confident that #1. Consistency will carry me most of the way to Çanakkale from a fitness perspective. I guess there may be a few more things I may be able to do to help make me more competitive…

I’ve already done a couple huge rides (see last blog post here: TCR Training Ride), but they were more to test me and my kit, and ultimately learn stuff. That’s the key with the big, multi day rides – making it a learning experience.

6. Events – Goals

As part of my training, I’ve always found it important to set markers down, and have shorter term goals that get you to the main goal. I’ve to a busy schedule already planned out to this end, and have been executing it for some time now. You can see my training log on Strava

  • Easter: 432km to my mums – Done
  • Heart of England Audax – 300km – 16th April
  • London – Paris – London – May Bank Holiday weekend
  • London Revolution – 14th & 15th May
  • TBC Wiggle Dragon Ride 300km – 5th June
  • TBC Maratona dles Dolomites – 3rd July
  • To Geraardsbergen – 28th July

I’m also planning a multi day ride through France, possibly on May’s other bank holiday weekend, as well as looking to add in another Audax weekend most likely in June.

What did I miss?

I expect there are many things that I could be doing, but I believe I’ve got all the things I should be doing covered (feel free to point out anything!). I love my numbers and stats, and Strava has some useful info to help track fitness, and also show how its crashed in 1 week off the bike…

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I do have a power meter, but only use it occasionally, due to issues with the battery, so training to power is not something I’m planning.

Reading through the past and present riders blogs has reassured me of what I’m doing, but I’m well aware that what works for one, might not work for another. Also, it might appear that I’m calm and relaxed about my training on the outside, but it is a constant concern on the inside, and I’m always on the lookout for tips and advice.