So, with the White Horse Challenge behind me (and absolutely no ill-effects beyond a slightly tender backside for a day), thoughts turn to my planned ride out to the Alps in the summer.
I’ve booked a cross Channel ferry from Portsmouth to Caen (on the north coast of France) and will have about 500 miles (800km) to ride from there to Les Carroz d’Araches in the Haute Savoie. The intention is to take just three days but I don’t know if that’s feasible, given that I’ve never tried to do anything like it before – and it’s a very long way.
Although the ride breaks down into an average of 166 miles a day, I guess the third day will have a bit more climbing (hilly things, those Alps) so perhaps it would be better to push on a bit further on the first two days – as if 166 miles wasn’t enough.
On Sunday’s sportive I did a 16.9mph average speed (27.2kph) for 90 miles (144km) so I’d be looking at 10 hours of cycling at that pace but, on the downside:
- I’ll be on my own, so no help with any drafting or motivation
- I’ll be carrying more stuff
- I can’t keep that pace up for that time
- I’ll have to stop and eat and take a few breathers
- I’ll be on the old Giant TCR2, not the Rose.
On the upside:
- I have put the tri bars on
- Days 1 and 2 will each have about half the sportive’s climbing, spread over nearly twice the distance.
Too many downsides, too few upsides.
Reading about long distance cycling, it seems that time in the saddle is the key, even above just raw speed. Of course, sea sickness, bad weather, a headwind, getting lost, illness, joint or muscle issues, or mechanicals will be disastrous, but even without any of them I assume I’ll have to do something like 12 hours of cycling a day.
In turn, that suggests a day starting about 6am and finishing about 8pm to give myself just 2 hours off the bike. The daylight hours should be adequate – but I really don’t do early mornings very well and I don’t even arrive in France that early on day 1!
I can’t pre-book accommodation as I can’t accurately predict where I will be at the end of any day. I was thinking about wild camping but Mrs O isn’t too happy with the idea of me doing that so I have the problem of sorting out places to stay as well.
Fine, I did 176 miles (282km) in over 18 hours of cycling in a 22.5 hour day (with 8912 metres – 29,238 feet of climbing) last July when ‘everesting‘ – but that was just one day with an unloaded bike.
I have to accept that this may well be beyond me – but I won’t find out if I don’t try.
Happily, I will have a credit card so I can improvise a bit. If the worst comes to the worst, I can always rent a car or get on a train. I took the opportunity of giving my friend Dave a set of keys to the apartment when he came down for the sportive at the weekend – so everyone else can get in even if I’ve not arrived on time. If it takes me more than three days, so be it.
The cycling challenge might be different – but the solution, as always, seems to be to get stronger and fitter.
So, what do I do about it? Time in the saddle must be key for the next couple of months, with occasional sleep deprivation torture, a lot of route research and locating all the McDonald’s restaurants in France.
I wonder if getting out to do some training on this fine beast would help? Three of Sturmey Archer’s finest gears (quaintly marked L, N and H) and weighing in at a mere 41.2 pounds (18.7kg) of British steel.
One immediate issue on route setting is the use of cycle paths. Obviously, it would make sense provided the surface is suitable for road bikes. As Google Street View doesn’t cover paths, I can only look at them where a they cross a road that is covered. So far, they don’t look like they are properly surfaced – the bike has Gatorskin tyres but they are only 23mm. Great to get away from the cars and lorries but could I keep up the necessary average on a surface like that?