Monthly Archives: June 2018

How to cycle to the alps (I hope): No5, stay flexible


When changing the latest (of many) puncture on the turbo I noticed that I’ve actually worn ridges in the metal roller that makes contact with the rear tyre

I planned that Tuesday’s 76 miles would be the first of the next 3 day training block so I climbed on the turbo on Wednesday evening to watch the World Cup and clock up another 50km.

It seemed easier than usual – could I have made real progress with the cycling? … No, it was just yet another rear wheel puncture. That, coupled with a total inability on the part of the TV to tune in to the football (another of the delights of rural Oxfordshire) made my mind up pretty quickly – the cycling gods were telling me not to cycle that night.

Interestingly, I managed to change the puncture without tyre levers – I usually manage to get the tyre back on without them but this was the first time I’d removed it with bare hands too. Do I dare attempt the ride to the alps without taking any?

With Thursday being Mrs O’s birthday, there was no cycling then either – apparently, it seems that me celebrating her birthday on the turbo or out on the roads for a few hours was not deemed to be appropriate so it was a really enjoyable day down in sunny Bournemouth.

Happily, I’ve developed an aversion to formal training plans (mainly because of the disappointment when I, inevitably, fail to keep to them) so I just went with the flow and hung up the cycling shoes for a couple of days.

The training hasn’t quite kicked up as I’d planned …

3 day training block Distance Week Distance
1 150km (93m) 1 271km (168m)
2 246km (153m) 2 407km (252m)
3 160km (100 m) 3 319km (198m)
4 249km (155m) 4 Run 21+ m swim & gym
5 205.1km (127m) 5 205.1km (127m)
6 225km (140m) 6 280.5km (174m)
7 123.4km (76.7m) 7 55.5km (34.5m)
8 123.4km (76.7m)

How to cycle to the alps (I hope): No4, train consistently …. oh


I thought that last week was going to be terrible for training – being proved right is no consolation.

After the quick 55km on Monday 11th June, the week turned into visiting and being visited and a trip to London for Father’s Day – all really great fun but not making much of a contribution to getting ready for a ride of just over 500 miles (800+km) from Caen on the north French coast to the alps in the Haute Savoie region, east of Geneva.

We did manage a 6.8km run up in London on Sunday, which was really good.

The positives at least were a very enjoyable week, and keeping control over my weight – still under 66kg (146lb).

So, I got out just after midday today – the 7th three day block in my eighth week. The idea was to clock up some miles without any particular target speed in mind – rather, I tried to set a comfortable and sustainable pace and see what speed that translated to.

It didn’t go too badly – 123.4km in 4hr 24min @28kph (76.7miles @17.4mph).

I did it non-stop and it was a good deal quicker than the 25kph I have in mind for an average through France, but think I need to develop my fuelling strategy. I doubt that the textbook recommendation, for over 75 miles, is to leave home after nothing but coffee and a pitta bread with cheese – and then eating two small bananas on the move (with less than one bottle of water).

What is clear is the importance of the wind. It was blustery today and without anyone to hide behind, I made good speed with it but had to work quite hard into it. If I have any significant headwind on my way to the alps, my 25kph average isn’t going to happen. If the wind’s a bit helpful, I might be a bit more hopeful.

So, all I have to do is to cycle for the distance I did today and then a bit more in the morning … then do all that again in the afternoon … and repeat for both the following two days. How hard can that be ……..


3 day training block Distance   Week Distance
1 150km (93m)   1 271km (168m)
2 246km (153m)   2 407km (252m)
3 160km (100 m)   3 319km (198m)
4 249km (155m)   4 Run 21+ m swim & gym
5 205.1km (127m)   5 205.1km (127m)
6 225km (140m)   6 280.5km (174m)
7 123.4km (76.7m) …   7 55.5km (34.5m)
      8 123.4km (76.7m) …


How to cycle to the alps (I hope): No3, distance above speed …. oh


Rats, I may live to regret this.

After a day in London on Monday (including about 4 hours in the car) I decided get on the turbo for a quick session as I didn’t think I could make it the first of the next 3 day block.

Back in the second week of May I did 40km at 49.2kph – also on the turbo, of course, I cannot get anywhere near this speed on the road – and have been wondering about whether I could do a 50kph average.

It appears that I can (plus a bit).

I thought I’d just do 25km but still felt good at that stage so I carried on for the full hour and managed a grand total of 55.5km (34.5miles). The second half hour was done at 60kph (37mph).

I’m pleased, of course. Even though the turbo reads very kindly, that’s still 25% faster than I normally record on it and more than 10% better than my previous best.

The bad news is that I’m now wondering:

  • first, can I maintain anything like that in the future
  • secondly, have I been kidding myself that I’ve been doing hard sessions up to now?


That second point could be an issue. I remember a while ago riding up a long hill, thinking I was working hard, when three cyclists went past me. With that extra incentive I latched on the back and eventually overtook them all … clearly I had been kidding myself that I was working hard before they turned up.

It may just be a sign that too much turbo is not good for my mind. Unfortunately, circumstances mean it’s the turbo or nothing for a few days, so I assume that yet more confusion is on its way.

How to cycle to the alps (I hope): No2, do some training


Just reminding myself what a bike looks like when it’s not on a turbo

After a turbo session on Tuesday, we ran on Wednesday morning before I went down to Bournemouth for domestic chores.

Thursday it was back on the turbo for 65km in 1:26:14 @ 45.2kph (40.4 miles @ 26.8mph) before friends came for supper. I’m still working on the garage clearance so Friday was also on the turbo – this time for 75km in 1:41:19 @ 44.4kph (46.6miles @ 27.6mph). The bonfire I lit on Monday finally went out on Friday – happily the wind had not changed direction so the village was not smoked out.

We ran again on Saturday morning – our fastest 4 miles for nearly two years, so perhaps my cycle training is rubbing off on Mrs O.

Turbo again in the evening to complete the 3 day block. It was a tough 85km in 1:56 @ 44kph (53miles @ 27.3mph). Not too surprising with two turbo sessions and two runs in my legs over the previous three days – but perhaps the best thing is that I stuck at it. That might be one of the real benefits of the turbo – it’s easy to stop and get off but it could be character-forming when you really want to, but don’t.

Still short of miles …. because most of the training is on the turbo. However, it’s at a pretty decent intensity (for me) …. because most of the training is on the turbo.

Even though the turbo speeds are not very real world, I work hard, drip my way through every session and finish completely drenched. It’s not a pretty sight. I’m also keeping to the 3 day training block approach.

If I can start to do some longer rides outside in the coming weeks I think it will prove to be a very good base that I’ve laid down.

What’s that noise I can hear … I hope it’s not me whistling in the dark.

3 day training block Distance Week Distance
1 150km (93m) 1 271km (168m)
2 246km (153m) 2 407km (252m)
3 160km (100 m) 3 319km (198m)
4 249km (155m) 4 Run 21+ m swim & gym
5 205.1km (127m) 5 205.1km (127m)
6 225km (140m) 6 280.5km (174m)

How to cycle to the alps: No1, make sure you know the way

Suddenly, my ride out to the alps is no longer just ‘in the summer’ but actually ‘next month’, which sounds extremely close and rather focuses the mind. While there is still much training to do, I thought I’d also better get down to boring stuff like deciding on a route.

So, the basic roadmap is now (provisionally) sorted. Broadly, it goes: Caen, Sées, Frazé, Orléans, Sully sur-Loire, Sancerre, Nevers, Digoin, Mâcon, Bourg-en-Bresse, Les Neyrolles, Geneva, and so to Les Carroz d’Araches.

Written like that it doesn’t seem so bad.

According to Google maps/Ride with GPS, however, it is about 820km (510 miles) and takes 46 hours of riding. It’s not the shortest possible route but (I hope) avoids the bigger roads and unnecessary hills. It climbs 5665 m and descends 4567 m (18589 ft and 14984ft) but most of the hills are towards the end of the ride – the climb to Les Carroz itself is about 600 metres. Oddly, those Ride with GPS figures for the climbing are about 25% more than Google Maps says – I know which I hope is right.

Based on a rough guess (and with boundless optimism), I might be:

  • near Orléans first night (subject, especially, to disembarkment from the ferry),
  • near Digoin second night (subject, especially, to my legs) and
  • close to the finish line on the third (subject, especially, to everything).

Of course, I might still be near Caen on the first night and abandoned on the second.

What remains to be done is to track along the whole route with street view to check where any cycle paths might not be easily passable on a road bike – and work out a suitable alternative. Worryingly, although I have plotted the route using Google’s bike option, it says ‘use caution–bicycling directions may not always reflect real-world conditions’. How helpful is that?

I had a look at long range weather forecasts, although with little confidence as they rarely seem to be reliable for more than a fews days ahead. As it is, I’m happy to believe the forecast because it’s quite encouraging.

It suggests that the daytime temperature will be mid-to-upper 60s℉ (just under 20℃) and probably dry. Equally important, the breezes should be fairly light – at worst they could be cross winds, but they might even be a bit little helpful.

If the weather turns out to be anything like that in practice, I won’t have much to complain about ….. apart from the fact that I will have to look for other excuses if (when) it all goes belly up.

What on earth made me think I could cycle at 25kph (15.5mph) for 11 hours on three consecutive days? I can’t see it happening.


Interestingly, after wondering about bike sizes last week, the friend who did L’Eroica and the Cinglé du Mont-Ventoux with me in 2015 just bought himself a Specialized Roubaix Expert Di2 which came with a professional bike fit. He’s probably an inch (2.5cm) or so shorter than me and the distance between the nose of his saddle and the handlebars was set up as 49.5cm. That compares to the 51cm with my Rose so I may have stumbled on the right sort of dimensions after all.


After recovering from Saturday’s wedding, I gardened and lit a massive bonfire on Monday but it was back to the turbo on Tuesday evening for 55.5km in 1:15 @ 44.2kph (34.5miles @ 27.5mph).

3 day training block Distance Week Distance
1 150km (93m) 1 271km (168m)
2 246km (153m) 2 407km (252m)
3 160km (100 m) 3 319km (198m)
4 249km (155m) 4 Run 21+ m swim & gym
5 205.1km (127m) 5 205.1km (127m)
6 6 55.5km (34.5miles)

As simple as A, B, C, D (anti-climax, brides, cycling and deluges)


Rural Oxfordshire – very pretty but the road drops at over 10% under the arch of the trees

It’s easy, when you are away on holiday, to assume that nothing happens at home. Most of the time that’s a fair assumption for a sleepy Oxfordshire village like ours, but while we were away in Morocco a mixture of warmth and rain made the garden sprout in all directions.

Getting back from holiday felt like a bit of an anti-climax but amid the unpacking and washing, the weeding and the mowing, the biggest ray of sunshine is that the mower decided to repair itself while we were away. For a couple of weeks I’d been able to get forward and reverse – but it only went forward at it’s slowest speed. Miraculously, it now works perfectly again.

Happily, I managed to do the mowing on Thursday before some huge thunder storms rolled in – which meant it was back on the turbo for the first day of training block 5.

It was very hard – my heart wasn’t really in it. Starting in the middle of a deluge I left the conservatory door shut – but it became very hot once the rain stopped. My rule is that turbo sessions are non-stop (no, I don’t know why either) so I carried on in the heat for 50km in 1:08 @44kph (31 miles at 27.3mph).

Friday was spent starting to clear the garage as part of our de-clutter exercise. No fun. It rained heavily late on …. so it was back to the turbo again for 76km in 1:45:42 @ 43.1kph (47 miles @ 26.8mph).

Saturday I was the leader of the second group on the club red ride. The first group are the fastest and can look after themselves – the second and third groups have leaders and go progressively slower but the aim is to meet up at a couple of points so folks can move between groups. The groups seemed to be continually splintering and re-forming because it was ridden at a quick pace and hit some hills. I ended up with the front group for some reason – happily the whole ride was full of experienced club members so leadership wasn’t an issue.

In all, 75km (47miles) in 2:48. A really good (but hard) ride with 839m – 2750feet – of climbing. I had to bail out at the halfway point as we were going to the wedding of a daughter of some good friends in the afternoon (a spectacularly good, traditional English country wedding with marquee at the bride’s parents magnificent manor house).

I don’t think bailing out saved me any distance but it avoided a bit of waiting and probably some climbing – and it was a good workout coming back solo.

So, that’s the fifth 3 day training block. Short of miles but OK for intensity. I’m not managing to increase the distances as I’d like (and as a target of 500 miles in 3 days riding out to the alps, requires) but I hope I’ve turned a bit of a corner with motivation – I was struggling with that on my return from holiday.

3 day training block Distance Week Distance
1 150km (93m) 1 271km (168m)
2 246km (153m) 2 407km (252m)
3 160km (100 m) 3 319km (198m)
4 249km (155m) 4 Run 21+ m swim & gym
5  205.1km (127m) 5  205.1km (127m)