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And so it ends - or does it?

23 July, 2015

Neil Matthews

And so it ends – or does it?

The Grand Finale into Paris was an awesome experience from start to finish – from what I can remember!

There were a number of highlights and a number of scary encounters but all in all what a fantastic trip to Paris we had.

Having never been to Paris we owe Ryan a big thank you for getting us around safely though I’m not so sure about his choice of friends – see Barry’s blog about the strange man in the bar! One of the scary encounters was Ryan getting jammed in the Metro doors and having to stay on until the next stop – he did, thankfully, manage to get back to us very quickly to continue the journey.

The ride into the centre of Paris was an easy ride but it took in Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe all of which are iconic landmarks. The cycle up the Champs Elysees was probably the most frightening bit of the ride for me and I know James will agree given we were both nearly taken out by a car as we went around the roundabout(???) at the Arc de Triomphe. Sure James had a brown patch on his shorts!

The evening on the boat was a great way to end the trip followed by a few drinks in the centre of Paris. Not so sure staying out until 4am in the morning was such a good idea but it did seem like a great idea at the time. All I know is I love the whole of the Leathers team!!!!

The TDF has been a fantastic experience and one I will never forget. It has succeeded in getting me a lot fitter than I could ever have imagined and now that I have experienced this great event I’m sure I will do it again. The organisation was exceptional and the camaraderie I experienced and friendships that I have made on the trip will stay with me for a long long time. I would certainly recommend the event to anyone who is thinking of taking part.

Well done to the whole of the Leathers team, not only the cyclists, but the support team and staff, and, in particular to Michael for his awesome achievement.

Burning Heart (and lungs, and arms, and neck and legs…..)

21 July, 2015

Disclaimer: If easily offended, stop reading now (its not that bad really, the underlying message is one of amazement and joy, and anyone who's cycled will realise fruitier bits reflect reality!).  If you still want to read about unbelievable experience, strap yourselves in and I’ll begin…. 


Thursday 16 July – Travel Day 


The day started at delightful 4am to catch a flight to Heathrow then onwards to Geneva. 


Knowing I’d be milling around in Geneva for a good few hours before the train to the Alps, I decided to purchase a book to pass the time.  A little known fact about me is that apart from my ATT and CTA tax books, the only books I’ve read since school are the A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones to the uneducated amongst you).  Tax and Game of Thrones, the two things I love most in the world. 


Hoping for some inspiration, I purchased Chris Froome’s autobiography “The Climb” for a bargain £4.  Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on which way you look at it, I only read up to when he was 16 years old…….i.e I hadn’t got to the bits when he was cycling in the yellow jersey in the Alps during the Tour de France. 


The descent into Geneva was beautiful, coming in over the lake, the imposing Alps and Mont Blanc on the horizon, the excitement was building. However, the heat in Geneva was ridiculous.  I had received reports from the fellow riders returning from the TDF that the heat was bordering on dangerous.  Maybe my Ali G skullcap wouldn’t be enough after all.  It’s fair to say, at this point, I was bricking it. 


The train journey from Geneva to Saint Jean de Maurienne was uncomfortable in the heat but the scenery was amazing.  I was getting very excited now.  This however was soon curtailed not long after I stepped off the train.  I hadn’t even managed to get 100m down the road and the pull handle of my suitcase snapped off.  Arriving at the hotel sweating my t*ts off after humping the suitcase across town didn’t bode well for two days cycling up mountains.  But at least the sweat helped me blend in with the riders who were arriving back at the hotel after what was one of the hottest and hardest days of the tour so far. 


“So how’s Jonathan getting on?” 

“He’s had a really rough day, after yesterday, he was exhausted and he’s in the van” 



It’s fair to say, at this point, I was double bricking it (note – Michael was ok, I had seen him roll in looking fresh as a daisy, haha). 


I sat down for my first meal, met the fellow riders and a few lads who were doing my stages.  And then Jonathan arrived back.  He was totally gone.  Like he had seen a ghost.  He had given everything in the Alps the day before and heroically managed 90 miles in the heat today before sensibly calling it a day. 


It’s fair to say, at this point, I was f*****g s*****g myself.




Friday 17th July – Stage 18 Saint Jean de Maurienne to La Toussuire 


A reasonable start time of 8am, it was warm, I had filled up at breakfast but I had still had no idea what to expect.


As we turned off the main rode after 5 mins of riding and the incline gradually increased I knew there was no going back, this was the Col du Chaussy, at Cat 1 climb, 15.5km at 6.3%.  No messing around, I was in at the deep end.


The Chaussy itself was quite a nice climb, not too hard, not too steep, I chugged my way up at a decent-ish pace, I wasn’t at the back (this was to change, see below) and had a chat with one of the TDF staff which really settled me down.  One stop for a pic, 2 hours later I had made it to the top to be welcomed by some French guys stopping for a slash next to the summit sign.  Lovely stuff.  Wafting away the remnants of their toilet break, I got a pic, jumped on the bike and descended down to the first feed station.


It was getting seriously hot now, fortunately I had lathered myself in factor 50, but the heat was immense. Me and my new mate Adam from London span along the valley, only the Col du Glandon/Croix de la Fer next we thought, just the 23km at 6.9%......


To paraphrase Michael, there is only one word to describe this ascent of the Glandon….brutal.


In the Alps, those helpful Tour de France organisers have kindly put markers at the roadside counting down the km to the top.  These markers also tell you the average gradient for the next km.  Now, this is all well and good when it says 5%.  However, when you’ve just done 5km at 6% and you see 8% or higher, suddenly these signs don’t seem so helpful after all.


It’s at this point I think I should address the gradients on the mountains.  In the UK you get short, steep hills that take about 15 mins to get over.  Hartside Pass at 5% for 5 miles is quite literally a piece of p*** in comparison.


So, cycling in the Alps.  They say it’s not the steepness that kills you, it’s the length of the climbs, the relentlessness, the roads that just keep on going up as far as the eye can see. 


Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, it’s also utter b******s.  Here’s a little table I’ve devised to explain how the gradients work (credit to Jonathan Carr for his input): 



0% - 4%: Flat, easy, get a bit of freewheeling in to recover 

5%: Enjoyable 

6%: Hello cheeky, best put some effort in here like 

7%: Yeah, this is tougher now 

8%: F**k 

9%: F**k me, please end soon 

10%: F*****g hell, make it stop 

11%: Just f**off 

12%+:  There are no words to articulate the pain.....


I’ve already sent this to the UCI; they have agreed that this is now the official Gradient Table for three grand tours and will be included on the website for the Vuelta in late August. 


Anyway, back to the Glandon.  We stopped off at a café after about 12km for a coke and a magnum.  The heat was unbelievable, keeping hydrated was essential and we had made slow progress so far.  There were a bunch of hardy souls from the TDF doing the same and we all rolled out together to take on the next 10km.

As the trees stripped back, the heat increased, the sound of cowbells rang in our ears and the wind was nowhere to be seen.  And the gradient went up.  8, 9, 10, 11, 12. Progress was painfully slow, my legs and lower back screamed in pain.

In the mountains, it’s every man for himself.  Adam stopped about 2km from the stop at the steepest section and I ploughed on.  Riding every last millimetre, I made it to the top within seconds of my target time of 4.5 hours …….(!)

As I rolled into the second feed station, it dawned on me that Adam and I were the last on the road.  Some people had sacked it off early doors on the Glandon and the sweeper van was picking up the signs.

We descended from the Croix de la Fer down tomorrows’ route and encountered what people would call a “punchy” Cat 2 climb, the Col du Mollard, 5.7km long at 6.8%.  I knew as soon as I hit this climb it would be my last for the day.  My legs were aching, my back was killing, and I knew by the time I got to the last feed it would be too late to do La Toussuire.

What doesn’t help is the stalking from the sweeper van!! Lovely guys doing a sterling job but when you look back down the mountain and see a white transit trying to hide behind a tree so as to appear inconspicuous, it’s a bit demoralising.

So as I rolled into the feed station I knew my day was done.  A few guys decided to give the 6.1%, 18km La Toussuire a bash, including a heroic Adam with help from Phil Deaker.  But I climbed into the van and as we ascended, I knew I had made the right decision.  I lived to fight another day, Alpe D’Huez tomorrow.  All cycling buffs know it’s not the best or the hardest climb in the world, but it’s something that has to be done, and it’s something I had come out to do.

Last word for Adam – he came in as it got dark, totally done in.  Great effort considering his predicament on the Glandon.



Saturday – Stage 20 Modane to Alpe D’Huez

A 8.30 start this time, which I’m told was a luxury on the tour.  The first 25km passed incredibly quickly, probably something to do with the fact I really needed to visit the little boys room for a number 2.

No toilets at the feed station so it was onwards we go onto the climb up the 29km 5.2% Croix de la Fer.

Mercifully, there was a public restroom after 15km of climbing.  Hearing stories from other riders about their toilet troubles on the road, mine seemed trivial in comparison; I was fortunate enough to be cycling within reach of actual civilisation rather than the middle of nowhere, but still, it wasn't a very comfortable morning.  Anyway, I must’ve dropped at least a stone after my toilet stop as my climbing pace picked up and we chugged on towards the second feed.

Once again the stalker van was upon us; it appeared that as it was the last day, everyone else was feeling good and going way quicker than Adam and I (apart from the legend that is Bill…more on him soon).

Progress up the final 6km of the climb was hard, steep and hot.  But the Glandon yesterday had given us inspiration/experience and we managed to get up there in a steady 4 hours.

As we climbed, we had our first on the road encounter with scouser Bill.  An absolute hero lifer, who had kept plugging away for three weeks.

“Alright Bill?  I thought you were ahead of us?”

“Nah mate, I stopped for a f*****g pizza.  No way I was cycling up there on a f*****g empty stomach”

Wise words.

The descent off the Croix de la Fer was simply awesome, reaching speeds of 70km/h I was overtaking caravans and slow French drivers.  The roads were long and sweeping, rather than the technical hairpins of yesterday and you could sit back and enjoy.  I managed to get some amazing photos of the Alpine lakes and some precious recovery for the final push.

As I rode through the town of Bourg d’Oisans looking for the final feed, I see a tall lyrca glad figure sticking out his arm with an ice cream in his hand……Bill was fully immersing himself in the local produce today like!  I got off and enjoyed a coke and ice cream with Bill which really perked me up after the long drag along the valley floor.  I met Adam at the last feed and we set out to tackle Alpe D’huez.

Being so frequently used in the Tour de France, the hairpins, the epic battles of years gone by, it is one of the most famous climbs in the world.  The cycling purists may turn their noses up, but to the man in the street, the general punter, it’s the one they know.  13.8km at 8.1%, 21 hairpins all numbered and daubed with the names of famous winners, I felt fresh and ready to embrace the challenge.

The first 2km are over 10% and the heat was like putting your head in an oven.  Unbelievably tough we battled onto hairpin 20 for a rest.  Adam was struggling at this point and I was helping all I could.  Again progress was slow and we were joined by a random guy, fittingly called Guy.  He had made a habit of selectively choosing which parts of each stage to do, and he had saved himself for the Alpe.  He offered some light relief, stories of his detours, his singing and what he was going to do to his wife later kept our minds off the relentless gradients.

After about 45 mins, the clouds closed in and the heavens opened.  Full on thunder and lightening, water cascading down the roads, we were soaked, knackered but absolutely loving it.  You couldn’t make it up.

As I ploughed on with more energy in my legs, I was getting into a rhythm until I took an inside line on a corner approx 0.5km from the infamous “Dutch Corner”.  Puncture.  I couldn’t believe it.  First one ever.  On the last climb, of the last stage.  In the p*****g rain.  Just my luck.

But being the backmarkers has its advantages……..the stalker van had now been replaced by effectively our own team car.  In the biblical weather, it seemed fitting that my saviour was a mechanic named Gideon.  He jumped out, changed the inner like a pro and I was away again within 10 minutes.

Fuelled with determination and with the Rocky IV soundtrack running through my head, I absolutely nailed the next 4km. I had let Adam go up the road, the lad was suffering but chugging along.  I caught him just as we came to the barriered section and we rolled up the final 3km together.  Getting cheers from the TDF riders in the bars as we went past was nice, but I’ll admit I was jealous, I wanted to be there getting slaughtered too!!

And then it was done.  Over.  We had made it.  We got some pics, shared a manly embrace and rolled back down to hotel.  Absolutely amazing.  The morbidly obese lad from Dunston had just cycled up the Alpe D’Huez.  Who’da thunk it?

There was a final ride into Paris which was something of an anti climax for me after the Alps.  But whilst I might not have appeared to enjoy it at the time, it was great to see all the Leathers riders, friends and family there waiting for us.

I’ll leave details of the night out in Paris off the blog, but let’s just say when a dubious looking middle aged Frenchman who you meet in a bar at 4am says he knows where else is open, you know its time to go home, especially when the bar is apparently for transsexuals only……

Things I’ve Learned

  • Cycling up mountains is hard
  • Cycling in the heat is hard
  • Cycling is hard
  • My a*** hurts
  • My left hand is mangled
  • I’m tired
  • Cycling the full route (Michael) is a superhuman effort

I’m very humbled and honoured to be given the opportunity to do something so memorable and worthwhile.  If you ever get the same opportunity, say yes, you’ll not regret it, you might even enjoy it so much you’re already looking towards next year………...

Lots of love – The Dunston Chris Froome

Thank you!

21 July, 2015

Chris Smith

Thank you!

“The TDF experience has been thoroughly enjoyable and the whole team is sharing a well-deserved sense of achievement.

The support that we’ve received has been exceptional and we’re all delighted with the money that has been raised for charity….this will make a huge impact to the young people that are helped by the William Waites Foundation!

A massive thank you to everybody that has been involved along the way, and to the numerous people that have kindly donated – much appreciated! “

A glorious day in the Alps

18 July, 2015

"After a much needed break and rehydrate, the final day in the Alps was glorious.

The stage consisted of hill climbs of Croix de Fer and Alpe d'Huez and they were both really enjoyable - as was the descent off Croix de Fer.

The real difference today was the heat. It was much cooler for most of the day and I felt a lot more comfortable. I also managed the day better making sure I was hydrated and kept myself as cool as possible. I think I would have struggled again though if it had been hotter.

It was hot in the valley bottom and at the start of Alpe d'Huez - close to 40°C - and it was really draining. It did cool off though as I was going up Alpe d'Huez and I started to feel good again.

Overall it was a fantastic day which wasn't even dampened by a surprise thunderstorm at the top of Alpe d'Huez."

Modane to alpe du Huez

18 July, 2015

Michael Leather

Modane to alpe du Huez: the shortest stage and all about the Alpe....

Riding up the bottom of the Alpe there were reports of Garmins recording 41 degrees.... And the heat was so intense that it felt like you were melting literally....

My climb to the top involved three water stops just to cool my head and back.... It wasn't cycling genius, it possibly wasn't the slowest ever but it was in that ballpark.....

But as I came through the tunnel and to the final right hand turn..... The wave of noise that hit you from the other lifers predominantly sitting watching for riders, drinking and watching the Tour made you realise what you'd and who you'd done it with.....

You thought for a moment you were there as they then urged you on to the finish, along the road, hang a left at the second roundabout and there was the sign saying arrivee!!

I had tears in my eyes not for the first time over the three weeks.....

And as I sat down another lifer said you are not the only one!!

It was.........

17 July, 2015

Michael Leather

Saint Jean de Maurianne to La Tousairre- it was brutal.

Both pain and joy!

16 July, 2015

Michael Leather

Gap to Saint Jean de Morianne.

The promise of a hard day lay heavily this morning; I was ready to leave at 7pm against a 7.30 start but I mentally had a plan....

Lots of lumps followed by the climb up the Col de Morte (it proved to be a dead good- climb (sorry-couldn't resist)) with the aim of getting onto to the Glandon as quickly as my little legs would allow......

And the plan was neatly executed, and all was well with the world save for the heat both in the air and on the road.... Someone somewhere has described it like riding through a v hot hairdryer! Until pop and I punctured with the heat......

One puncture change later- really nice one of the lifers waited with me until I was sorted- a slow trundle up to the cafe (including one coke, one can of Perrier and a magnum in about 2.5 minutes) a kilometre ahead to realise not only punctured but blown a hole in the sidewall of the tyre..... So no choice but to nurse it up the Glandon including the two descents (my two slowest of the Tour).... To get to the top.... Some considerable time later... To then have confirmed I hadn't been able to use my lowest gear..... So both pain and joy at that.... Pain in the legs... Joy because clearly stronger than i thought.

To say I didn't hang around on the descent after... Fixing my gear... With thanks to the random French man who helped... And putting on a new tyre.... Would be an understatement!!

The Lacets climb was fun and it will look amazing on the Tour....... But the key thing today was to get the day in the bag, to ride to a plan and another stage is in the bag.....

It was Hot!! I'd like to say I was Hot-- but we know that's not True! I was roasting!!

Jonathan 1 Alps 1

16 July, 2015

Jonathan Carr

"Second day was not great. Really suffered with the heat and probably dehydration and I felt ill for most of the day. Can't really remember much I was that gone.

Chugged away for 80+ miles but was completely wiped going up the Glandon and reluctantly called it a day.

After not quite recovering over dinner, I decided it was best to skip the next stage to recover properly rather than make myself more ill.

Disappointed I had to cut a stage short and skip another but the Alps have been tougher than I thought they would be.

Not really for people who have just bought there first bike."

Still going strong

15 July, 2015

Michael Leather

Dignes Les Bains to Pra Loup.....

Let's start with the humour so the stage finishes in Pra-Loup..... You climb the climb and the signs tell you the distance and the gradient... to Pra-Loup 1500 (honest, that's the name of the village... ) so guess where the stage finishes Pra-Loup 1600 which is slightly further!!

The climb over Col d'Allos featured in a pre-tour de France race called the Dauphine which had done the same stage as today as a precursor.....

The descent off the Col was narrow and technical and fun!! And I think really today was a mixture of steady gradient climbs and lovely descents some of which were technical....

It was a nice leg warmer for tomorrow which will be a challenge on the scale of the last day in the Pyrenees- and that was a finish for me after 8pm.

Jonathan Carr of Team Leathers took the stage profile award and his dogged determination despite cramp was duly rewarded..... .....

It would be difficult to say how much of a cult following the Team, it's blogs and it's fund raising have gained in France, the UK and many other places... It truly is amazing. Thank you!

Day 1 in the bag

15 July, 2015

Jonathan Carr

First day over and my first Alps stage is completed  

It was absolutely fantastic cycling in the Alps but the heat was an issue.

The heat just makes everything tougher and I felt massively drained for the last 30 miles.

Apparently you get more used to the heat by the second day so hopefully tomorrow will be even more fun than the first.

Rest Day 2

14 July, 2015

Michael Leather

Four of the biggest days await me..... They start tomorrow....

One of my pre-tour concerns was the weather and the fact that the North East of England isn't renowned for it's blistering heat.... And I think this is going to be an additional challenge for the next four days.....

And certainly as I sat watching the Tour on their first day in the Pyrenees not only was I amazed that I had been there done that climb... And in some places just seeing the graffiti on the road evoked memories of the climb up to the ski station of St Pierre Martin but they looked like they were suffering in the heat.

Today though has been a rest day.... And I have eaten, washed clothes, eaten, slept, watched the tour, about to eat again, strolled and will eat again... and consumed copious amounts of sparkling water....

The support I have received is/has been amazing but each of the next four days will be a challenge in itself and when you think that some people do their cycle training to do just one Alpine stage.... It is awe-inspiring to think I'll do the four stages..... Day by Day.

But most important of all I have rested and feel like I have recharged my batteries and after my trip to Gap that was important.

Death Row

13 July, 2015

Death Row


"It's like this and like that and like this and uh, it's like that and like this and like that and uh"


Never a truer word has been spoken by my home boy Dr Dre.....hearing all the stories of the heroes who've returned from the trenches of the TDF is both inspiring and frustrating in equal measure. Then this happened, then that happened, then this happened etc etc etc......I just want to get out there and do it myself! Likening the wait to being on death row is perhaps a bit extreme but being the last rider to go is not ideal.....(£20 to anyone who gets the tedious link btw).


So, turning to my training.  Since being declared morbidly obese by Dr Death....sorry Dr Palmer...... all those weeks ago......training increased significantly.....weight has (not) decreased significantly. I'm tremendously proud of all the riders who've embraced the challenge and stepped up. I completed the Virgin Cyclone a few weeks back, 106 miles, finished relatively comfortably. Physically tough, but mentally, cycling over 100 miles by yourself, your mind goes to strange places. Enough to turn some people to booze....


Speaking of which, I've managed to squeeze in two stag dos and a wedding in the last 2 months....let's just hope me going to cycle in the Alps isn't the funeral!


Last minute preparations are now being undertaken, I've purchased an Ali G style skull cap to protect my bonce from me old mucker The Sun. Me and The Sun go way back.....one time, at Plate Day I stood under what I thought was a cloudy sky.....only to be smashed in the face 8 hours later by severe sunstroke and a forehead that resembled Commander Worf. The burn was so bad I had to wear my golf cap for work on the Monday, some of the looks I was getting on the bus were priceless, "he's one of us, another bus dweller".


Anyway, I digress. The anticipation and the venture into the unknown is daunting, but if I can get up and over the mountains, it'll all be worth it.


Kudos to everyone who's ridden so far, Michael especially. The Dunston Chris Froome is coming to France! 

Th route to Gap

13 July, 2015

Michael Leather

I posted on Twitter this morning the route profile a 201km climb... Through the Drome/Vercours region which I know from a recent article is stunningly beautiful with rock formations and verdant colours.....

The early part of the ride was un-eventful but as we approached the first climb I felt absolutely drained; and I mean drained just simply nothing in the legs or anywhere else and felt myself slipping backwards through the the group I was riding with.... Empty, upset and v down with tears in my eyes.

Writing this now doesn't feel cool... And I could ignore it.... Both the previous night and at breakfast I had eaten large quantities of food but I clearly hadn't dealt with the previous day's depletion.... I have been saying consistently to Team Leathers riders- eat for tomorrow whatever time of day!!

But as a consequence of my error I experienced the support of my fellow lifers..... And whilst I can tell you little about the day I am told at one point "he was away with the fairies"..... I can tell you I won't forget the day when I was rode up the main climb surrounded by fellow lifers.... My deep thanks to the four of them...

To have my head covered in ice from the heat and to start eating a huge amount of food... I gradually recovered of sorts... I have just finished my second dinner of the night... I will be eating lots tomorrow with electrolytes to sort my body out....

..... I completed the stage even though I could have opted out of the loop around Gap.... Nothing can be taken for granted... But four days in the Alps next.... But a rest day first.....

At some point I will sit and work out distance covered but not tonight....

All done!

13 July, 2015

James Swiers

All done!

After a fantastic few days we're on the way home.

The cycling has been fantastic and I've met some great people.

Thank you to the Tour de Force for organising such a fantastic event and thanks to Michael and Catherine for giving me the opportunity.

One final point to note... I have a bike for sale if anyone's interested 

And so .......

13 July, 2015

And so its all over......well until Paris!

What an experience it has been, it was hard and hot and gruelling but in equal measure amazing, beautiful and rewarding!

I am so proud of us all, of how well 3 complete novices having taken up cycling just 6 months ago have cycled over 580 km (apparently the cool kids count the ks).

We have met some great people, were helped along by a lot of complete strangers and even did a little bit of helping ourselves

It's hard not to get deep and philosophical after doing something like this and hearing first hand how our fundraising has helped ....but I'll save the endless comments of these and simply close by saying my bottom is killing!!! 

Exhausting but breathtaking

12 July, 2015

Becky Scott Today was simply amazing.... If I had wrote this 4 hours ago it might have been a different story so I'm pleased I've had time to reflect (and eat and drink and peel myself off the hotel room floor) Starting off with a 16km climb literally from the hotel was hard but the morning sun hadn't broke out just yet, I rode along an inspirational man Bill, who is in his 60s, a lifer and by no means a 'trained' cyclist!! This meant I managed to go on to climb a cat 4 climb chatting about the world of accountancy.... Who would have known that would have got me up the hill Onto the most spectacular descent you could imagine .....it was breathtaking! And then the final climb of the day, the heat is a killer but reaching the top is like no other feeling you could imagine! Thanks to Karen and Clive (Ryan's parents) who were waiting at the top with full fat coke!!! I loved every minute (apart from the last 5k) It's hard, but we worked as a team, I even played my role( all be it tiny) in a mini peloton for the last 37k rather than holding on at the back, I lead the front for 1km with 4 burley (yes Ryan and James can be classified as that) on the back! Chamois cream bought ....I'm ready to see what tomorrow holds

Long days

12 July, 2015

Ryan Harrison

Great day.
Just long.
This is our friend Ken who has been riding with us for large parts.
He's a real legend.
James calls him Ken Cavendish cos he keeps sprinting off.
Last day tomorrow looks like a beast.

Two down... One to go

12 July, 2015

James Swiers

Much better day on the saddle compared with yesterday, most likely to a conscious effort to drink as much as possible, and the addition at a Tour de Force cap!

Another cat 2 done, into a fairly strong headwind, which actually made it easier...

Onto the last day which (we've just been told) is the hardest of them all, the temperatures down so that should help.

I've loved every minute, the whole event organisation is unbelievable, everything runs like clockwork.

Massive kudos to all the lifers, I don't think I could do much more then the 3 days!

Disintegrating Shoes.....

12 July, 2015

Michael Leather

Mende to Valence..... A climb out of the town... Followed by a trip to the countryside passing through the Ardeche countryside.... And two c20km descents on sweeping roads that were simply a joy to descend on... When the reality was I should have been stopping for some of the brilliant photo opportunities....

Sadly the hardest part of the day was the final 25km into a headwind towing a fellow lifer suffering an energy crisis.... In this instance it wasn't within their control.... And it was hard.

Increasingly food and energy are a big factor in the proceedings.... Daily riding calorie burn has been about 3500-6000 calories... With a mountain day being the higher.....

We have three/four feed stops a day... And they don't do porridge in the mornings  so, and I have said this to other people... You feel like you are always eating for tomorrow so you can maintain your energy levels.... One piece of bread..... More like a loaf.... You get the feeling....

Tomorrow looks interesting... A 200km climb to a rest day, a trip to the launderette and possibly to deal with my slowly disintegrating shoes.......

A tough first day

11 July, 2015

Ryan Harrison

My summary of the day.....

Hotter than home.


Massively impressed with Becky.

Thought I was going to collapse up the last hill then the bloke in front of me basically did.

My feet hurt but that's because I burnt them on the first day

.....but I really enjoyed it

11 July, 2015

James Swiers

Everything is unbelievably hard in the heat

Climbing means you lose all the breeze and it's not fun.

Had to get off the bike 6 times on a 9km 7% climb...

Got prickly heat...

Becky was flying

Ryan pranced up the hills!

My heart rate hit 194 up a cat 2 climb (thought my max was 172 Garry Palmer?!?) but I've really enjoyed it!!!

Wearing Pink is Simply Magic!

11 July, 2015

Becky Scott!1
To say you can't imagine what it's like until you have done it is a MASSIVE understatement!
To say the North East weather doesn't help acclimatise you in the slightest is also a MASSIVE understatement.
I loved the whole thing, well up to 92 miles.
The 'boys' have been amazing, the team spirit is great and wearing pink is simply magic!!!!!
I also got awarded the certificate. Each night of the tour there is an award presented for that day's stage.
The last 25 miles were gruelling in the heat finished off by cycling passed our hotel to start a 3.5km climb to then cycle back down to the hotel. The option loomed to sack that part off but I didn't.
Helped along by the most amazing encouragement I got to the top; and how proud of all; of Ryan, James and myself for completing that!

Another Epic Day

11 July, 2015

Michael Leather

Rides to Mende .... Nothing quite like doing a blog where predictive text kicks... But as far as rides to Mende go... It was epic!

Rodez to Mende.... Awesome, majestic, breath-taking, exhilarating from the thing's we create... The epic suspension bridge at Murot to the natural beauty of the Gorges du Tarn.... To cycling up the valley working in a team of 3 and touching regularly 40km an hour...

There was not a thing I would change about the first 179km of the day; in fact not a thing I would change about the last 3km; they were simply very hard!!

Col de la Croix Neuve I struggled up there let alone could I in cycling terms think of attacking!! And so proud of James, Ryan and Becky- I Believe they have never seen anything like it; and for Becky to be awarded the stage profile for completing the stage- an awesome tribute considering there is only one awarded for each day!!

This tour is life-changing probably because you end up on the edge; today the Tour blessed us all..... It may not again, we just don't know.......

Saturday is a new day...

10 July, 2015

Michael Leather

Every day the Tour tells a story; we have had three days of the Pyrenees... Which deservedly were a huge mental focus.... And I am not saying complacency steps in....
But certainly today which I think is mooted as a sprinters stage had an air of gentleness about it...

A Cat 3, 2 cat 4's and a distinct bonus climb.... But not obvious was the long draggy 6% climb into a hot headwind... The slightly sapping tarmac and the roads that didn't quite roll....

The sunflowers were resplendent in the morning sun, the dappled arcades of trees, the flowing decent into the Gorge of the Tarn and the ascent......

But tonight I was tired.......

But there's another day tomorrow....

Someone told me it's Saturday tomorrow can someone can confirm that.....

The Pyrenees

09 July, 2015

Michael Leather

Lannemezan to Plateau Le Beille.... What an amazing day (I am typing this at 6.30 the following morning- hindsight)...

A cat 2 col de aspet with a section steeper than the Mur de Huy, followed by 2 cat 1's and the HC to The plateau....

The stand out feature has to be the beauty and majesty and overall awesomeness of the Pyrenees, the landscapes, the foliage need I say more... Yet there were moments they faded into oblivion as gradients hit in excess of 10% and then settled at 8... Then 9 ... The occasional down on an up was not a bonus descent more a realisation that you still had to climb.....

We had transferred in the morning so it wasn't an early start.... It was a late finish.... But going through the growing "camper van city" you were afforded a small glimpse of next weeks stage.

To finish was awesome, to realise that some people would train solely for this one day... Gives a sense of how big the stage was....

I was tired at the end..... A slight understatement...

The four portions (large) of lasagne and the four deserts perhaps say it better!

Mad Mike

08 July, 2015

Michael Leather

Pau to Cauterets.... We woke this morning to slightly unexpected rain... And I mean rain... Lots of it!!

Rain in Pau, could mean anything on the top of the Tourmalet; and the roll out didn't help to lift my spirits.... A dark hour where ironically my arms were hurting; whilst my legs were going around.... The consequence of pulling on the bars as I climbed up to the ski station yesterday- I have had moments where I have wondered how apt my Twitter tag is (@madmike123)!!

So on the menu three categorised bumps followed by the Aspin (completely shrouded in mist and rain); a lovely descent with a brief espresso stop... And down the valley and a left turn onto the Tourmalet; to say I loved the climb up to Mongie... Is a mixed statement.... But such stunning beauty, you really have to see it.... And this was in rain and mist....

The sun made a brief appearance at over 2000m... Then a quick-ish descent, through the gorges- who knew streams were that colour... With a cheeky climb past the waterfalls to Cauterets- it will be a Stunning tour finish....

It's raining again (Supertramp)..... But imagine a peaceful tranquil village and double it.....

Another early start.... Today was 10.5 hours including stops (one was longer than planned but necessary for the sake of another lifer).... Tomorrow has the potential to be longer..... The weather is... What it is ...

Another stage in the can!

07 July, 2015

Michael Leather

Not a single thing we do would be possible without the TdeF team. We are in Pau tonight having done an end of stage transfer and if you were to measure the quantum of food eaten I am not sure what Cat the mountain would be.....

Tomorrow is in Tour terms the big daddy the Tourmalet.... But the consensus is that today's climb to Pierre St Martin ski station is probably the toughest of the climbs the Tour visits in the Pyrenees, and what a climb.... I am going to keep it simple.... Let's say it was a 24km climb (23.1km) and let's say I did it in two hours (I was less but not enough to make it an hour and a half).... So two hours of climbing at12km per hour or 7.5miles per hour...... And that is after the c140 km we did to get there...... Compare that with the published gradient!!

You get into a routine; you think about food, sleep and you conserve energy, you work together- their are days and times you'll ride alone and that can be nice but more often you'll ride in little groups that ebb and flow... You learn to draft; to ride on the front, to measure a pace... I think overall today (and there were a couple of "being a team" things that slowed proceedings significantly) we still averaged a decent speed..... But we also conquered another stage.....

Day 10 is in the can.... The actual Tour race should be amazing.... And like the stage to Huy yesterday it falls on rest day 2

Rest Day

06 July, 2015

An opportunity to sleep longer today or Breakfast at c6.30..... I was early into breakfast before being joined by a crowd of people and before I know it I am at the Launderette in Tarbes.....

... Mind my freshly washed clothes smell lovely and were definitely sun-kissed dry when I removed them from the wire fencing around the Hotel.....

Then change a front tyre which was looking distinctly worn.... Wash my bike etc....

Lunch in a local French working persons cafe; they were fab, the food was lovely and with four fellow lifers we had a good time.....

Feet up.... The Tour stage 3... In French of course.... Not sure they were that much faster than us... But they were too quick to be completely sure.... Then a solo spin out on the roads to check I still know how to ride a bike.... Dinner in a few minutes and bed!!!

It is the Pyrenees tomorrow........

A quiet relaxing day......

You're never alone with the Tour de Force

05 July, 2015

Michael Leather It was the team time trial stage today- Vannes to Plumelec 28km.... A wet morning after an overnight thunderstorm (that wasn't the only disruption to my sleep- someone had set the TV in my room to come on at 2am!!)..... We rolled out and I oscillated between stretching my legs and conserving them.... So settled for a high cadence ride that saw me pushing on.... Great fun and I am looking forward to the rest of the time trial series with Harrogate Nova on my return to the UK. It is a measure of the growing bonds amongst the lifers that they have recognised I am now here alone.... So clearly I am not. A longish transfer but after a relaxed 24 hrs it hasn't been a problem, it is a lovely evening here....

Cherries and Cheers

04 July, 2015

It is Saturday night; there is a distinctly relaxed atmosphere as we prepare for the Time trial stage and the transfer to the Pyrenees; so relaxed I have just been out scrumping for cherries......

Today was a difficult and rewarding day (at the same time)- difficult as I was ill yesterday afternoon and much of the day today- I will spare you the details (and yes I feel absolutely fine): rewarding because any discomfort is nothing when you factor it in against the huge efforts others put in- and somehow the challenge has it's own life and you dig far deeper and keep digging to get every bit of effort you can find....and it was a stage of the tour that deserved the effort- another day another challenge.

The day was rolling climbs, beautiful countryside, a headwind frequently and a fun climb to finish.... C950 miles under the belt.... Off to the Pyrenees  

It has been amazing sharing the last few days with Neil and Chris; but riding with Jonathan has been particularly great- and he has garnered a huge amount of respect for his efforts..... 

And now ......

04 July, 2015

Jonathan Leather

What a brilliant way to end such an amazing experience doing this tour taster!! It was a challenging day with numerous hills and French villages passing by on the way to the summit finish of Mur de Bretagne. It was a hard climb after over 100 miles of cycling but managed to complete the stage and now I can relax a bit before Paris!!

Now that I have reached the end my body now realises that it hurts in numerous places that I didn't think existed. Despite the aches, I have had a fantastic time, cycled with some mint people and had an experience I will never forget.

To end today I just want to thank all the Tour De Force staff who do such an excellent job signing the route, providing food and ensuring an always great atmosphere and experience. Even on stage 2 in the Netherlands when there were issues with signing they went above and beyond to ensure a good day was still had.

Finally, I have by no means been the strongest cyclist on the TDF. So I just want to thank all the riders who have helped me along my way. The great spirits and willingness to help each other out is why this event works so well. Stories are heard every night of riders going out there way to help each other out and because of this I couldn't recommend doing a tour taster or lifer highly enough.

Geordie tan

03 July, 2015

Jonathan Leather

Today was a tough day again in the heat, with numerous hills meaning it was a grind throughout.

The Geordie tan is now in full effect and I can't say it is the best look. Despite this the fact I was actually feeling stronger by the end of the day than at times near the start was a good thing to know for my final stage and the mur de Bretagne.

First Day

03 July, 2015

Chris Smith

The first day has gone really and I've very enjoyable ride.

The route was a lot hillier than I'd expected but fortunately the wind was in our favour!

The weather has been extremely hot though and it's been quite hard to keep hydrated, hopefully tomorrow will be a little cooler and I should make it to the finish line!

Playing out

03 July, 2015

Michael Leather

Well in the main I had an amazing day today; I hadn't looked at the Stage profile of Livarot- Fougeres until this mornings transfer and hadn't realised until then that it might be a relatively quick day.....

Tour Tarmac, shortish punchy climbs and a gentle tailwind in many of the right places meant that I could go out and play... I did and it was fun

I also realised where MOAM got the name of their sweets from- "Man On A Mission" and that was the story of the day- it is truly scary what I think about when out on the road..... Well maybe not scary....

It was good to see Chris and Jonathan out on the road. The story of the stage was beautiful French farming country; the shock of the stage was that we are one week in and I don't know how that happened.... The tour stage is on the 10th- I spent most of the day thinking they had got the date wrong.... Oops!

The other thing that is both fantastic and amazing is where these blogs are being read..... We had TT3 people join us today.... They knew who Jonathan and I were through the blogs and were asking after Neil- Social media and the Internet can be divisive but their power and reach can be amazing

Shared suffering makes it bearable

02 July, 2015

Michael Leather

Abbeville to Le Havre..... Three category 4 climbs and two that just failed to make the grade.

After riding through a furnace yesterday; 19 degrees at c8am when we started for the day seemed cold..... Another description for the day would have been lumpy.... Throw in thunder and lightening and a couple of torrential downpours.... And you got the flavour.

Jonathan had a hard day yesterday; having to get off the bike; so it was great to see him back on the bike today- and we rode the stage together and enjoyed the day's banter with some of the other riders. And the banter, the riding in small groups often with different people is one of the things that makes this event- the challenge remains enormous but shared suffering makes it bearable.

The story of the stage was a trip to the seaside..... And as we saw the sea for the first time the view was stunning..... Another day.... Another stage.......

Special mention to the 'OLD MAN'

02 July, 2015

Well today went so much better than yesterday. Managed to actually complete the ride. A combination of drugs (doctor prescribed) and English like weather meant I had a great day of riding. Thunderstorms and heavy rain at times meant it was just like a training ride with the occasional coastal view. It is good to feel stronger again and hopefully I can get through these final couple of days!! Special mention to the old man who dragged me along a lot of the day. He will fly through the whole thing, no doubt!! So keep donating while he and everyone else join him in this great challenge.

War Memorials

01 July, 2015

The temperature rose to 42 degrees and the tarmac began to pop. Michael said he had never seen tarmac popping before. It was the hottest day in the region since 1947. No shade from trees, no respite from the sun. It was hard, very hard, and when following a day like yesterday it couldn't have been much harder....Cyclists struggled and a few had to bow out. Better that they listen to the medics and get to cycle another day.

Today was all about the war memorials.They rode through the Somme and Vimy Ridge and many others. As they rode through they contemplated war; they were humbled by the sight of so much suffering and sacrifice. There is a lot of time to think while cycling 195km.


Exhaustion versus the cyclist

01 July, 2015

Well yesterday was the longest and hottest ride I have ever been on. 148 miles over cobbles and in scorching heat was something I will never forget. The fact I managed it after the Huy day was something I seriously questioned at times. My fingers still feel like they are shaking after the cobbles. Everything felt battered but it was a great day overall and despite the heat and distance it's amazing what the human body can achieve at times. However, today was one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had. After 10km I was feeling faint and nearly toppling off the bike. Apparently 148 miles and 37 degree heat don't agree with me , who knew eh?? It was a day where I felt like I let everyone down but I don't think I could of managed to cycle the whole 120 miles the hottest temperature in the region since the 1940s. So today I had to bow out and yes I got a lift from the great staff at the TDF. Still currently feeling a little woozy but hoping a good nights sleep will have me cycling again tomorrow. 

Today belongs to Neil and Jonathan!

30 June, 2015

Michael Leather

A super hot and long day today; riding for a good portion of it as a Domestique for Jonathan and Neil - who both put in super impressive rides - both doing their personal longest ride. The conditions weren't easy....And whilst the stage is the shortest longest stage of the Tour for some time .... The transition in the middle of the stage was lovely contryside but sapping in the heat .... And whilst the cobbles nearly finished Jonathan and Neil off .... They made it.

On the other hand; the stage was part of the story of the Tour weaves, there are days where it ebbs and flows and executes it's own daily story .... Today's story was about the cobbles ....Sad to say I really enjoyed them .... something about their unpredictability, being bounced around .... Perhaps it was because they're dry (if they're wet they are impossible to ride ) But no I wuld do it again...... I know the Tour weaves another story tomorrow....But that's another day....

Today belongs to Neil and Jonathan.

Final Blog

30 June, 2015

Today was the day of the longest stage of the TDF and was going to be 137 miles long (?) including 8 miles over cobbles. The day started nice and easy with some easy riding through the very scenic valley from Seraing towards Namur. At Namur we climbed up the weaving street cobbles to the castle at the top of the hill for some breathtaking views down the valley. These cobbles were easy and nothing to worry about and it lulled us in to a false sense of security. On we trundled with Jonny and I being joined by Michael after the second food stop (or was it third?). Michael lead us forward - I had to get that in as I've no doubt he will mention that he did all the hard work! The temperature was getting ever hotter and the fluid intake increased quite substantially.
We eventually arrived at the first cobbled stage - 1.6km of them. Were they agricultural or what! To say they were rough was an understatement - no smooth Roker Pier cobbles were these. Anyway, first section of cobbles done and we realised that it was going to be a painful last sector after the 4th food stop.
Onwards and upwards we went and at the second set of cobbles I tucked in behind another of the riders who had joined us. Unfortunately, the rider took a nasty tumble on these cobbles and managed to badly graze his elbow. Anyway, some very basic first aid was administered - wet wipes to clean it up - and off we went.
We eventually finished the cobbles including one section of 3.6km, and arrived at the hotel extremely weary after 9.5 hours in the saddle and 147 miles from the start. A very long day but I was happy that I could now relax and have a few beers - only 3 as I was absolutely shattered.
I'm heading home now after my short adventure which has been absolutely amazing. Good luck to the rest of the team and to Jonny and Michael for the rest of their time on the road.

Team Leathers 3 Mur de Huy 0

29 June, 2015

Neil Matthews

Today was the real start of the tour with the 97 mile ride from Antwerp to Huy. It was an early start as we had to transfer from Zeeland to Antwerp before we started - breakfast at 6.00am and on the bus for 6.30. Michael and I were there for opening time but Jonny made it in at 6.20 for his usual last minute breakfast.
The start of the stage was easy & flatish for the first 60 miles or so. The beginning was on the bike lanes in Antwerp which meant we couldn't really get into a rhythm or up to any significant speed. I managed to get into a group who were trundling along at around 30km an hour as we were trying to save ourselves for the challenges ahead. I almost had a major crash with Johnny at one point when we were on a cycle path where there had been some grass cutting or chopping down of weeds and we were all going along steadily so I decided to take a drink from my water bottle & wasn't totally concentrating when the guys in front decided to stop abruptly. I somehow managed to brake and take my cleats out of the pedal but not before my front tyre hit Jonny's. Fortunately I hit him square on the tyre & we both survived.
After the first feed stop I made the mistake of heading out with a group which I thought would be doing the same but I was wrong - they were a bit too quick for me - it included Michael!!! At the next stop I decided to join Johnny in his group of 4 and we set off for the rest of the stage which was, as they put it, a bit lumpy - ie there were some climbs!
The group of five kept together for the rest of the day and we managed the first steep climb with an average gradient of over 5% for 2km (I think). We then got up another short punchy climb before reaching the outskirts of Huy. We then had a 2km steep climb up to the top which was tough but manageable. We then descended into Huy before the big challenge - the famous Mur de Huy.
At the bottom we were greeted by Nick Dorey who gave us lots of encouragement & advice & Johnny & I were so grateful for this - it certainly helped us to get up - albeit by snaking our way up the hill. It was extremely tough but we made it and we're so elated - I can feel a celebratory beer tonight - but only 1!
I now have the minor issue of 137 miles tomorrow including 8 miles over cobbles & one of them is up a 4% average climb which won't be easy. It'll also be interesting to see how my body is after today's exertions. Nevertheless - I'm going to enjoy tonight as I climbed the Mur de Huy & nobody can take that away from me. Team Leathers 3 Mur de Huy 0!

Hardest cycling yet

29 June, 2015

Jonathan Leather

 Well I managed the first test of my taster getting up the Mur de Huy!! It was a tough day with Neil trying to knock me off my bike at one point fortunately we both managed to stay upright.

The last 50km was probably the hardest cycling I have done with 2 big climbs followed by the wall at huy!! Eventually I got up after some loud swearing and feel really pleased to have achieved finishing this stage.

Hopefully I can manage the rest of the nexts five days but tomorow I will attempt to get through the cobbles......

We are well and truly underway

29 June, 2015

Michael Leather

I was looking forward to today; I like being in Belgium and having done some training here earlier in the year- it was a chance to measure the improvement (if any) and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

One random thing I am enjoying is that you don't have to turn round and go back to the start; every pedal stroke takes you on a new journey! A real adventure, and I am in no doubt that's what it will be.

The flat roads of Holland turned into rolling roads today.... With the culmination being the Mur de Huy.... A special climb; I did it earlier in the year and it was epic then, it was again today... Box ticked..... The cobbles tomorrow... Hoping that my excess weight will make the riding easier... Supposed to be easier for heavier riders :)........

Whilst today was day 3, I have to say it feels like we have really started now.... A 5.15 wake up, a transfer to Antwerp..... Riding a stage with a plan.... We are well and truly underway; the weather is lovely and that helps.

Amazing too the stories from the peloton as to who and where the blogs have been followed- we don't live in a small place- we live in a small world. I'll have someone get the analytics but views from every continent...... So I am beginning to believe!!

Well and truly underway......

28 June, 2015

Utrecht decided to celebrate the Tour with it's own bike event; it was without doubt an unknown unknown.... But with roads closed.... It had a knock on effect late into the day. The TDFcycling team still smiled, remained calm and we pedalled on albeit slightly slower than planned.... To arrive on the finishing straight at Zeeland was just to get a taste not just of the sea air, but the massive sprint to the line.... In a week's time....... Tomorrow sees us leaving Holland and heading to the Wall!! Mur de Huy is calling.......

I love these early mornings!

28 June, 2015

Today was the real start of the TDF and it was an early start for two of us – I’ll not say who was last down for breakfast but he was still tucking in to his breakfast long after Michael and I had finished ours!

Anyway, it was an 8am start of the cycle ride for what we thought would be an easy relatively short day. However, this wasn’t the case. The start of the route involved cycling around the cycle lanes of Utrecht again with all the issues surrounding traffic lights and having to unclip and start again. Coupled with that there was another cycle ride taking place on the same route for the first 30km or so – a minor problem was that there were 14,000 of them which made for some congestion at times although they were on the roads and we, in the main on the cycle lanes. However, there were a few stretches where we were on the roads as well and there was at least once when a group of their cyclists continued following us and missed their turning which we thought was quite amusing.

Anyway, we made very good progress as there was little wind and the route was very flat. In fact we made that much progress that we kept catching up with the signers who were mapping the route for us and we kept having to stop and allow them to get ahead. This was an awful task for them as the route was very complicated and involved them having to put far more markers out than they would normally do.

The ride eventually ended at Zeeland at around 6pm, some 10 hours after starting off although we were actually cycling for almost 7 hours and covered 105 miles. A quick shower and into the bar for a well-earned Heineken and now for the proper challenge tomorrow.

The briefing tonight was pretty scary. The ride tomorrow is the toughest of the first 9 stages and involves some serious climbs at the end of the stage. Jonathan and I were already nervous about this stage but after the briefing we’re now seriously concerned for our well-being. Hopefully we will survive the test and be here to write tomorrows instalment – fingers crossed!

Ps – the hotel is lovely – just a shame we haven’t been able to use the facilities!

Good to get started

27 June, 2015

So Day 1 and they're off- a Prologue (short stage) around Utrecht around the cycle ways sounds fantastic (and it was!!)- it's great to be underway.... But the cycle ways are more complex than negotiating the roads around Central Station and when in the UK does a bike have priority over a car.

There are now moments when I wonder what I have started; not with regret, but with curiosity and excitement- what will this adventure unfurl; will it be a fair wind..... Random concepts on a quiet day..... Possibly fed by the almost trivial fact I was 54 today....... It seemed serendipitous 8 months ago...... Now there are elements of "whatever".....

...... I was also presented the "chapeau" award.... Partly because it was my birthday but more for everyone else's fantastic efforts in raising the £32,000 we have raised to date.... The Charity is a huge part in this and I will wear the award with pride.... I get to nominate someone tomorrow.... Should be interesting...... In more ways than one!!!

Easy does it

27 June, 2015

Jonathan Leather

A tough day sitting around until half 4. Caught up on some recommended TV and enjoyed a late breakfast. Half 4 saw us do the prologue cycle at a very gentle pace mainly due to the non stop traffic lights and massive Dutch bikes. Tomorrow will be canny different but should be an enjoyable day on the Dutch coast.

Day 1

27 June, 2015

Neil Matthews Well we've eventually started after some 7 months of preparation the Grand Depart took place today. My morning started very early - with a cock crowing at 5.20am and continuing until 6am when it decided it had had enough! Fortunately I managed to have a bit more sleep before I was rudely awoken by a text from Michael at 7.20am to say he was going down for breakfast. I eventually made it down for 8am and after a leisurely breakfast myself, Michael and four other lifers decided to have a walk into the centre to see some sights and to have a coffee by the canal. We returned to the hotel for the noon briefing and lunch - which was very good and we agreed to join the 4.30pm group for the very tough 8 mile cycle of the Grand Depart! The time of our scheduled departure arrived and some 20 of us set off to cycle around Utrecht. The ride was very leisurely around the cycle tracks, the only downside being we had to stop at numerous traffic lights and had to unclip & then clip back in to our cleats. We finished the ride in the centre of Utrecht some 50 minutes later and we were just so pleased to have started. This evening we've had the first main briefing for the long day tomorrow & a very healthy dinner. It'll be an early night as it will be a 6am rise in the morning and we're setting off at 8am. Watch this space for tomorrow's update.

The Final Training Ride...

26 June, 2015

Chris Smith

My training had been going pretty well up until the beginning of June, but unfortunately I’ve been struck down with man-flu and have missed a couple of weeks of training 

I’m now back up to full strength and completed my final ‘long’ ride last weekend -   106 mile ride from Durham to Whitby and back, via the North Yorkshire Moors and the film set of the ‘Heartbeat’ TV series. Overall a good ride and with plenty left in the tank when I finished.

It’s now less than a week before I head out to France, but despite being ill, I’m quietly confident that I’ll be fine!

The moment of truth is almost here

26 June, 2015

Neil Matthews

Saturday 13 June was the BBQ at Michaels house in Dishforth. It seemed like a great idea to cycle down the A167 from Chester le Street all the way down – the map seemed to indicate it was an easy enough route and it was until I got to the end! Anyway, I set off nice and early as I wasn’t sure how far and how long it would take me. The route was very flat with the exception of the minor climbs at Tudhoe and Ferryhill. The climb from the Honest Lawyer pub up towards Tudhoe was interesting with a spat with a dog walker who objected to  me politely asking to pass him on the cycle path. “there’s a road for you to f*****g cycle on – you should use it - you’re a bunch of wa****s”. Needless to say I was just as polite back! Anyway, I made very good progress averaging 17mph until I got to the end of the A167 which I assumed took me to the road which passed Michaels house. Wrong! It appeared that his house was about a mile North of where I was and I wasn’t sure how to get back – the only route seemed to be the motorway. However, I did manage to get there – an hour and a half early and caught Michael tidying his house up!!! 68 miles and then a few beers and lots of good BBQ food – I reckoned I had earned it! I didn’t cycle back for those of you wondering.

Sunday 21 June was pencilled in as my final test before the Grand Depart. I decided I wanted to do a reasonable ride to include Crawleyside and Peth Bank and a few other climbs given I hadn’t really tested myself for a while. 58 miles later I returned home having successfully achieved my aim.

Since then I’ve been tapering and topping up on my carbs. I’ve done no cycling or exercise at all and have been eating food that I don’t normally touch. Hopefully I’m ready – I feel I am, having lost some 2.5 stone and certainly a lot fitter than I could have imagined six months ago.

It’s been a great journey so far and I’m sure we will all enjoy the challenges ahead over the next few weeks despite the pain that we may suffer. A big thank you to our supporters and good luck to the rest of the team and I look forward to celebrating our achievements with you all at the end.   


And so it begins...

25 June, 2015

Michael, Neil and Jonathan have arrived safely in Utrecht and after an afternoon of soaking up the atmosphere, and a few light refreshments, they are ready for the task ahead.

Together we have raised a staggering £31,000 before the guys even start to cycle so let’s see if during the next few weeks we can push them along with new donations and help to reach the target set of £50,000.  http://www.bmycharity.com/leatherstourdeforce.

Don’t forget to check our Facebook and Twitter pages to follow their progress. The below link will allow you to follow their cycle route live.


Check in tomorrow for an update of how they got on with the Stage 1 Time Trial.

And so it begins ……..


25 June, 2015

On @LeathersTDF twitter feed... someone posted.... who got us into this? That was me, and with the start of our Prologue on Saturday, some thoughts:


1. When I first had the idea, I simply didn't realise how big the snowball would be as it hit the start line, to the other Leathers riders I love how you have embraced, fought and suffered to be ready for the challenge, to the rest of the Leathers team I am sure that there have been (additional) moments when you could have throttled me and banned cycling as a topic in the office but you all too have been fantastic, thank you.


2. To our donors whether it be for a 1p to the thousands some have donated this is what makes it all worthwhile... when we first set a target £25000 was discussed but on the "Think Big, Dream Epic" scale we raised the bar and it is amazing that we are at c£32000 of a £50000 target.


But to one family in particular I want to say a particular thanks, Amber, your family and your support has been amazing, thank you, see you in Paris.

3. Personally I also have to thank Garry Palmer @Sportstest... when I told him what I was about to do he did his best not to laugh... I was c17stone this time last summer, today at my pre-TdeF weigh in 12"6.... but the radical hair cut yesterday made all the difference. Garry set a plan, we have worked to it... my longest ride was the Liege Bastogne Liege sportive, my shortest c0.8 miles (my legs failed that day) and we will shortly see the results. Thank you.


4. To all of you who think I am mad.... it helps... but if you have a dream don't leave it too late.... which doesn't mean you have to do it at 21!! I am not 21!


5. Finally the messages of support for the whole team are fantastic.... I have a suspicion we will all come back changed in some way... we continue to need that support.... thanks in advance.


Progress and More Happenings

11 June, 2015

The last month or so has been…interesting. There has been a bit of a surge in training but it has also been broken up by a bit more variety.


The first key event in the last month was getting the first ton in a bag. I was pretty sure I had a ton in my legs but actually going out and doing it for the first time was a great feeling. My confidence is growing but I'm not really under the illusion that because I can do a 100 mile ride means I'm ready for back to back Alps stages.


I've also taken on my first couple of local sportives which were great fun and I really enjoyed the novelty of the feed stations to keep you going. They were a bit contrasting though. The first sportive I took on was in Richmond (just 87 miles). It was a fantastically sunny day and it was really enjoyable. The second sportive I took on was just last Saturday in Haydon Bridge and it was 60 miles of ridiculously high winds. The last 20 miles were especially bad with being buffeted constantly by winds of over 30mph and gusts over 50mph. It was just tough and mentally tiring from the effort required to not get blown off my bike.


Also, I've unfortunately added to my crash count (currently 4) with two crashes in two weeks. The first was kind of my fault. The problem was my brakes weren't in the best condition for the Richmond sportive (they needed a bit of a service and adjusting) and I couldn't stop myself on a descent when flying towards a junction and, when taking avoiding action, I went flying into a farm gate. This also resulted in an expensive repair job. The second crash however wasn't my fault. Plain and simply, I got taken out by a schoolgirl running out from behind a parked car. She was thankfully fine but I got a couple new additions to my bruise collection.


All in all, I'm feeling like a proper cyclist. This partially due to getting my first ton, partially for doing my first sportives but mainly due to a new found annoyance for pedestrians.

The Month of May

10 June, 2015

As with all the others, it has been a while since I updated my blog posts..... so May is gone and as I sit here and type... 2 weeks 3 days and it begins..


I am still not sure where May went, another 1000 miles in training and even now I am still not sure how I got there!


So what were the stand out points:


1) The wind.... everyone has been saying it; the wind this year has been ridiculous, is it that with the challenge ahead we notice it more.... I don't know.... what I do know is that it has been punishing... good for the legs possibly; bad for the mind definitely... the climb up Gowland Bank stands out particularly... it had already taken me 40 minutes longer to arrive at Pateley Bridge than the previous trip, as I climbed Gowland, I literally felt like I was the only cyclist out that day, every pedal stroke was an effort carved out of rock and I was mentally ready to roll over to the other side of the road and turn around, it was cold, windy and desperate! I am not the quickest ascender... then rolling up behind me a cyclist clad in a german kit... did he know where my head was I haven't a clue... but he did two things... he didn't bury me... I was able to draft for the next three-four minutes as we continued to climb... and mentally I relaxed... and he made me realise I wasn't alone!!! The wind lost that day.


2) Time trialling.... we don't have any Alps in the UK.... so how do you sustain a climbing effort... enough said... what's actually probably sadder.... that as a form of punishment.. I really like them... AFTERWARDS!


3) The Richmond CC 118 Five dales challenge... I was so proud of the guys from Team Leathers... enough said.


4) Tiredness.... Both I and the team are tired in different forms and as the event grows nearer and the pressures build the enormity of the challenge looms ever more in our minds.... time to just wind it down slightly..... but as an example of the relentless nature of the challenge and the tiredness it causes... it plays and creates tricks in the mind..... an early morning training session.... I dropped 15 minutes... not a lot in the scale of things but later that day I climbed back on the bike simply to do that 15 minutes... productive- definitely not... an element of doubt- definitely... caused by tiredness- absolutely..

Almost upon us...

10 June, 2015

Thursday 14 May

The forecast for the day was go so I headed in to the office first thing for the normal 9.6 mile ride in the rush hour.  The ride was pretty uneventful but one day I’m determined to risk the traffic lights on Wrekenton bank being green when I get to them and I’m going to go flat out to see what speed I get to.

The intention was to venture out straight after lunch for a 4 or 5 hour blast. Alas, this didn’t happen due to work overload and I had to make do with a short ride of 20 miles leaving the office after 4pm.  Did a 20 mile leisurely ride – a bit boring as it was on the C2C towards Stanley and back.

Sunday 17 May – Maiden century

Today was the day that I wanted to break the ton barrier for the first time and I’m pleased to say I managed it without too many problems. The route I took from Washington was North to Newcastle, along the riverside to Newburn before venturing up to Ogle, Whalton, Stamfordham, Stocksfield and then returning to Newcastle. I then decided to venture along the riverside towards Wallsend before doing a u-turn, crossing the river at the Millenium Bridge, and then heading along the South side of the river towards South Shields. I managed to venture through some pretty interesting parts of Jarrow, Hebburn and South Shields before arriving at the coast where I felt a lot safer! It was then along to Sunderland before heading home to Washington and a few laps around the block at Washington to get me over the 100 mile mark. It was a good work out and I felt no after affects the next day which will hopefully be the same when I eventually get over to the continent.

Bank Holiday Weekend Double

This was the big weekend - not for cycling, but the end of the Premier League season and the day that the Magpies were probably going to be relegated! I decided that I was going to do 2 days of riding, which had to be the Sunday and Monday due to cricketing commitments, and, due to the match being televised on Sunday, I wanted to get back to put myself through the pain of watching the whole game. I therefore did a short 50 mile Sunday stroll down to the coast, along to South Shields and Seaham before returning for the suffering. A nice easy day and to round things off the boys performed well for a change and we now have another Premier League season to look forward to.

An early start the following day and I headed West towards Burnhope and Wolsingham. I refrained from dropping down to Wolsingham and instead climbed back up to Tow Law before heading down to Willington, Durham, Chester le Street and then home. This 69 mile ride included some new roads and a few testing climbs. I also had my first incident with the chain coming off as I was heading up hill at Tow Law but I managed to stop pedalling before it got wedged between the frame and cogs and successfully unclipped my cleats before I fell off.

A total of 130 miles in 2 days which I was quite chuffed with. The issue I’ve got is can I do 137 miles in 1 day – time will tell!

Sunday 6 June

The next weekend ended up being rest days with cricket on Saturday and bad weather on Sunday but it was back in the saddle on Sunday 6th June despite the relatively strong winds. I  decided to try and get some shelter from the winds so headed East to West on the C2C towards Waskerley Moor. This seemed like a good idea at the time but it was a very hard slog all the way until I stopped at the busy café on the moor for a well-earned coffee. Kate Bush and Wuthering Heights came to mind given the windy moors but it was very scenic and worth the effort. The good news was that it was all downhill coming back and with the wind behind me I managed to achieve some pretty decent speeds – just a bit unfortunate that there were a number of gates to go through which stopped the fun.

There were a couple of near misses on the way up. One where a lamb ran right in front of me – it wasn’t too dangerous for me as I wasn’t going too fast but the guy cycling downhill with the wind behind him nearly had a heart attack. The other was when some cyclists wedged open one of the gates and I continued cycling to go through it only to find the gate closing quickly. A rapid unclipping of the cleats and some sudden braking averted a disaster!

I was quite pleased with the ride even though it was only 53 miles. After two weeks of reduced activity and no road cycling I felt good and strong and I now think I have got the fitness to do what I have signed up for – or hopefully I have.

Less than 3 weeks to go now and its creeping up on us very very quickly!


05 June, 2015

With 34 sleeps until James, Ryan and myself set off for Rodez and 36  sleeps until we mount our trustee saddles on the first day of our three stages of the tour de force, I think I don’t only speak for myself when I say…… “WHAT THE HELL HAVE I LET MYSELF IN FOR????!!!!” (that is a rhetorical question and not one I want answered by anyone with any slight inclination of just how hard this is actually going to be)


Since my last blog training has been going well, cycling to and from work several days a week, a number of very long rides on the weekend resulting in a Saturday night bed time of pre 9pm and some threshold training on my turbo trainer. Living in an upstairs flat, I am almost certain the lady living beneath me simply loves the sound of me cycling away for 90 minutes with the occasional use of the odd profanity as I reach the end of a 5 minute interval.

All this done I entered my very first sportif with some of the other guys on one absolutely glorious day in May, the Richmond meet TDF, choosing to cycle the 85 mile route I was more than impressed with the rest of team leathers who battled on and rode 115 miles of some of the most serious climbs in the Dales. Let us put this into perspective, this was the most miles I have done in one ride AND by far the most climbing I have done to date, to say it was challenging may be not too dissimilar to me making a statement such as ‘the pope likes to go to church’.


Picture this, having cycled 72 miles of a route I have never even driven let alone cycled, I saw in the distance a sign for Richmond (the end point) saying 10 miles!!!! A huge sense of relief came as I started thinking thoughts to the tune of…..‘I am almost finished’, ‘less than an hour to go now’, ‘come on Becky it’s the final push’, ’10 miles, 10 miles, 10 miles’…Little mental dance……..

……and before I knew it the well-marked route pointers put out by the organisers of the ride signalled a sudden right turn and within seconds I realised that yes the math of 72 miles already cycled plus 10 miles to go to the finish line actually did not equal the 85 miles I had signed up for…..

In order to make up the additional 3 miles we were about to start a serious climb and the previous thoughts were soon replaced by ‘I am NOT almost finished’, ‘what sadistic bleep bleep bleep plans these routes’, ‘more than an hour to go, in fact it might take me 2 just to get up this hill’, ’nooooooooooo’…… with that I started the climb and before long I soon realised another cyclist in front had a rhythm which almost certainly seemed to work for him. With that I stuck to his back wheel for the following 3 miles, I think the only thing that stopped him shouting at me was the fact I was a girl! Mid climb I heard a familiar voice saying ‘not long now, it’s all downhill from here’ …..within seconds I realised I was being lapped by Michael, who I must add had cycled an additional 30 miles to me… oh and he lied….. it was NOT downhill from there, ‘up and downhill’ for the next 7 miles was probably a little more fitting.

Having got to the finish line I was done…..ready to dismount what felt like an extra limb after 8 hours of my bike and I being one, but oh no, the finish line was not where we started, some two miles away sat my car. Just 2 miles I hear you all say, what are you complaining about??? well I will tell you…. 2 miles after cycling for 85, being filled with false hope that it was all downhill the rest of the way, that those 2 extra miles could have been spared if we actually continued the 10 miles straight on to Richmond, that the finish line didn’t actually mean the finish line…… that the organisers didn’t realise that synonyms for finish are termination, end, expiration, completion …. And that a sign saying FINISH (but not quite) would have been more appropriate, but I cycled on (and in perspective didn’t cycle the mammoth 115 miles that the other guys did).

Amidst my moaning, I did finish it and I did actually really enjoy it.

No one tells you about just how painful cycling can be, just how tiring getting back on after a feedstop is, how you will look like a spray tan gone wrong after a day of cycling in any form of sun light etc etc….. but they also can’t tell you about the feeling of achievement when you finish, the sense of team spirit when you’re cycling along with other riders and just what you will notice about your surroundings when cycling along which would have otherwise been missed driving along in a car at 40 mph. I will try and remember these pros when I next want to give up……..


A Busy Month.....

05 June, 2015

It’s been a while since I last updated my blog, but that’s not to say I haven’t been out riding!


Over the last month I’ve slowly started to increase my mileages and have taken part in my first two organised Sportive events – both were really good fun, and the food stations really helped me to get to the end!


Rides have included:


a)An 80 mile circular from Durham up to Hexham, Northumberland and then returning via the pennines


b)A very long and tiresome climb right the way up the Wear valley to Alston, and a return back to Durham via Teesdale


c)A 107 mile sportive around the Scottish borders, with a lot of headwind.


d)A 118 mile sportive around the Yorkshire Dales


e)A lot of mid-week ‘endurance’ rides to keep the legs spinning!


I’m now starting to get a very worried about the real thing – only a month to go – but if I’m not prepared by now I don’t think I ever will be.


I’ve got a couple of back to back rides lined up between now and July, and then I’m setting off for France :) 

Sportives and poor etiquette!!

04 June, 2015

We’re only a few weeks away now until the fun starts! Amazingly, I’ve noticed the riders are more relaxed than ever….


There’s been some epic riders over the last month for many of us including  the Richmond TDF stage with its vertical hills in the Yorkshire Dales. As well as being excellent training the sportive rides have been great for topping up my spray tan. In all seriousness, the two events we’ve taken part in have been extremely well organised. There’s a good atmosphere among the riders which helps you get over the line and the food stations/hot meal at the end is a godsend (even though James doesn’t let me fully enjoy it because I’m a slow eater).


I’ve also learnt some harsh lesions about cycling etiquette and how annoyed other cyclists might get if you sit behind them in a 40mph head wind for over 30 minutes.


Finally, I thought I should also use the blog to extend a big thank you to all our supporters. By supporters I mean those who have helped us in any way over the past six months, without their support taking part in the event would be impossible. Thank You!!

Less than a month.... arggghh!!!

04 June, 2015

So we are under the 4 week marker and everyone is getting a little nervous and feeling tired.


The last month has been a tough one for me with two falls and a broken bike.

The first fall saw me end up in a bush after I managed to somehow break the rear derailleur. Luckily I was out with James and Neil at the time so we all saw the humorous side. Although they still think I did it on purpose so I could miss the Peth bank climb out of Lanchester. This mishap left me with no bike for a week which was a bit of a nightmare after the fitness test with Garry Palmer.

Fortunately, the fitness test showed substantial improvement from my first one in January. This made me feel a lot better about where I was for the tour so it wasn’t too bad.

The second crash was a bit more of a nightmare. I was already struggling that day having chosen a tough route to ride. The mental challenge is going to be a major factor for me on this trip with doing 8 days of continuous cycling. Hopefully I can manage this but it’s going to be the hardest challenge I have ever done. The one thing that will help is that won’t be alone on this Tour whereas when you’re out riding near Derwent Resevoir on your own and already questioning your sanity and then fall off, it can almost break you. Luckily, a lift was on hand after about an hour and a half but that was the toughest day I have had riding my bike. I’m still showing some of the effects on my hands from where I fell.

It’s now getting very close and the nerves are hitting. Questions of can I manage this feat pop into my head regularly? Don’t worry though we will all get through it and hopefully we can manage to reach are donation target as well.

Now to the really serious stuff….. What to pack for a cycling jaunt in France.

A Game of Stag Do's

03 June, 2015

So it’s been over a month since my last blog……obviously since Dr Palmer’s death sentence I’ve been out training hard, eating well, losing weight……….sort of.


Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your viewpoint), I’ve had to attend to two stag do’s in May for two very good friends of mine.  Now I can hear all the naysayers already shouting “but you don’t have to drink”.  To them, I simply say “STFU”, it’s a stag do, what I am supposed to do?


Anyway, debauchery aside, the stag weekends were actually a great opportunity to rest and recuperate.  As all of the riders in the office have experienced, we are not elite athletes and therefore we’ll need more rest than we realise; tiredness and lack of motivation had definitely started to creep in for all of us (plus the fear now it’s so close), so as I sit here typing away, I feel refreshed and ready for the final push.


Even though there was literally zero training undertaken in Dusseldorf and Sheffield, I did gave myself a confidence boost at the go karting by finishing 3rd out of 18.  Everyone knows that the lighter you are the better………so my morbid obesity looks like it’s on the decline!


In terms of training, I participated in my first ever sportive in Richmond on the weekend between the staggys.  85 miles up and down, up and down, up and down (I was too tired from the first stag do to tackle the 118 miles).  Was seriously hard, but the accomplishment afterwards was a great feeling (despite being lapped by a certain Mr M Leather on the last climb).  Superb organisation, roads and weather contributed to a great day and I’m looking forward to squeezing a few more in before I board my flight to Geneva in July.


Things I’ve learned since the last post:


  1. Steep hills are nothing to be feared
  2. Ride at your own pace, within your limits and you can go all day (subject to (iii) below)
  3. Make sure you keep yourself fuelled with liquids and carbs
  4. Dusseldorf is a great city, with very friendly people and lots of wurst
  5. Sheffield is a top night out
  6. Waluigi is the best character on Mario Kart (I finished 3rd you see)
  7. I love the vertically challenged (Tyrion the dwarf who attended the second stag do was a genuinely nice guy for letting me kick him in the face)


The Quest to Become the Dunston Chris Froome continues……



Sportive riding

01 June, 2015

It’s been a while since my last update so I’ll start with the important bits…

  • Fleet Moss is hard
  • Cycling into the wind in north Northumberland is hard
  • The Wooler Wheel was an incredibly well organised event
  • Energy gels make bad smells


The training’s stepped up a bit (in terms of distances). In the past few weekend’s I’ve completed two sportives, (107 miles and 118 miles) which also happened to by my first and second century.  Great rides but very challenging:

  1. 16th May – Wooler Wheel Borderlands.  107 miles in north Northumberland, nothing too exciting to report, other than excellent food stops…


  1. 23rd May – Richmond Cycle Club TDF.  118 miles and c.11,000 feet of climbing resulted in a serious amount of pain.  Fleet Moss was particularly un-enjoyable but the weather was fantastic.

Since we had the fitness tests (and dietary talks) I’ve been concentrating on making sure I take on enough energy during the longer rides.  The best way to do this involves a cocktail of energy drinks, bars and gels, all of which brings a massive improvement to performance, the downside being the smells that follow in the evening… I feel sorry for my roommate in France already.


It’s less than 6 weeks till stage 14 begins and I can’t wait!

Just the Beginning

01 June, 2015

It's been a couple of weeks since I got back from the Alps and I've had a bit more time to reflect on the experience. It was tough. The heat was like nothing I had dealt with, the mountains were like nothing I had experienced and the back to back long days of cycling were not something I was not used to. But I just loved it. The Alps were magnificent and cycling there was the best way to enjoy them.

Don't get me wrong, the last six months have felt like hard work. The training required to get from absolute novice to decent amateur capable of taking on Tour de France stages has needed over 160 hours of cycling commitment. It has been difficult at times to juggle cycling and full time work and inevitably there have been low points such as struggling through rubbish weather, over training myself to illness and the general feelings of self-doubt. I wouldn't discourage anyone though from doing the same and being part of the Tour de Force. This is because I have thrown myself into cycling and I love it and cycling through the Alps was too special to ignore.

There are no two ways about it but cycling is addictive. Part of it is the freedom the road bike technology gives you. It is not like the hard work trying to get a mountain bike any distance but you get the experience of almost gliding from A to B. The technology just allows you to go further and quicker than you could imagine and road cycling gives you the opportunity to explore and enjoy outside. However a major part for me now about cycling is the fitness side. It is not something I really anticipated but I am the fittest and healthiest I have been for years. I just feel younger and not like my best years have already gone. It is the combination of fun and fitness which means I will continue to cycle.

My next plans are to continue and get better at cycling. I did enjoy the Alps but I felt like they were tough and other people there were on another level to me. I want to get myself to that next level where I can breeze up those Alpine mountains and enjoy them even more. I've already found myself planning on how I would get me and my bike back to the Alps or to Majorca or The Pyrenees. I'm a cycling convert. Over the past months I've gone from nowhere to a proper cyclist and I am so pleased I have.

Still can't change a flat tyre though.

Punctures, Punctures and More Punctures!!

12 May, 2015

Wed 15th April

My day started with the 9 mile run into the office, which takes about the same length of time as doing the journey in in the car!!!

This was the day of our first Wednesday team ride with six of us venturing out for a leisurely afternoon doing a few miles, climbing a few hills and generally having a good time. As is normal with anything we tend to organise, it’s a nightmare trying to get us all out but we eventually managed it only to then take 10 minutes deciding which route we should go to get along Scotswood Road!

Anyway, off we went along the riverside up towards Ponteland, along towards Matfen, dropping down to Corbridge before the long slog up to Slaley. It wasn’t an easy ride but one that James and I had done the previous week and we had warned the team that it would have a few testing climbs but should be manageable given the stage our training was at. However, one of the team, who shall remain nameless, was having a bad day and we experienced the first tantrum by a team member with his bike getting thrown to the ground and then kicked – don’t worry Barry we’ve all been there!

From Slaley it was a nice easy ride back down to Newcastle before we split up and headed off towards our own homes. It was a great day out, 67miles in total, until, yes, I got the obligatory puncture just over the South side of the Redheugh bridge. Anyway, I was abandoned by James and Ryan who continued on their journey home as I struggled to replace my inner tube (only joking boys).

Sat 18th April

I’d arranged to meet up with James to do another epic ride and managed to get to Portobello Industrial Estate before I got my first puncture. Quick text to James to tell him to head off without me, as I replaced yet another inner tube. Once repaired I set off to see if I could get to James’s house before he left only to get another puncture – there was obviously something still in the tyre.

A hasty call to home for the rescue party to collect me again and straight to Halfords to buy a new tyre as I didn’t want to waste the day.

I eventually got out in the afternoon and managed 45 miles from Washington to Newcastle along the Quayside and back to Washington for a trip along the Coast to Coast route up towards Stanley.

Not the ride that I had hoped for but at least I got out and got more practice at changing inner tubes!

Tuesday 21st April

The day started with another ride into the office first thing and in the afternoon I went from the office, back down to Birtley before venturing up to Burnhope, down (fortunately not up!) into Lanchester before heading along to Durham, Chester le Street and back to Washington. A 40 mile ride and with no punctures.

Sunday 26th April

A good day out with James and Jonathan L until Jonathan decided to break his bike. This ride started with the reverse route of our first team ride. This time we continued the journey to Blanchland, on to Edmondbuyers and then up onto the moors towards Stanhope. The ride up onto the moors was one of the longest climbs that I had done but it was also the most memorable – why you’re asking? Well, as James led Jonathan and I up the hill a lamb decided that James was its mother and chased him for about half a mile bleating as it went. At one point it ran past James as he was struggling up the hill and I’m sure it was at this point that it turned, looked at James and thought – that ugly thing isn’t my mother and then the stark reality hit it that it was lost and needed to find its way back to its real mother. Was so funny that Jonathan and I nearly fell off our bikes with laughter.

Anyway, the ride continued back towards Castleside when suddenly Jonathan’s chain came off as he was going up a hill. I went past him and said we’d wait at the top for him but after 10 minutes there was no sign of him so James volunteered to go back and see what had happened to him. Several minutes later back they came carrying Jonathan’s bike which could not be repaired. I’m sure he deliberately broke the bike as he didn’t want to climb up Peth Bank in Lanchester! Fortunately for Jonathan, there was a bench at the top of the hill for him to sit on as he waited for his rescue party to arrive.

James and I continued the ride, up Peth Bank, on to Burnhope before dropping back down towards home. Another 75 miles covered with some tough climbs included.

Bank Holiday Monday

I wanted to try and have two relatively long rides over the Bank Holiday weekend but with cricket on Saturday and foul weather on Sunday I was left with only Monday to get out for a ride.

I decided that I would cycle up to Stanhope to attempt the climb up Crawleyside as I was determined to beat it this time and so I did. Once at the top I dropped down to Edmondbuyers, along the A68 before heading back along the riverside to Newcastle and then home. A good hard 73 miles with 5,000 feet of climbing and conquered Crawleyside which I think is not as hard as Peth Bank.

Sunday 10th May

The weather forecast looked good for the day so I got ready to venture out for 8.45am and was just about to set off when it started raining. Fortunately it didn’t rain for long and so I departed towards Sunderland for what I planned to be a long but relatively easy ride.

10 miles in I got a puncture which resulted in a new inner tube being inserted after taking out the metal pin from the tyre. I continued on towards Sunderland, along to South Shields before doing the return and then on to Seaham and Dalton Park. Roadworks had the traffic backed up at Dalton Park so I decided to turn around and head back to Sunderland and then towards home with a few detours around Washington to add some miles to the ride.

I had hoped to hit my maiden century today but the wind was far stronger than I was expecting and with my puncture I wanted to get back early to change my tyres – I should have done that yesterday but never mind. Nevertheless I managed 73 miles with a reasonable average speed.

I have now changed my tyres so hopefully the punctures will stop from here on in.

Memoirs from the bath tub

12 May, 2015

So as I lay in the bath soothing my aching legs from the 76.3 miles (yes the .3 of a mile makes all the difference!!!!!) I have just cycled, I have decided to write my latest blog.


Looking down at my incredible tan lines, yes I was cycling in the North East…….I would be lying if I didn't say today’s ride has a) filled me with a sense of achievement b) gave me a confidence boost, I can cycle up some relatively steep climbs without getting off and c) totally exhausted me!!! Now…..pass me the carbs…….


The week before last saw the whole team have a fitness test with Dr Gary Palmer, being my second test, I was lucky enough to have something to compare my results to and I was a little pleased to know:


  • I have lost some weight (every girls dream)
  • I have lost body fat (the wobbly bits)
  • Gained muscle mass (the not so wobbly bits)
  • Improved my training heart rate (I am not going to have a heart attack)
  • Improved my endurance (I can ride for longer before keeling over)


It did also give me a lot of things to work on:


  • I need to lose MORE  weight
  • I need to lose MORE body fat
  • I need to continue to push myself during training, ie stop giving up so easily
  • I need to continue to focus on both my endurance and threshold training
  • I need to get my diet right, apparently grapes in the form of wine is not as nutritional as I once believed.


I must say puffing and panting over a bike whilst wearing a rubber face mask in my workplace is one of the strangest things I have ever done, not to mention wearing VERY SHORT shorts to have my body fat nipped and measured whilst being stood in the middle of what was our boardroom.


Since the fitness test I have started to cycle to and from work three times a week as well as my weekend rides increasing my weekly riding miles by 66 miles. Unfortunately  for the guys I sit next to in the office, we don’t have any shower facilities in our building, so the wet towel/dry towel morning wash is just going to have to do.

This has involved me almost missing the morning ferry 3 times, incentive enough to pedal super-fast, I have been caught in 2 massive down pours, more the North East weather I am used to and I have nearly been taken clean out by a fellow female cyclist who obviously didn’t do her cycling proficiency as a child!!!


I have also really started to focus on what I am fuelling my body with, no more chocolate and cakes L, but more of the right carbohydrates and a lot of water. All in all I must say I am ‘enjoying’ the training, or more so the numbers, weighing my food, counting the % carbs, constantly monitoring my heart rate and calculating the elevation of every single incline I cycle…… I am an accountant after all!! 

In With The New

07 May, 2015

A change is in the air and we’re not talking a political one. I’ve now got a new bike! Not just any bike this is a thing of beauty as underlined in the photo displayed above.


The last couple of weeks have been hard. The Old Pendle (the new winter road bike) felt like it was on its last legs and so did my body after Gary Palmer’s fitness test. In fact I’d actually argue that turning 30 is the main reason for feeling the effects of the increased exercise regime. Someone in the office once told me you immediately wake up the morning of your 30th with a beer belly and grey hair, although I’ve noticed a few greys (silver fox here I come) the belly seems the same.


It was an absolute pleasure to get out on the new bike for the first time on May Day. On the ride from Penrith to Newcastle we followed a similar route to our previous escapades on the C2C in March except this time the weather was glorious and we didn’t tremble at the thought of climbing up Crawleyside.


In the coming weeks I’ve planned to do a few sportives which should hopefully help with mental preparation for the big days. It may also assist in reaching my target of 11% body fat!


Finally, I’ve learnt quite a few things since my last blog so I’ve prepared a little summary below:


  1. Haribo are not an acceptable training supplement although Jelly Babies are.
  2. Carling is not an acceptable recovery drink although chocolate milk is.
  3. Camelbaks should not be worn by road cyclists although, surprising, underwear is optional.
  4. Long training rides on Wednesday afternoon are important although not more important than hospital appointments.
  5. Indian takeaway does have some carbohydrate benefits although cycling behind me the next day doesn’t.

Change Of Scenery

01 May, 2015

My road bike was booked in for it’s service this week so to avoid missing my training, I dusted off my mountain bike and headed up to Hamsterly Forest for some offroading!


I used to do a lot of mountain biking but it had been a few months since I last rode, and having accustomed myself to a light-weight road bike, it felt a bit like riding a tank!


Still good fun though and I spent 4 hours riding the various trails around the forest, and even managed not to fall off :)

Cycling History

29 April, 2015

I said to a friend in a recent e-mail that the links between the media and cycling were no where more evident than in Europe with at least two of Belgium's leading newspapers being key sponsors of the "Classics".... the highlight of the last month in cycling terms has to be the week I have just spent in the Ardennes... and the opportunity to do both the Fleche Wallone Sportive and Liege Bastogne Liege- the long route as ridden by the pros.... but within that week not only did I get to ride three of the climbs that I will do on the Anvers-Huy stage of the Tour de Force... including the famous climb of Mur (the wall) de Huy I also got to watch both the pro-ladies and men race up the Huy.... and as I stood on the Huy (I am just the next person on Eurosport.. ie I knew I was there but you can't see me) having wandered slowly down the Hill some 25 minutes before the start of the action.... I stood there and soaked in the atmosphere... grandmothers and grandfathers, school parties, parents with children, drunken revellers I realised that this link with the media was probably as deep if not deeper within the psyche as the reporting of any football game within the North East.... in fact somehow the media reflects the needs of the people... I don't think we'd get away with painting the roads or defacing the roads just to write a footballer's name there....


And perhaps I came away with the sense of History, Henri Desgrange the Editor of L'Auto now L'Equipe was credited with starting the Tour de France... yet another media link... so where am I going with this....


In about 8 weeks time, we will line up on the start line in Utrecht; we as a team will line up in Utrecht and beyond and make our own history... our own news in a line of tradition that goes beyond us... and touches people we never thought to touch.... for myself it is tremendously sobering but also uplifting....


Just over a week ago we held a charity sportsmen's dinner to raise funds for www.wwmt.org.uk and I have both to thank the team behind organising the dinner and the c200 guests who were there but also I realised that something which I had simply thought was something that people just do (ie The Tour) had reached in to people's consciousness in a way I hadn't fully appreciated.... and I still haven't fully grasped the messages of support/ dis-belief (but in a fantastic way)/ and commendation for myself and the team.... this is Epic!!


So what of my training.... I am within touching distance of the elusive 1000 mile month... so tempting just to go to ride to smash it... but that was due to an amazing day on the bike last Saturday when I rode the 273km Liege Bastogne Liege... I have to say the weather was a complete pig... and the climbs when they came were absolutely demanding.... in fact the weather so bad and the roads so filthy that my bike has had to be stripped down to be cleaned and brought back to life.... there are picture of me on the internet... I know I am suffering but others have kindly said I look in control......


Otherwise it was a month of routine, endurance rides with Threshold efforts... it would be nice if the weather turned for the better but there is no guarantees what we will face in France or Belgium or Holland...... the clock is ticking.


As a postscript I actually had half a bottle of wine post LBL.... with a litre and a half of water! I live an exciting life :)

He weighs a metric ton…..His Name?…..Fat Ba-rry

27 April, 2015

If someone said to you “where can I see a morbidly obese person?”, what would you say?


i) Tell them to go to any fast food eatery

ii) Tell them to watch an episode of Jeremy Kyle

iii) Tell them to watch any of the documentaries on Channel 5 (The Man with the 10 Stone Testicles doesn’t count for obvious reasons…although, he was canny fat anyway, and subsequently died of a heart attack)

iv) Tell them to go to a Sunderland AFC home match and look at the crowd

v) Tell them look at the people who walk after 200m on the Great North Run

vi) Tell them to go and watch Austin Powers (I can’t use the name, but he’s the Scottish character who eats babies…..)


If you answered yes, to any of the above, you are wrong!!  The actual answer is that you go and watch a man from Dunston called Barry riding his bike.


Yes, you’ve guessed it, despite losing a stone since training began, I am morbidly obese!!  Now I know what you’re thinking, how can this fine figure of a man be morbidly obese?  A man who’s sculpted guns and washboard stomach are the envy of many a darts player on the local Gateshead Friday Night darts circuit.


Laboured introduction over with, all of the TDF riders had a fitness test with Dr Garry Palmer last week. It went really well…..


The Test


So, you fill in a few forms, you get half naked, you get weighed, and the callipers come out to measure your fat rolls.  It’s fair to say Barry did poorly on this section.


Next, you put a heart rate monitor on, you get on your bike, spin for a bit, get warmed up.  Easy bit done.


Now the fun stuff.  Garry puts an oxygen mask on you so that you resemble Bane from the Dark Knight Rises.  The speed and resistance increase and you start getting a bit of a sweat on.  Not easy at all.  In fact, it was incredibly uncomfortable with breathing being very difficult.


Garry’s face after this bit was a look of sheer bewilderment – “is this guy for real?” 


The real test now begins, the ramp test I believe it’s called.  The resistance steadily increases and you are told to keep going until you can’t go anymore.  If you’re prepared to push yourself, this is as hard as you want it to be.  In my case, it was incredibly hard, I couldn’t do anymore and gave it all I had.


Fortunately, Garry was slightly more positive after this – “maybe this fat lad from Dunston isn’t so bad after all”.  A focus on pedalling rather than breathing definitely helped.


The Verdict


Based on my body fat levels (and various medical tables…), I am morbidly obese.  Sitting on my backside for the best part of 8 years while I tipped gallons and gallons of beer down my neck, it’s hardly a surprise I’m carry a bit of extra timber (all paid for though).


But the key question – can I do this mammoth task?  A resounding yes.  We discussed a tailored training programme, so that, together with a boozing hiatus and improved diet should allow me to get some weight off and actually kind of enjoy my two stages.


Just to clarify, despite my facetiousness – this was incredibly useful and all of the riders want to thank Garry for his time and Michael/Leathers LLP for arranging the tests.  And despite some of the “issues” I need to overcome, the motivation to get out on the bike has never been higher.


Things I’ve learned since the last post:


  1. If I’m morbidly obese, we’re living in a society of walking dead (I blame Maggie Thatcher)
  2. If a morbidly obese person can run the Great North Run in 2 hours and cycle mountain stages of the Tour de France, then Jamie Oliver and his healthy eating crusades can fu….
  3. Cycling up hills is hard
  4. Proper recovery is just as important as being out on the bike


The Quest to Become the Dunston Chris Froome continues…..now, where are those pies?

Time to Push on

23 April, 2015

March was not a great month. It was a month where I generally felt a bit ill and the weather (especially the wind) made it not really that enjoyable to get out on the bike. As a result I really didn't do as much training as I would have liked.


This month has been a lot better. The weather has been so much better and I have really been able to start winding up the mileage. It's the little things which have helped. It has been great to get rid of the bib tights, winter jersey, thick gloves and overshoes and start using the summer gear. Also, as I've mentioned before, with the wind dropping off, riding has been far less tough and exhausting and just more enjoyable.


Main targets now are to really push on. I need to up the mileage and I need to up the climbing. Bit behind on both so I do have work to do.


As a side point, it took a while but I have finally ended up with my first puncture and I did have to be shown how to fix it. I had all the tools and the spare inner tube in my saddle bag but not the slightest clue what to do. Luckily I didn't get caught out on the road with the puncture as I'm not sure what I would have done. I've also found out the hard way that I'm quite proficient at taking the back wheel off but pretty useless at getting it back on. This lead to the quite awkward moment of taking the back wheel off then having to call someone to show me how to get it back on. I'm not great / absolutely useless at the maintenance side of cycling but I'd like to think I can only get better. I can’t get worse.

Single Digit Countdown

21 April, 2015

So it has been a bit of a struggle to keep on top of the blog aspect of this mammoth challenge. So to update you....


Fortunately I have had no more incidents coming off the bike, which is one thing to be happy about.


Unfortunately it is almost 9 weeks until I set off in Utrecht. In the last month the distances have been increasing and the amount of cycling in general has increased. That seems to be throughout the office as well with Strava being a key tool for this. I have had a couple of good cycles down to Durham and some group rides which have been canny enjoyable.


Now though its time to really start to increase the workload though so I’m going to be aiming to get out on the bike as much as possible. With the days staying lighter for longer this will really help to increase the miles I’m doing.


This Friday brings my second fitness test with Gary Palmer and I’m really hoping to see a massive improvement from the last time. I feel much fitter than previously and hope to see this in the numbers.


Finally, just want to say what a great night the Sportsman Dinner turned out to be. The venue looked great and the food was fantastic. Ned Boulting provided a really interesting talk on the Tour De France and to raise the money at the end of the day is what its all about.


Hopefully at this rate I can achieve the cycling and we can smash that £50,000 target.


20 April, 2015

The fear factor has well and truly set in now… I’ve been researching the stages I’m cycling but there seems to be very little information available other than describing them as ‘mid-mountain stages’ and warning riders ‘not to underestimate the accumulated climbing’… Joy.


Since my last post the trainings been going well, I think I’m getting a little addicted to cycling and luckily my girlfriend “loves” hearing all about my training rides including the detailed in-depth analysis of every hill I climbed along the way (this can sometimes take hours).  She also “loves” me telling her ‘I’ve cycled up here’ every time we drive somewhere that has previously appeared on a training ride.


My recent rides have involved trips up the North Pennines – in sunshine it’s spectacular – in rain, not so much but it’s always a good pull to get up there, and the descents are superb!


Recent rides have also included an 80 mile push with Neil in hurricane strength winds with a combination of climbs mixed in, we almost got involved in the Tour of Derwent Reservoir time trial, but luckily the police held us back...


The countdown timer keeps ticking on the website and there’s still a lot of Haribo / flapjack fuelled training to go – I’m hoping to increase the mileage over the next few weeks so watch this space!

A month of climbs!!

14 April, 2015

On 15 March, after quite a number of weeks of relative inactivity, I decided to break with my normal routine of easy rides and  venture out with Chris on my first significant ride from Coxhoe to Richmond (in North Yorkshire not Surrey!) to see how I could cope with a longer session incorporating a “few” hill climbs. We set off at 9.20am from sunny Coxhoe, around the outskirts of Bishop Auckland, quickly hurrying past West Auckland before heading down past Raby Castle and turning into the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside around Staindrop. A number of testing climbs later we arrived in Richmond where we got some strange looks, particularly when Chris ventured into the indoor market and bought some much needed Haribo!

We decided it was too early for lunch, particularly given my wife and daughter had been diverted off the A1 towards Teesside in their efforts to join us and so we headed back and found a delightful tea room in Staindrop for lunch – well if you can class a cheese and ham toasted panini as lunch when everyone else was tucking in to their full Sunday lunch! 

Suitably replenished after lunch we headed back up the hill past Raby Park and back towards Coxhoe. Several miles later I encountered my biggest challenge of the day, the drop down from Park Head Bank then up the other side at Quarry Head Bank. Foolishly I decided to stop half way up the hill which wasn’t the brightest of things to do but I did somehow manage to get started again and made it to the top. We eventually arrived back at Coxhoe after an epic ride of 68.8 miles with 3,440 feet of climbing. A very enjoyable day despite the fact that a few hills turned out to be probably 20!!!! 

Having survived my trial with Chris and a week of skiing without injury I ventured out on 4 April with James for what proved to be an even tougher workout - a return trip from Washington to Stanhope via Burnhope, Lanchester, Wolsingham, Crawleside, Edmundbyers and Burhopefield. The day started off with an elderly woman deciding to try and kill herself, James and I by slowly walking across in front of us in the centre of Birtley – not a good idea as we were going downhill at speed and she couldn’t move any slower! A bit later on a similar episode happened though I can’t quite remember where that happened.

At Wolsingham we stopped and it was there that I discovered that my front derailleur had seized and that I couldn’t get the chain on to the small cog at the front.  However, after some gentle persuasion, we managed to manoeuvre the chain across ready for the scary climb up  Crawleyside, the downside being I couldn’t change it back to the big cog for the easier sections. Despite our endeavours with the chain I’m afraid to say I didn’t make it up Crawleyside though I did pass 5 other cyclists who had given up before I succumbed to the hill. I’m sure I’ll make it up the next time! This was followed by a number of other climbs and a scary moment when a double decker bus decided to overtake us on a blind corner! A hard day out with 68 miles done and 5,544 feet of climbing.

I took the bike in to work on Thursday 9th April and, after an easy 9 mile ride in to Newcastle in the morning, I had a 27 mile run down to Roker and back along to Washington after work. Guess what – another puncture to add to my collection and it was right below the Stadium of Light to make matters worse! A very easy ride in comparison to the previous Saturday.

On 11 April James and I decided to do a longer ride on what James described as a route with less climbing on. So off we set bright and early in to Newcastle, along to Newburn up to Ponteland along to Matfen before dropping down to Stamfordham and then Corbridge for a well-earned break given the majority of the cycling was against a very strong wind. Out of Corbridge we headed up to Blanchland with some testing climbs before arriving at the west end of Derwent Reservoir where we were held up by the professional cyclists doing the tour of the reservoir race – no we weren’t going that quick that they were blocking our way it was the police holding the traffic back until they passed through – and they were motoring at some speed! From Edmondbyers James suggested we took a quieter route up to Castleside which looked ok until we saw the sign “cyclists beware steep road”!!!!! And yes it was steep – both downhill and uphill on the other side – 20% gradient with a couple of very tight hairpins thrown in! Anyway we both made it up the hill although James did experience some issues with his front derailleur which he managed to repair.

On the way in to Lanchester we stopped for a quick breather and discussed whether we should attempt the steep climb up Peth Bank out of Lanchester or whether we should take the easier route. We concluded that we would be disappointed with ourselves if we didn’t try the 20% Peth Bank and so consumed an energy gel and hurtled down the bank into Lanchester and started the climb up Peth Bank. I’m pleased to say we both made it up in one go and then, after another slog up out of Burnhope into the wind, I arrived back home at 6pm after 91 miles and 7,333 feet of climbing (based on James’s Garmin). So much for less climbing!

The good news is that the last ride in particular has given me renewed confidence that I can complete the stages that I have signed up for and that I may be able to finish Mur De Huy on the bike – I’m sure with the other  members of the team in support and some Northern determination I will be ok.

What I have learned from the last few weeks is:


  1. Cycling with someone half your age is tough.
  2. Cycling with someone half your age and very fit is tougher.
  3. Cycling against the wind with someone half your age and very fit is a nightmare.
  4. Never believe Chris and James when they say there are only a few climbs!
  5. There are some really bad drivers out there – particularly bus drivers.
  6. Elderly pedestrians have no idea the risks they take stepping in front of a cyclist.  


I wonder what we end up doing this weekend?

De-generation X

13 April, 2015

These training diaries are always more interesting if something out of the ordinary has happened (eg nearly dying on hartside, doing a del boy onto the tarmac…..) but I suppose it’s a sign that people are getting into some serious training if I’ve got nothing much to say!


Things I’ve learned since the last post:


i)Fuel up before you go out (especially if going from the office)

ii)Cycling computers and heart monitors definitely help

iii)Cycling in groups is an essential skill

iv)Wind makes me want to cry

v)Cycling up hills is hard


First up, I’d like to talk about the delivery company DX.  Let’s just say, they’re absolutely shocking.  So, it was my 21st birthday on Good Friday, and I decided to get myself something nice (Happy Birthday Barry, love from Barry xxx).  I ordered a Garmin 500 Edge with Heart Rate Monitor and Cadence Sensor so that it would be delivered before the Easter weekend and I’d have it for all the cycling I’d be doing. 


How wrong I was.  The delivery bloke apparently couldn’t deliver it as there was no-one in the office.  I didn’t get a text, email or card.  I had to track the parcel, to be led to a telephone number to call to rearrange delivery with the most unhelpful operator ever (and they weren’t deliberately being unhelpful, I think its just that they were tired after their appearance in Jeremy Kyle that morning).


Moral of the story – don’t use DX.  But I got the Garmin in the end and it’s mint.


In terms of training, I’ve been stepping up the turbo trainer sessions (which are much more palatable if you’ve got a garmin) and done quite a few 50+ milers with a few hills in.  Managed to get out and see the beautiful Northumberland and Weardale countryside.  See the photo I took at the top of Crawleyside bank (yeah, that says 17%, I’m rock solid).


Word of warning though, make sure you fuel up properly before a long ride.  Last Wednesday I brought my bike into the office so I could go straight from work with a couple of mates.  60 miles later I felt like I was going to keel over.  When I got home my parents were pretty shocked as I did my best impression of the Hound and ate all the chicken in the house (a couple of c-bombs were thrown in as I was that hungry).


The Quest to Become the Dunston Chris Froome continues…….

Feeling slightly deflated ….

13 April, 2015

In the more recent weeks there has been a big drive in our fundraising efforts. We have managed to smash the target set for us by the charity and are well on our way to meeting our ‘stretched’ target of £50,000!!

A few weeks ago the team visited to lend a hand to The Wheels Project, a local charity based in Hebburn set up to help disadvantaged children in the area. Leathers have had the great pleasure of putting the charity forward to receive one of the hundreds of grants WWMT give out each year and it was great to see the charity has been awarded £10,000.

Whilst I must admit I wasn’t much use in either fitting a new wooden floor to the trailer the charity use or reconditioning any of the old bikes, with my skills being limited to making cups of tea, it was great to see where some of our fundraising would be used. Hearing from the young people first hand just how much the project has helped them really gave a sense of ‘yes, this is actually one of the reasons why I have agreed to cycle 300+ miles across France in three days and I have not just lost my mind’.  

Whilst most of you were out enjoying the four day Easter break, I had a few training rides planned to make full use of the extra days. So I commenced my Easter break with a tutorial on how to fit a new bike rack to my car, every day’s a school day or so they say, (thanks Scott).

Good Friday was set to be a trip to Stanhope in the car to do a 50 mile ride, all set with my impressive rack, bag packed, provisions (in the form of sweets) bought, nothing could stop me. Apart  from some pretty nasty rain…… so Stanhope was postponed, but my ride wasn’t cancelled. I tackled the 15 miles in the pouring rain and wind to my parents’ house, taking an extra 20 minutes than normal to arrive totally soaked through and needing my clothes dried in the dryer before I could ride the same route home. I would be lying if I said that any part of that ride other than turning the corner into my street at the end was enjoyable. Not knowing what was sweat, tears or rain running down my face for a total of 30 miles did leave me questioning my sanity again.

As you all will know from sitting in the beer gardens and eating the BBQ food, Saturday saw much better weather and I did a really nice route from Wolsingham to Stanhope and back covering just over 24 miles, at what I am pleased to say was a much faster pace than the day before. Other than a fly to the eye, there was nothing else exciting to report from this ride.

The lighter mornings and nights have been great allowing us to cycle more miles in the daylight. With this the teams midweek ride has been changed to afternoon cycling and last Wednesday saw the longest solo ride I have done to date. The plan was to cycle 50 miles. With the sun shining I set out in my new Tour de Force kit, shorts and short sleeve jersey to catch that little bit of sun, I cycled 36 miles to my parents, yes there is a theme here, who wouldn’t stop there when there is always a nice meal waiting?!!.....and carried on the remainder of the ride home.

8 miles into the last leg of the journey Becky experienced her first puncture…. I am pleased to report I had  spare inner tubes, tyre leavers etc…. However I lacked one vital thing …. The knowhow on actually changing it!! So one swift phone call to Jim (he’s my dad) saw my bike in the boot of his car (not for the first time) and a trip home where I received a lesson on how to fix a puncture. Feeling really ‘deflated’ that I didn’t reach my 50 mile target I soaked and sulked in the bath for a hour trying to rid myself of what I originally thought was dirt, but later turned out to be the most ridiculous tan lines I have ever had.

I now either have to fix this with copious amounts of false tan or invest in a 1920s style bathing suit if I am even considering going on holiday this year.  

Bank Holiday Trip to Scarborough

09 April, 2015

This week I decided to take advantage of the long weekend, and took a 1 night holiday in Scarborough, staying with some friends who were testing out their new camper van & tent – the only catch was that I had to cycle there and back!

The ride down across the North Yorkshire Moors turned out to be a nightmare and by the time I arrived at the campsite, I was thoroughly soaked and shivering with cold – it never stopped raining all the way!

I soon warmed up in the bar with a few pints and two meals (Burger & Chips plus Fish & Chips J)...followed by a few more beers! Fortunately I woke up fresh after a good night’s sleep, and was ready to hit the road early on Saturday morning for my return ride home.

In total I covered a total 256km in two days and am starting to feel like i’m making some progress (i’m almost 2 stone lighter now!)


02 April, 2015

Training brings it's own stresses and strains; the ability of the body to recover from everything we throw at it is an absolute source of wonder.

Four days ago I was cycling in 21 degrees, on a 160km + ride with over 2500m climbing, knowing that with all my training I could do it again if I had too the following day- wind forward four days back in the UK's wind rain and snow, and I am doing an indoor turbo training session.... and as my body recovers from the previous week’s training load... an hour's session seems barely attainable. It is my body's way of dealing with recovery; it isn't helped by the mass of germs I picked up from a plane from Alicante full of wet and bedraggled holidaymakers sneezing throughout the plane....

I still continue to follow a fairly rigid eating plan... last week above anything made me realise how much even a Kg can make to the speed in a climb... so many just assume cycling as a sport is pedalling right left etc it isn't....


Then you get moments of sheer fascination... the Tour has introduced a new climb in the Alps, pictures of it look like ribbons on a hillside... and you think wow is that for real...


Tour de France 2015 - Lacets de Montvernier - YouTube

And the clock marches on.

A trip abroad

02 April, 2015

As I write, I know there is only 12 weeks and three days until Utrecht.... on the other hand it's at least three months away.... on the other hand....

So what did March bring.... approx 925 miles in training ( the 1000 mile month still seems to escape me), 59000 feet of climbing (sounds better than c18000m) and another cold weather training camp in a place that was supposed to be warm.


So what did I learn:

1 Mud lines look similar to tan lines, but they do wash off.

2 On the odd random day of brilliant sunshine (in Spain) I burn easily.

3 I'm still carrying too much weight for some of these long climbs.

4 Long Climbs and weight are all about Arithmetic ( I was admonished by a member of the team for saying it was all about Maths- Maths I am told is a whole other topic).


The highlight of my month had to be my training week in Spain with Sportstest/TraininSpain, the range of roads and conditions are fantastic... and highlights included the Cumbres des Sol climb which will feature in this years Vuelta- there was no fantastic view for us as we did it in thick fog! and the ride on our rest day with what seemed like an inch of water on the roads was so horrendous it was comical.

But I think the most important thing I took from my training camp was a tremendous sense of camaraderie, and the way that the other riders who are head and feet better than me..... if I age apportioned it I felt a bit better..... engaged with the challenge that the Tour de Force will bring and gave me their insights to help me cope better in the event.

And I think 'camaraderie' will be key to a successful conquest of the Tour de Force.... I am in no doubt there will be the odd day or 21 days that I suffer.... as snippets of the route emerge... we, as a team, know that the flat rolling day is neither flat nor rolling... the odd 10% 4km climb, the short sharp cobbled climb... the suffering brings a sense of togetherness (or not) and unwittingly the whole exercise has/is proving to be the ultimate team building exercise.


Some completely random thoughts:

1 I haven't been drunk- I seem to be in the ridiculous situation of buying a bottle of wine to prevent the overwhelming urge to drink it- go figure!!

2 I have bought a pair of blue shoes- non cycling (this is solely designed to get me hits when posted on Facebook- a social media thing that I must simply be too old to understand).

3 Spanish hotel maintenance staff have a completely different approach to maintenance than their English counterparts- or not:


Imagine the scene.... not hot but sweaty cyclist returns from ride to find hard plastic lying in his hotel doorway, scratch marks in the door jamb/door, plastic akin to a credit card stuck in the lock... oh no... an attempted burglary.... why me.... heated discussion ensues with Hotel management... who then say are you the gentleman in Room 5? Yes says I. Oh says management it was us trying to break in terribly sorry we just wanted to clean the room... and you have the only key... I and others think... why not do it the other way round and ask for the key instead of trying to break in..... I'll hang on to the only key says me!!!

Friday... 160km ride... +2500m climbing etc... hot... last day..... key started the day with my phone... back pocket.... 

Hot and Sweaty cyclist returns.... oh $%&£@£$... no key... maintenance spend two hours trying to break in to the room... Credit to them rooms are really secure... until I think to myself it is Spain; I wonder if they locked this window... they hadn't so I broke in myself- crawled through the window... and management upgraded the lock and keys in the plural.....

I make light of it; I was stressed on the Thursday and felt a bit silly on the Friday but it also made me realise that there is far more than physical strain going to be a part of the Tour......

Uncomfortable Girls Pants

01 April, 2015

Whoever designed the website and decided it would be a good idea to put a countdown to the Tour de Force obviously knows nothing about boosting moral!!! With just over 12 weeks until the start and 14 weeks 4 days until Tour Taster 6 begins (that’s obviously the most important, as it’s the one I am doing) the reality of what I have signed up for is really sinking in.....

With the much needed kick up the, very sore, backside the C2C gave me, I am pleased to report training has been going well. The greatest benefit of it being a team effort in the office is most definitely the support and encouragement, not only from the other cyclists, but also the rest of the team.

It is the hot topic around the printer and to avoid having to ashamedly admit that ‘no actually I haven’t been on my bike, but instead I stayed in bed this weekend and watched back to back TV’, pride forces you to put in the training. Not least the ever growing obsession of logging our activity on Strava, just to make sure the world and his wife know exactly how horrendous that 30 mile morning ride into the wind was oh and how could I forget more recently the fashion shows of the team modelling their bib tights around the office  .... And that's just the guys!!! Now don’t you all wish you worked in our office???!!!

So the week following the C2C, a group of us from Leathers attended a charity bowling evening in support of The Children’s foundation. It was great to see just how many people there were talking about the tour de force and the amazing challenge Leathers had taken on in support of a really worthy cause!! Everyone wanted to know the nitty gritty details of just how much training was required, how long we could sit on the bike without getting saddle sores, how many times we had fallen off...... of course they did ..... no one is really interested in the pleasant parts!!

Although the bowling night could not be linked to my training in any way, no matter how much I have tried to make the tenuous link, I was promised by some fellow bowlers (and the winners of the evening) from one of our supporters Brewin Dolphin, that should I give them a mention in my latest blog, they would kindly donate......


So….. get donating guys!!!!!


To summarise my training since the C2C I have spent numerous hours in my living room on the Turbo Trainer.... Sweating over my handle bars...done several rides on the road……. now I have been taught by a wise, not so young, man just how to use the route planner on Strava... Gone are the days of getting lost in Murton and countless runs along the coast.

During this part of my training I have discovered that, Strava route planner is an excellent feature .....provided your iPhone battery lasts longer than an ice lolly on a hot day, talking to yourself as you cycle into head winds does actually help ....:no matter how much the man in the car passing looks at you in a 'she's on day release' kind of way and..... girls pants have to be the most uncomfortable for riding a bike, yes you read right.... No one ever tells you that part about being female cyclist ....

Random Update

30 March, 2015

I’ve taken some recent criticism off certain family members for not writing about actual cycling in my blog this is probably fair criticism if I’m honest.

My recent cycling escapades have been pretty limited which is also good reason for criticism. I’ve still had chance to capture the Pendle in all its beauty whilst out riding in the Dales (see photo above).

I have, however, became talented at fixing punctures after I learnt that leaving high pressure tyres next to a radiator is both dangerous and a quick way to destroy a good inner-tube.

With the limited cycling I have done in the past two weeks I’ve also learnt that I can’t go out without having a tea and cake stop. I’ve got high expectations for the fuel stops on the TDF! I’m not a big fan of the gels and energy bars though, keep it simple with Marathons and Boosts I say.

I hope to fill the blog with some interesting rides in the next few weeks – good intentions and all that. Starting with a 50 mile ride this weekend out to Hexham no doubt with a stop for cake and tea.

Finally, I’ve noticed recently in the office that there’s been some positive weight loss so I’m delighted to report that since beginning the training I’ve lost 1kg, of course I’m extremely proud of this achievement and hope to lose another c1kg prior to the ride #biggestloser 

Constant Head-Winds

24 March, 2015

It’s been four weeks since I last updated my blog, but that’s not to say I haven’t been training hard, and putting the new bike through it’s paces!

Training has included:

  1. The Coast to Coast in 50+ mph winds
  2. A 110km round trip to Richmond…with a constant head-wind all the way home
  3. A 100km tour of the North East, with Fish & Chips at Tynemouth… and another constant head wind all the way home!

I’ve never enjoyed cycling into the wind and I don’t think the Sports Direct anorak has helped matters (like giant wind-sale), so I’m hoping for some nicer weather as we move towards the summer.

I’ve now lost over a stone in weight and am concentrating on increasing the length of my rides, and doing more hill climbing, with a few routes planned for Weardale, Teesdale & Northumberland in the forthcoming weeks. 

Turbo Man

24 March, 2015

I’m assuming everyone has seen Jingle All the Way, yeah?  Well, that’s where that reference comes from, I’ll give you that one for free.


Laboured introduction over with……..yes, I’ve bought a turbo trainer.  Seeing the tangible benefits it’s had for Neil, I thought I’d invest in one myself.  There was a bit of bargaining to be done though, to make room, I’ve had to put the trusty mountain bike into retirement (storage).  But let’s face it, who wants to go back to straddling a fat old mare of a mountain bike after you’ve been riding a svelte young filly of a carbon road bike for the last few months…..


So, things I’ve learned since the last post:


i)Wind makes you want to cry

ii)Hills make you want to cry

iii)The turbo trainer makes you want to cry


I have been out on the actual roads after my near death experience up Hartside….managed to get a few decent rides with Dave.  Got on the Shields ferry for the first time, which was nice.


Nothing much else to report.  Now the lights are getting lighter and the weather is improving, I think we’ll all be ramping it up.


Short and sweet.  The Quest to Become the Dunston Chris Froome continues…..

Diary Post 3: The First Team Training

15 March, 2015

Last weekend was our first team training and best way to describe it would be character building.


The weekend was planned as two full training days with a night in Garrigill and was a perfect opportunity to hone some group cycling skills and get some good miles in the legs. Unfortunately the weather on the first day made it much tougher than it should have been.


On the first day, we got a bike bus from Newcastle to Workington and it wasn't until we got out the bus at Workington that we realised just how windy it was - it was difficult to stand up. What followed was relentless hours of being buffeted on the side by strong gusts of winds and every single time it felt like I was going to fall off. It was just exhausting and tiring and progress was slow. For me personally, it was also a new experience cycling on main roads with so many cars zooming past. What I'm used to is much quieter roads and at first I definitely found the busy roads uncomfortable and it added to a difficult day. On reflection though, the day was a great cycling experience as it was new and tough and I ended the day feeling more comfortable on the bike. We were however lucky the only drama we had was Jonny Leather taking a fall for the team and ending up scraped and badly bruised. It could have been worse and the conditions were that bad I'm surprised we didn't have more incidents.


The weather on the second day was thankfully much improved. The cycling for the day was however tougher with plenty of steep hills and this was all on tired legs. I did quickly find out that I although I could happily clock up a load of miles on the flat, when it came down to it, I didn't have anything approaching climbing legs and I found the day too tough for now. Gladly, the rest of the team fared a lot better than I did but it does mean I am definitely a bit behind and I've got a lot of work to do. Therefore, for me, the second day was not one of the more enjoyable days I've had on the bike so far but I hope time is still on my side.


Overall, the weekend was good fun and I did gain a lot of experience but I can't help but feel I've got work to do.

A Two Part Instalment of Becky's Blog

13 March, 2015

As it has been a while since my most recent blog update, and in order to allay you all of your fears that I have done no training for some time, I have decided to cover two momentous (ok…. slight exaggeration) weeks in my training calendar.


Part one:

A Woman’s sense of direction ………..

So after finding my new found ‘love’ for cycling over the Valentine’s Day weekend, I began my birthday week all ‘pumped’ up, cold free, and on a positive high in terms of cycling.

Being a great fan of running, although a little out of practice, I decided to squeeze in some early week training by doing two five mile runs, feeling positive with how I felt after a week on the sofa struck down by the common cold in the previous week, I was confident my ‘training plan’ was back on track.

Wednesday morning saw my mid-week cycle with my brother, a mere 23 miles through Chester le street onto Beamish and back before a quick shower a slice of cake and back to the office for an afternoon of work.

Thursday morning saw the start of my birthday, although being 26 means birthdays have now lost their appeal, I did receive (as requested) a turbo trainer, no new shoes or handbags in sight!!

Friday I decided to take the day off work, not to nurse a post birthday night out hangover but rather to go out on the bike. I planned my route and I wanted some relatively good (I use the term loosely) climbs, so set off down Durham road and back up through Penshaw, long but steady, Chester le street then into Durham along to Gilesgate where we met my mam for a coffee ... Got chatting to a guy who was very interested in what we are doing. He did however then proceed to tell me a delightful story about a friend of his who was, in his words, ‘wiped out by a lorry whilst out cycling one day’, to say he was Job’s comforter may be a slight understatement.

All sounds really pleasant right?! A little bit blue in the face from the cold, but 17.5 miles into the ride and I was really quite enjoying it.

So post coffee  we set off again on the second leg of the ride. ‘Let's go through Hetton and Houghton’ my brother said, ‘It'll be ok’ he said…..Tootling along I reach the bottom of what I can only describe as a massive hill. Top of said hill I was literally out of my seat, only pride and my cleats kept me on my bike. Now the benefit of reaching a large incline is cycling down the other side,  .... to yet another hill

I almost jumped off and tossed my bike to the ground in an absolute rage, my brother had lied, but as I repeated myself I needed to do these climbs to stand a fraction of a chance in France.

Bottom of the second hill I looked behind to see I had left my brother behind ... ‘it'll be ok I know my way home it's only 5 miles’ I thought to myself and set off…….

I ended up 7 miles later in Murton ... Yes Murton .... Phone nearly dead I know was faced with a choice …. I could either tap into Becky's immense skills of direction and continue the now 8 miles home or admit defeat and call Judey (she’s my mam), unfortunately and ashamedly you can see by my finish point on strava what I did.

After spending 24 of my 26 year living in Sunderland, it was evident I still didn’t know my way home.


Part two:

Realising I ‘spoke’ too soon…………..

With a little bit of a lull in my training plan due to a birthday weekend away in York, which was very nice I must admit, the planned team ride doing the C2C was upon us.

I however had no part in any of the planning or logistics of the ride, very wise I hear you all say based on episode one.

So that week in preparation, and not to disappoint any of my avid followers who sit in anticipation of my latest cycling purchase tales, I bought myself some padded bib tights and a new cycling jersey all set for the ride, along with some more practical items such as spare inner tubes and lights, but who is interested in those!!

The atmosphere on the ride up to the coast was great, a fantastic sense of Team Leathers was really evident and to be honest I was beginning to look forward to it. That was until we stepped off the minibus and I struggled to stand up right in the, what felt like, million mile per hour winds.

And here it began, watched by disbelieving onlookers parked up in their nice warm cars.

As Jonny found out on an unexpected fall relatively early on in the ride, the hardest part about riding a bike…. Is in fact the pavement.

I won’t go into too much detail about the ride, I am sure everyone else has covered just how easy they found it, and just how hard I did, but post almost dying (slight exaggeration again) in the cold and fog waiting to be rescued by Tim the treasurer, I was only too pleased to realise my 5 foot 2” body wasn’t going to be big enough for Barry to use my ‘scooped’ out torso to keep shelter in and I made it to the village hall alive.

Again the team spirit was great, not dampened in the slightest by the miles that we had cycled we sat down to eat together before retiring to bed ready for the next day.

I have got to admit I may have realised that I spoke too soon in terms of how much I was enjoying this cycling and I found the ride exceptionally hard and it taught me a lot!! And despite being told on numerous occasions that my height and weight would make it proportionally easier for me to ‘fly’ up the climbs, I discovered this was not the case!!! Becky simply does not have the strength nor the stamina to keep up with 6 very competitive red blooded males without A LOT more training!!


Stat Attack.

12 March, 2015

I love the stats, and thanks to Strava (what a great app) I have all the stats I need.

In the time since my last post I’ve passed 450 miles and climbed in excess of 25,500 feet – not bad considering I hadn’t even sat on a bike for about 15 years.

Last weekend we all embarked on our first real group ride, the coast to coast (or for Ryan and I, the Coast to Birtley)

It was windy – some of the climbs were tough, but the sun shone the second day and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed being on the bike as much as I did on the second day rolling through the Wear Valley.

If anything the 115 miles covered have made me appreciate the importance of keeping your body fuelled throughout the day, making sure you have enough energy stored at the start of a big climb, otherwise it’ll just hurt a whole lot more!

The whole weekend was well planned (thanks to Ryan for that one) and thanks to Catherine Milbanke for the support (and lunch) she provided on the second day.

So, we’re almost mid-way through March and I have a mileage target in my head for this month. Fingers crossed I’ll hit it, then it’s on to the next.  It’s all becoming a little daunting how fast the weeks are disappearing… The website reliably informs me its 15 weeks and 2 days till it all kicks off… however I have a little longer till the start of my section (TT6) – I have a feeling these weeks are going to start disappearing even faster…

Frustration Over!

12 March, 2015

Four weeks after persevering on the turbo trainer and sitting looking out of the window at the 30mph plus winds on Saturday and feeling a lot of guilt at not participating on the C2C I decided the time had come to try my arm out on a ride on Sunday as the weather forecast looked reasonable. So Sunday came and I put the new shoes and cleats on and set off in trepidation given the tales I’d heard about falling off when getting used to cleats.  I decided to do a short run in the morning to see how it went and some 7 miles later after a very easy ride I returned home with no falls and satisfied that I was confident enough to make a longer trip out in the afternoon. So Sunday afternoon I had a 14 mile trip to visit my parents with a few little climbs and no falls and, a first for me, NO PUNCTURES!!!!! There’s no doubt the cleats make life a lot easier, except when stupid drivers pull out in front of you and you have to try and unclip quickly which did happen! Anyway, faster times were recorded and average speed up to around the 15mph level so it gave me a lot more confidence that I am up to the challenge ahead.

Monday in the office was a bit of an eye opener to hear of the major challenges that the rest of the team had had doing the C2C. Very impressed with all of the teams efforts although I think it’s given a few members a bit of a reality check for what lies ahead. I’m sure everyone will have benefitted from it and it also did even more for the team building which is awesome to see – I’ve never been part of a team who are so committed as a team and who are encouraging each other in everything that we are doing and I’m sure that will continue going forward. I can’t wait for the end of Tour party!

Tuesday the weather was superb, or so it seemed, so I decided to take the afternoon off and do the Washington-Sunderland-Seaham-Washington round trip of some 30 miles. Had a very enjoyable ride although the 1.1 miles along Roker Pier and back gave me more concern for the cobbles section I shall be doing on the Tour. I only did 10mph on this section as I thought my arms were going to fall off so I’ve still a lot of concern as to whether I’ll survive that section of the Tour. The ride from Seaham to Houghton on the “flat” section was tough with a head wind but I took great pleasure in blasting past a fellow cyclist on one of the inclines – not sure he was impressed. Arrived back safely with numerous personal bests, average speed approaching 15mph, a new top speed, no falls and NO PUNCTURES!

After my fall of 4 weeks ago I am now back on track and looking forward to the next trip out. The challenge for the rest of the team now is to beat my fastest speed of 49.7mph!!!!!

Dust in the WIND....

11 March, 2015

So it’s been a few weeks since the last blog post……..things I’ve learned in that time:


i) I hate wind

ii) I love wind

iii) Cycling up hills is hard


I’ve done a couple of local rides with my mate Dave, but nothing to report other than noticeable fitness gains……what everyone is waiting to read about is the Coast to Coast.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I’ll begin….


Seven brave souls from the office decided to give up their precious time at a weekend to spend even more time in each other’s company.  Not satisfied with doing each other’s heads in on a daily basis, why don’t we get a taxi to Workington and cycle back to work, over two days, stopping over in a Village Hall in Garrigill?  What could possibly go wrong?  It’ll be awesome.


So I arrived at work at 6.30am on the dot (take note Ryan) to load my bike onto the taxi.  Had a bit of man-banter with the taxi driver. “So do you do many of these coast to coasts?” “Aye, do them all the time….but you’s are the first lot this year”.  I should’ve taken the hint, but full of optimism, I ignored the comment and looked forward to the journey……..how bad could the weather be?


9.30am, arrival in Workington. Windy was an understatement.  So windy that you could hardly stand up, never mind get on a very light (and expensive) carbon road bike.  But the wind was behind.  How bad could the weather be?


Anyway, we managed to plough on through the lakes, whinlatter pass, Keswick, Penrith.  Decent progress being made despite Ryan’s frankly shocking navigation skills.  “Where’s the map Ryan?” “Oh I left it at home”.  Some scary moments, a particularly heavy fall by Jonny Leather (kudos to him for soldiering on), but we lashed through 50 miles and were ready for Hartside Pass.  It looked calm in Melmerby……how bad could the weather be?


Turns out the weather was absolutely horrendous.  Being the chivalrous gentleman that I am, myself and Jonny hung back as support for Becky, the only female on the ride.  We made good progress, Hartside wasn’t as bad first feared, although freewheeling up a mountain should’ve really been a sign of things to come.


As we meandered up, the fog descended, the wind picked up to the point where we literally couldn’t sit on the bikes or see 10m in front.  So we walked, in our cleats, the last 1.5 miles, in howling gales and thick fog.  Oh yeah.  It was also freezing. (see above pic).


Finally, after getting to the top, we were told that the café was shutting.  Ideal.  And to make matters worse, it was so windy, descending the other side was a no-go.  But thankfully some of the party managed to cane it to Garrigill to summon a rescue party. 


It’s fair to say, after an hour of waiting, I was mentally preparing myself to go all Bear Grylls and scran the leg of the first one of us to die, then open up the torso for shelter like Han Solo did……..but Tim the Treasurer arrived in his van just in the nick of time.

So….in the end…it all worked out.  The Village Hall in Garrigill for £10 each was absolutely spot on.  Even though on Sunday morning I felt like had been on a 12 hour bender…..a bit of breakfast and we were all set again.


Nothing too much to say about Day 2 other than it was really good training, I made it up all the hills (some steep ones) and it gave me lots of ideas about future training rides.  Weardale is a really nice place when the sun is out.


Overall, I think we all enjoyed it (to some extent) and we’ll all benefit from the time in the saddle.  I have an injury though.  My left hand is a bit mangled.  Even though I’m right handed, I use it for certain things so….erm….I’m just waiting for it to get better….


I’ve decided to change the name of the Quest after watching Sports Life Stories a few weeks ago……The Quest to Become the Dunston Chris Froome continues…..

Cycling is a £$%^!!

10 March, 2015

It has been a while since I made any entries as to how my training has been going. This has mostly been due to having a few weeks with limited training as I have had studying to do for an exam. I managed to pass the exam which is the good news so another one out the way. 

Although I did manage to get a ride in on the 02/03/15 doing 44miles in 3 hours with an average speed of 15mph. This made me feel a lot better about how my training had been going as previously I was proper struggling after only 25 miles. I thought this put me in a good place for the Coast to Coast. How wrong I was……

Coast to Coast – 07/03/15

The weekend arrived with constant weather updates from the C2C coordinator Ryan ‘bat on’ Harrison. The winds were apparently going to be 40mph all of the Saturday when we were cycling from Workington to Garrigill. I took all this with a pinch of salt but maybe I should have listened more closely. 10 miles into the 60 miles we were doing in the day I was leading us towards Whinlatter Pass when suddenly I was flung off my bike from the wind. All the wind that day seemed to have been funnelled into one area in the whole of the Lake District, which I happened to be going through. I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt but after dusting myself off, a David Beckham esque 1998 kick of my bike and a few choice words we were back under way.

The first day was a struggle no doubt and none of it was to do with the cycling more just the weather. I don’t think it likely that I will ever cycle in conditions like that again. There was numerous times when I thought the wind would have me off the bike again. Eventually we got to Hartside pass and it was not much fun. Fog and heavy winds made it extremely difficult and like a scene from a police reconstruction- ‘Have you seen these cyclists?’ Cycling down the other side was even worse I can’t describe the fog, hail, wind and sleet in enough detail to replicate how eerie it was. I genuinely questioned what I was doing with my life at one point. The warm village hall and the cup of tea when I arrived in Garrigill was literally the best thing ever!! The night’s sleep could have been better mind as I was unable to lie on one side due to the pain from my crash and for some weird reason I was having constant dreams about flying off my bike.

The next day I was aching like mad and still had 60 miles to cycle. The first two climbs from Garrigill were a disgusting start to the day but that feeling reaching the top was amazing. There were times I wanted to stop but kept thinking of ridiculous quotes ‘it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. ‘

After that the cycling down to Stanhope was fantastic in the sun despite nearly being hit by a car that decided to drive on the wrong side of the road. After a brief lunch and getting to Wolsingham, I finally found that my fall was more damaging than I thought as I had broken the rear derailleur on my bike. A temporary fix later and several steep climbs we managed to finally get to the end.

A Chinese, a bath and some proper sleep were definitely well deserved.

Some lessons learned:

  1. Cycling Hurts!!
  2. Nature can be bit of a pain!!
  3. Never give Ryan map responsibilities.
  4. We are all a bit stupid for agreeing to this mammoth challenge!!
  5. Chris is a good chef!!
  6. More training is required.
  7. Most of all though despite the pain, I think it will be possible to do this challenge!!

16 Weeks, 5 Days

02 March, 2015

In sixteen weeks and five days…

The countdown time to the start of our epic adventure marchs on… February saw me record my largest monthly mileage in training at over 800 miles, helped by a solo ‘cold’ weather training camp in Mallorca, where I had fun ( a loose generalised term) on the climbs in the north of the island; the weather there wasn’t brilliant and certainly in the UK it’s not much better…..

However as a positive, there seems a greater degree of competitiveness in the office as many of the team enter into Strava challenges- and a number of the team are planning to ride the C2C as a part of their training…. With the two (other) team members doing Mountain stages there is a certain amount of banter especially about the iconic Alpe D’Huez stage… ( a lot of the banter can be seen on Twitter)

But I have to say I didn’t really cheer Neil and Jonathan up in relation to the iconic climb on the early flat stages, and certainly finding the following link wasn’t as helpful as it could be:


Let’s see what March brings….

Outriding the Young Guns

25 February, 2015

I returned to the UK, having spent a few days training in Mallorca, to receive an e-mail asking how my warm weather camp had been....

Well once you dismiss the torrential rain, wacky wind speeds, and the odd snowy outbreak... it was lovely and warm- not.

I could tell the cold had got to me, as I rode around... I kept thinking I could take a picture of an espresso, a pair of cycling shoes and find a carrier bag.... then I could talk about some shopping trip or other..... I might even get reads on Facebook or Twitter...... clearly an essential part of my training.... the alternative was either head down into the wind or more crazily leaning at 45 degrees into the wind just to stay upright. The 45 degree trick was riding around the bay to Puerto Pollensa- and at that point (though I have never seen them in real life) i imagined the sand dunes to Zeeland... thinking the actual TdeF that day could be utter carnage.....

Anyway six days back to back riding... several mountain climbs later, Sa Calobra, Cap Formentor, and Lluc in both directions gives you a feel for the eat, cycle, sleep regime which is less than 18 weeks away..... I am in no doubt now that this trip will be a team effort!

I love being in Mallorca, just nice to be there, I don't think I have ever seen the island look so green, it was almost like being at home... then you see the orange and lemon trees and the artichokes, the almond trees in blossom... my favourite moment had to be riding off my back wheel a german wunderkind (about a third off my age) who seemed to think the very elderly (!!) gentleman was going to slow up Lluc..... old maybe, gentleman- some would debate. I did nod at him when he arrived at the top!

Sadly I didn't get a cheeky 18 holes of golf in, I didn't shop, and even better no punctures- which I was relieved about given some of the weather..... the low point had to be finishing a ride and sitting literally in a pool of water drinking an espresso- actually on reflection... quite fun.

Diary Post 3: My Break in Budapest and the history of the Tour

24 February, 2015

Last week I took a well-earned break to Budapest to break up the cycling and mentally prepare for the Coast to Coast.

This was mainly spent walking around sightseeing and eating, but I did manage to do a run. The weather was mild and clear and our hotel was a delight.

I also took the opportunity to do some background reading into the history of the Tour de France, which to my astonishment, is connected to the Dreyfus Affair! Incredible, J’accuse!

Alfred Dreyfus was a solider of high importance in the French Army who was wrongly convicted of selling military secrets to the Germans. The case despite being over 100 years is recognised as being one of the most significant political dramas in French history. It also formed a significant part of my studies in French history and provides the backdrop to one of my favourite recent novels  An Officer and A Spy by Robert Harris.

Henri Desgrange, the founder of the first tour, used the event in 1903 to promote both the magazine he edited, L’Auto (now known to us all as l’Equipe, that’s another story!) and the high profile Dreyfus Affair.

The second Tour which took place in 1904 was quoted as being the last by Degrange due to the passion it lead to in the spectators, cheating and in some case violence! The Tour did, however, go ahead in 1905 and both the event and Desgrange’s magazine grew more popular each year.

There you have it folks, a short history lesson about the origins of the Tour De France.!

Cycling is the new golf....

23 February, 2015

Things I’ve learned this week:


i) Cycling up hills is hard

ii) Cycling into the wind is hard

iii) Cycling with a mate can make it easier and harder

iv) To paraphrase Brian Potter – Energy gels.  They’re the future, I’ve tasted them


A few years ago, after watching Tiger Woods seal what has turned out to be his last major golfing victory at the 2008 US open, I decided I would become the white Tiger Woods.  A young lad from the mean streets of Dunston, who would not only conquer the world of golf but change sport as we know it.  So the next day, I bought a full set of clubs (bag and everything) from a bloke in the Dun Cow for £50 and set out to meet my golfing destiny.


Those £50 clubs served me well, however, once I was established on the European Tour, I felt like I needed to upgrade……and so began the long and unrelenting process of club upgrades and unnecessary golfing purchases.


Following my rise to the top of the golf world rankings, culminating in my majestic win at the 2014 Open Championship at Hoylake, my quest was complete and I needed something else to fill the void.


Enter cycling. Not only have I purchased a brand new carbon fibre bike.  I’ve bought pedals, shoes, bibs shorts, tools, bottles etc etc etc.  Basically, instead of going to sleep thinking about the next driver I’m going to buy which will increase my length off the tee from 375 to 400 yards, I’m thinking about the next piece of cycling equipment I’m going to buy which will prevent me from dying on Alpe d’huez.


Cycling most certainly is the new golf for Barry.




I have a mate called Dave.  Dave has just recently agreed to do an Ironman Triathlon in Barcelona in October.  Dave used last year’s Great North Run as a warm up for a marathon a couple of weeks later.  Dave has been to Afghanistan.  Dave is smaller than me.  Dave is lighter than me.  Dave has a better bike than me.  Turns out Dave is better a climbing hills than me.  Who’da thunk it eh?


Dave and I did a cheeky little 30 miles around Beamish/Burnopfield etc.  I say cheeky.  What I really meant was ****** hard 30 miles.  Lots of short but steep climbs had my legs in pieces.


At the time it was awful but it was definitely good training.  Having a riding partner is a big help but I need to make sure I eat and hydrate properly.


Also, discovering Pedalling Squares in Swalwell made my day.  Highly recommended bike café/workshop near Blaydon Rugby club at the start of the Derwent Walk.  Stop by if you’re in the vicinity, cool place, friendly staff, it’s a must-visit place for cycling hipsters like me.



I planned a 55 mile route out on Strava and set off towards Matfen Hall with Dave early doors on Saturday morning.


I made sure I had a decent breakfast and actually felt really good in comparison to Wednesday.  Very stiff headwind all the way up to Matfen though.


Deciding to take a break, we stopped off at the golf club shop (see picture above).  Seeing as we had our clubs with us……..we had a quick 9 holes……I shot a 6 under par 30 just for the crack….…and we jumped back on the bikes.


I’ve read about the ‘Ryals’ on various blogs/forums.  I had no idea we were going that way though, I was following my route…….Jesus, they were steep!  Fortunately we were going down them into a headwind but unfortunately, I’m going to have to pencil them in for a future training ride.


It’s fair to say both Dave and I suffered on Saturday.  If it wasn’t for Dave’s energy gels I’m not sure we’d have been home before dark.  What a revelation they are.  They’re so good they should be illegal.  No wonder Lance Armstrong turned to the roids.


Anyway, we managed 55 miles and got home safely, plenty of time to soothe my Graham in the bath before getting my party clothes on and heading out for the match.  The thought of Mike Williamson lining up against Sergio Aguero was something I had been looking forward to all week.


The Quest to Become the Dunston Lance Armstrong (without the drugs) continues……

Diary Post 2: Getting Started

23 February, 2015

Over the last couple of weeks I would say the training has really started with the improvement of the weather being a major factor. With the temperature above freezing cold it has been much easier and much more enjoyable to be out on the bike and as a result I've clocked up more miles on the road in the last couple of weeks than I had in the last couple months. I've also managed to break the fifty mile barrier for the first time which is a great improvement on my first couple of rides. I know it's not much but it does feel like a bit of an achievement having not cycled anywhere near that distance before I signed up for the Tour de Force.


At the minute I'm just enjoying getting out and cycling and I would say that's a good start.

Diary Post 2: New Bike!

23 February, 2015

After a bit of persuasion, and getting stranded 20 miles from home with a mechanical breakdown (I had to be rescued by my Dad!), I finally decided it was time to replace my trusty old £150 second hand road bike with something a bit newer and more reliable!!

After taking delivery of my new Wilier carbon fibre road bike, I therefore decided to put it through it’s paces with an 80km test run. The bike was noticeably faster and lighter than what I’ve been used to so I’m hoping this will give me a little bit of a helping hand when I come to do the TDF – although I’m still nowhere near as fit enough as I’d like to be and still far too heavy - despite a lot of cycling, running and dieting…

It’s amazing how much faster you can go though when you’re getting chased by a stray Staffordshire Bull Terrier through Ferryhill…I thought I was going to get mauled at first, but it turned out to be friendly enough and at one point I was worried it was going to follow me all the way home!!

Diary Post 4: The Injury Update

20 February, 2015

As indicated in my last post I was to attend the fracture clinic on Monday 9th February and this visit confirmed a fracture in a bone in my elbow which means I will be off the road bike for a number of weeks. Phsio starts next week and a return trip to the fracture clinic on 12th March. I have therefore been consigned to my nightly exercise on the turbo trainer which really isn’t the most exciting of things to write a blog about. Basically I get on the turbo trainer, ride for an hour or so, then get off the turbo trainer shattered – all very exciting but at least I can’t fall off and injure myself! Further posts will start again once I get out on the roads.

A Love for Cycling

16 February, 2015

I began my outdoor training several weeks ago, shiny new bike, new shoes, new outfit…. I certainly looked the part ….and managed (what I thought) an impressive 24 miles from Sunderland to South Shields and back …..in the snow!! As you can see my mam wasn’t the best person to ask to capture the moment of my first ride, successfully managing to cut my head off in the photograph.

Being lucky enough to have a designated Wednesday morning out of the office for time to train I returned to work in the afternoon post ride only to find I was the only member of Team Leathers to brave the ‘extreme weather’. Excuses from the boys consisted of ‘It was too cold’, ‘The roads were too icy’, ‘The car wouldn’t start’, and ‘I didn’t want to break a nail’…….

So I spent the afternoon feeling rather smug, if not a little tired.

The following weekend I passed up a group training ride with several of the team, which I hear was most eventful, for a shopping trip and lunch with the girls (there seems to be an underlying theme to all of my posts) with the view that the following week I would manage to fit in at least two outdoor rides and several hours running.

However, as I was yet to discover, Karma at my earlier smugness was about to rear her head and I was ‘struck down’ with a cold. I am just thankful it didn’t progress to that dreadful condition ‘man flu’ as my 5 days out of training may have been prolonged to a month of complete bed rest.

To say I was a little annoyed that my sniffles stopped me training is a slight understatement, but after a week of vitamin C overload and a share in Kleenex I was ready to venture out again.

So back to full health, Saturday morning I decided to go out cycling accompanied by my brother, leaving from Sunderland we ventured along the coast to Seaham on what turned out to be quite a nice morning stopping at a nice little coffee shop half way to appreciate the views …… and cake. After all, factoring in the cake stops that we will be having on the TDF is an essential part of the training, right?

I soon learnt the benefit of my much lighter road bike in comparison to my brother’s mountain bike. Despite his experience of long rides and love for cycling, he was more accustomed to the slog of lugging his mountain bike up the inclines at a rather slow and steady pace. Arriving back home a good 15 minutes before him I now fully appreciated my purchase of the shiny Cube and it was then that cupid struck me with his arrow and I truly fell in love with my new bike.

After an intense but enjoyable ride I spent Saturday evening on the sofa, re-fuelling with carbs and chocolate, it’s what I hear all of the pros eat, planning my training for the week ahead. 

No Pain, No Gain

16 February, 2015

Things I’ve learned this week:


i) Cycling up hills is hard

ii) Balancing on your bike at traffic lights whilst clipped in can only end in tears


No humorous japes to report this week, just some good old fashioned training…..


Tuesday night, decided to bash out a run on an old favourite route that I used when training for the Great North Run.  The strange thing about running, which I always forget, is that for the first 15-20 mins your body is screaming “please stop, you’re too fat and old to be punishing me like this” whilst your mind is saying “howay son, don’t be a p****”. Anyway, managed 5 miles no problem, decent time, and definitely gave me some confidence that a bit of fitness is returning.


Thursday morning was a training ride.  I had planned out a route on Strava thinking a few nice little climbs up and around Silverhills/Sunniside and down to towards Chester le Street and back. 


So, as I made my way along to Lamesley I was in good spirits………..then it started……the climb up to Pennyfine Road.  Definitely bit off more than I could chew.  Managed to drag myself about ¾ of the way up until I thought my legs were going to fall off and my Weetabix would come out as projectile vomit.  Managed to stop off at a junction next to a very nice house with an Aston Martin on the drive………imagine if I had’ve barfed on the Aston…….that would’ve been a good photo.


After about a 10 minute stop, I actually felt human again and set off, purposely cycling much slower………and it worked!!  Thank the Lord!!  I’m going to be able to get up those mountains if I just go a bit slower!!  It might take 20 hours but I’ll do it!


Enjoyed the rest of the route, flying around the country roads……..until I came to a mobile set of traffic lights near Kibblesworth……….they’re on red……I’ll just wait a bit……….still on red……..I’ll go a bit slower………still red………I’m going to have to stop aren’t I……….still red…………yeah, I’m on the floor now, knee bashed in.  To the driver in front, it must’ve looked like Del Boy falling through the bar, one minute I was in the mirrors, next I’m tumbling sideways onto the tarmac.  See above for the resultant graze.


Anyway, managed a decent 20 miles.  Add that to the 30 miles I did around Newburn/Stamfordham that I nailed out on Saturday morning, and it’s been a good week.  Very enlightening in terms of getting used to the bike and the “red zone”; knowing not to over exert yourself and keep just below that limit will hold me in good stead in the Alps.


Training will now be ramped up in the next few weeks in anticipation of the coast to coast.


The Quest to Become the Dunston Lance Armstrong (without the drugs) continues…..

A Week of Excitement

13 February, 2015

A mixed two weeks of training including a superb Sunday ride through the North Yorkshire Dales, up to Masham, Lofthouse, Pateley Bridge and a fantastic spring day for riding...... this adds to another exciting week for a whole host of reasons:

a) The charity we nominated and are working with in the North East has had its grant approved by the William Wates Memorial Trust.

The riders have had an initial meeting with the charity; and will be doing a day’s work experience with the Teenagers that we are aiming to help.

   Genuine excitement!!

b) We are within a whisker of achieving the charitable target set by the Tour de Force but still a way to go for our target of £50,000.

   Genuine excitement!!

Diary Post 1: Hitting 100

10 February, 2015

After 100 (or so) miles on my own, I took a leap of faith and embarked on my first group ride.  We all agreed a route to the coast and agreed we’d meet at 10.  I had a great day and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Without going into too much detail I’ll summarise the key points, including what I learnt…

1.  Ryan needs an alarm clock, and a watch. According to him 10am actually means 10.50am.

2.  The sooner Neil has cleats the sooner he’ll appreciate the difficulties of inner city riding (I still can’t un-clip)

3.  If your chain comes off at the bottom of a hill no one will wait for you.

4.  It’s a long hill into Houghton-le-Spring.

5.  There’s a great café in Seaham – excellent caramel slice.

6.  My bike’s hard to clean.

So after 38.3 miles I was feeling a little sore but what a great day to be out on the bike and I can definitely feel my cycling fitness improving!

Diary Post 2: Jumpstart to the Tour De Force

10 February, 2015

I’ve finally retrieved my bike. Not without difficulty though. The plans were laid on 1 February when I returned to my parents’ home to collect both the bike and an appropriate vehicle for transportation (an MG TF isn’t really made for carrying people let alone bikes!).

What I believed would be a thirty minute turnaround to load the bike and drive away resulted in a two hour episode that required my uncle to help start the twenty year old Land Rover Discovery with a spare car battery. On the road again to move the bike and Discovery to Ripponden where I was staying for the weekend. The initial plan, of driving two vehicles back to the north east, quickly disappeared on Sunday when the weather took a turn for the worse and an unnamed cohabitant wasn’t overly keen on driving the TF up the A1 in icy conditions.   Plan B was triggered. A train return train journey back down to West Yorkshire on a cold damp Tuesday to collect both Discovery and Bike…

Return journey commenced smoothly enough with no problems on the train journey and a free meal on the Tuesday night. Wednesday morning I woke up early with the intention of driving back with enough time to have a quick ride out to stretch the legs, what a surprise the Land Rover didn’t start. This time however I had no uncle to assist and a family asleep in the house who I didn’t feel it appropriate to wake. After numerous attempts and call to a farm and Land Rover expert (James Swiers) the only option was a jumpstart. Enter stage right local neighbour on way to work who kindly supplied the jump leads and disappeared to work. This left me with a predicament – is it possible to jump start a Discovery with a flat battery from a Hyundai i10  with no mechanical experience and an iPhone to talk me through the steps, I hooked up the two vehicles and turned the keys! BOOM, the Discovery started and black poof of smoke separated the morning mist.

Quickly onto the road and I was back to work for 12 lunch – the rest of the office oblivious to my morning adventures.  

For the avoidance of doubt, photo evidence is supplied above.  

Diary Post 3: Guess What?

09 February, 2015

Saturday 7th Feb was my first organised trip out with Barry, James and Ryan. It was arranged that I would meet the guys at 10.15am at a pre-arranged venue. I arrived early, as I usually do, after a 3 mile ride. After waiting for 10 minutes I got a text from Barry advising that they were waiting for Ryan as usual – I’ve now learnt that Ryan is never on time! I therefore decided to do several laps around Rickleton and by the time the boys had arrived I’d done 8.5 miles since setting off from home!  Anyway, we set off and everything was going swimmingly until after 4 or 5 miles I got, yes you guessed it, a puncture. With so much experience of changing inner tubes, the rear wheel was off and the new tube inserted in a few minutes – I’ve also learned that I shouldn’t put my bike upside down when changing a wheel! Then we came to trying to inflate the tyre. James had a new pump so started to try and connect the pump to the tube and after several minutes trying, it become apparent that he hadn’t read the instructions and the mechanics of the pump was a bit too technical for him! He’s certainly a better accountant than cycle mechanic. In stepped Ryan who eventually sussed out what to do and we were on our way.

Some three hours or so of cycling later I’d completed 41.5 miles at an average speed of 13.3 miles per hour. There were a few climbs – especially the “flat section” from Seaham sea front to Sharpley golf course and the day was a great success. Every one enjoyed it except for a final muddy section which was an error of judgement on mine and Ryan’s behalf.

Sunday 8th February started well. I decided to cycle a route into the office to get a feel for how long it would take. I decided to head from Fatfield along towards Heworth and everything was going very well until just before the Heworth roundabout. I had been cycling down the bus lane until it was coming to an end and I decided not to risk the main road and went to move onto the path as there was a ramp off the road onto the path. Unfortunately the ramp turned out to be not flush with the road and I hit it at too much of an angle and went flying. Someone should have been videoing it as You’ve Been Framed would certainly have wanted to pay me for it! Anyway I dusted myself down and thought I wasn’t too badly hurt so continued on my trip to Newcastle. In Newcastle I made a closer inspection of my damaged elbow and realised that maybe I had done a bit more damage than originally thought.

While in Newcastle I bumped into one of my sponsors, Martin Clarke, who was heading to the Quayside Market and I think he was impressed that I was out on a Sunday morning although not so impressed with the crash.

I then headed back and was making very good time before yet another puncture! I wasn’t capable of changing the inner tube due to my injuries so reinforcements were called, yet again. I had covered another 16.4 miles at an average speed of almost 14 miles an hour.

Sunday afternoon was spent at the NHS Walk-in clinic, rather than watching the match which was some form of a blessing, where I was X-rayed and now have an appointment at the fracture clinic on Monday – I may have fractured the ball of my left elbow!  Photo of the injury attached. Watch this space for an update on the injury.

A tale of two halves…..

09 February, 2015

Things I’ve learned this week:


i) Riding up hills when your bike is not setup correctly is hard

ii) Riding up hills in cleats is hard

iii) Riding along what Neil called “a flat run into Houghton” is actually a 5 mile hill, and is hard

iv) Riding up hills is hard


First Half – Reality Check


The first ride of the week took place on a frosty Tuesday morning.  Thinking I could just lash it round local roads between the hours of 8.30am and 9.30am was perhaps a bit naïve…….but the next person who beeps me in their Qashqai whilst taking their ugly children to school is going to get knocked clean out…..


Anyway, I went straight in at the deep end, trying to cycle up what is quite a steep hill from Dunston to Whickham…..I soon realised my saddle was too low, too far back and the front bars were not in the correct position.  Got halfway up, nearly chundered, made some adjustments and continued on my merry way.


Managed about 18 miles in total, most of the ride was getting used to the bike, the cleats, making small adjustments to my riding position as I went along.


Even though I managed to smash the 30mph speed limit on my way back down from Sunniside (the speed trap on the side of the road said so), I was a still bit demoralised, I thought I could jump on the bike and dance up the hills like they do on the telly – how wrong I was!


Second Half – Light at the End of the Tunnel


How many accountants does it take to change a puncture?  One, plus two tax advisers and an insolvency practitioner…..


Ryan ‘Late’ Harrison picked me up early(ish) doors on Saturday morning in Clive’s magnificent Land Rover and we met James in Birtley.  A few tweaks to the bikes, a bit of jealously from Ryan that his Pendle was double the weight of our Cubes, and we were cheesing it down to Picktree Lane to meet Neil ‘The Chugger’ Matthews.


The animal that he is, Neil had already done about 13kms before we met him (because Ryan was late).  Neil then proceeded to take us on the coast to coast route to Roker.  Not being in cleats, Neil blazed his own trail at the front, treating junctions and roundabouts as if they didn’t exist, whilst the three Bambi’s behind tripped over each other.


The cycling gods got their own back on The Chugger though, a tack on the cycle path stopping him in his tracks.  Took about 40 mins to sort but we managed to get to Roker in once piece (see above, great day for it).


A quick stop, a blast down the coast through Sunderland city centre (what a lovely place, I’m just pleased I don’t bear a resemblance to anyone’s sister……) to Seaham, where we stopped in what Neil affectionately called ‘The Dogging Car Park’.


From there, a 5 mile drag back up to Houghton.  Its flat he said…..flat? Was it ****!  Good training though.


Neil then departed and we (eventually) made it back to James’, but I still had time for a fall on the way.  Suppose it had to happen sometime, but seeing as I’m proper solid like, totally had no effect.


38.3 miles later, I was back home, soaking my aching valley in the bath, hope restored that I might actually make it up those mountains in the Alps in July.


The Quest to Become the Dunston Lance Armstrong (without the drugs) continues…..


So it begins......

02 February, 2015

Apparently Michael has already cycled the distance of the TDF in training…..


This is what I’ve done since Michael started his training (note, this period encompassed Christmas):


i) Went out drinking

ii) Went out drinking

iii) Went out drinking

iv) Did lots of tax returns

v) Put on half a stone


However, the training regime finally commenced last Monday when I took delivery of the new road bike.  I got round to building it on Saturday morning and the results are magnificent, if I do say so myself (see attached).  I love getting shiny new things.


During the past week I’ve bashed out the following runs:


3 mile run – hungover, severe leg cramps

5 mile run – with a cheeky rest halfway

3 mile run – more leg cramps

4 mile – decent pace, felt like a quorn-fuelled Mo Farah


Took the new bike out for a spin on Sunday afternoon, got all lycra’d up, shades on, and did 10 miles of shuttles along the Gateshead Riviera, just to get a feel for it and ensure optimum seating position.  Fair to say the road bike is faster than the mountain bike.  I would’ve taken some pictures but I didn’t want people to be blinded by the staggering beauty of Duntson in the winter sunshine.


Anyway, I also managed to lose 3 lbs in the past week.


Tune in next Monday for latest instalment of The Quest to Become the Dunston Lance Armstrong (without the drugs)……

Diary Post 3: January Changes

02 February, 2015

"I am motivated above all by that little voice inside that urges me on to fulfil my potential. Everyone has that same voice in there somewhere, but many are too scared to listen to it, too scared to try, too scared of failure. That fear is immobilising, but it is also our own personal construct and therefore doesn't exist in reality. NEVER imagine anything is impossible” (emphasis  mine) ...... A Life without Limits: Chrissie Wellington- for those that don’t know Chrissie is a four time Ironman Champion.

I have read Chrissie's book previously (I am currently re-reading it) it is thought provoking, uplifting, informative and most of all, makes it absolutely clear that nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it....and above all else gives a strong indication of the mind set to take on the current challenge of the Tour de Force..... I didn't get my mental target mileage in January, a combination of poor weather, variations in my training and day to day life conspired but sitting here on 1 February, yes, there is more I could of done, but probably not sensibly!

The hardest issue to resolve in any January for an accountancy firm specialising in tax is dealing with the absolute pressure of 31 January tax return deadlines...... the team are brilliant and deserve praise for the work they put in (and some of them are busy finding their training legs).... but it creates additional pressures and the pressures in the mind can be just as hard as the pressure on the training.... so an absolute lesson has been knowing when to rest and when to walk away from the bike... I had to do so in the last week of January (total mileage for the last six days in three sessions-34 miles!! And two of those sessions I should have stopped sooner!) Walking away was harder than actually doing the training session....seriously!!

So my January training block started on 26 December (no, I didn't ride Christmas day) and included a Sportstest re-test on 30 December (power up, weight down) but in January itself I have ridden on 22 days out of 31; on some of those days, twice a day and covered 752 miles....actually KM sounds better..1210km. a combination of Zone 2 (ie endurance sessions), threshold sessions... (short sharp sprints) and unstructured rides... in coaching terms, we are building, refining the engine and mentally i am building the ability to ride at an endurance pace for longer and longer each ride -a little bit, I know I can ride at this intensity for X Hours a day so riding in a group, using drafting (and working as well) I can ride X+1 or 2 hours. A lot of the work has been done on the flat, but gradually we are introducing hill work, short and long efforts as there isn’t really any such thing as a flat stage at the Tour! But I still within all this did a weekend of two rides 80km/112km- one flat/one super (25%) hilly (though i prefer the shorter 50m/70m).

Another big change is that I have finally bought in to a structured diet- the weight loss is noticeable but not ridiculous... butter is now an occasional treat, and porridge, honey, bananas, dark fruits (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries), avocados and eggs, fish, noodles, pasta, cereal, rice amongst my daily staples- there are days I am hungry and days I feel like I have had too much.... my training load is spread across my basic requirements during a week.... so it is the same daily fuel.... friends, family and work contacts are getting used to me pulling out my phone and entering data into MyFitnessPal... but are also supportive of the benefits.

The more you do, the more you realise there is to do....and sadly with insane wind speeds outside I am going to have to go and make the decision about today's training- inside or outside. In the end I did both- but wished I had stayed inside!

Diary Post 2: More Practice!!

02 February, 2015

This last week has involved more hours on the turbo trainer during the week with the intention of getting out on the road on Saturday. Everything was going to plan with me only having a night off on Friday night.

The weather was glorious on Saturday morning so set off from the house at around 10am and, within 10 minutes, I had, yes you guessed it, another puncture! This time there were two holes in the inner tube and a small split in the tyre. This was possibly a result of the tyre not being inflated enough but, needless to say, I was very deflated. Anyway, reinforcements were called and, after a trip to Halfords for a new tyre, a proper bicycle pump and more practice at removing the rear wheel and replacing the tyre and inner tube, I set off after lunch for the ride I had intended to do 3 hours earlier. An hour and a half later I had completed some 21 miles with my average speed slightly up on last week’s ride and personal bests on most of the sectors of the ride. When I checked my stats on Strava I was quite amused at some of the sector names with one especially, being affectionately known as “Dog Turd Dodge” – sums up some of the places I go through!

Sunday was a bit of a change with a trip down to Michael's house for a fitness test with Dr Garry Palmer of Sportstest who was going to assess where I was on my training. I think Michael had asked Garry to go easy on me, with me being the old man of the team and also possibly the least fit. Anyway, I had a great 2 hours with Garry who was very complimentary about where I was with my training and who set out a possible training schedule to assist me in improving my fitness, weight and ability to cover the four stages of the Tour De Force that I’ve committed to do. It was a very useful two hours and I fully intend to use Garry’s advice, or at least that’s the plan.

The next week will involve more training on the turbo trainer at night with a potential trip out with Chris on Sunday – though I may give the fish and chips at North Shields a miss and also without any more punctures!!!!!    

Diary Post 1: The New Cyclist

02 February, 2015

Like a few of us taking part, I am very new to cycling. Of course one of the minor stumbling blocks when I wanted to get started was I didn't actually have a bike. This is a problem I have since solved with a proper carbon fibre road bike which I hope will do the business.

Having not owned a road bike before, I could not believe the difference compared to a mountain bike - it feels great. Though, I must admit, I am currently a big fan of flat roads and am not quite seeking out the big climbs - not ideal as I have signed up for the Alps stages. I'm sure that will change as I get a few more miles in my legs.

In terms of cycling firsts, I have so far been lucky enough not to have had a puncture - I'm not sure I would know how to repair one - and the closest I have got to a cycling repair is to put the chain back on. I have though had the experience of not properly unclipping at a junction and just very casually falling over. I just see it as an inevitable experience and part of beginning to cycle but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

I’m sure better and more proactive times are ahead.

Every Girl Loves To Shop

27 January, 2015

Sunday morning marked the beginning of my structured training for the TDF, a little late some may say, kicking off with a mobile fitness test with SportsTest.

Just like any girl would, I made sure I was all prepared for the training to begin with numerous visits to cycling stores and purchases of new cycling wear, not quite the heels and handbags I am used to shopping for, but shopping non the less. Deliveries and shopping bags full of cycling shoes, jerseys and shorts I was totally in my element.

So a little bit clueless, I was the prime example of ‘all the gear no idea’, I was put through my paces by Gary Palmer during the test, testing my fitness and endurance on the bike.

I somehow managed to get through the session without falling off and we developed a structured plan for the next 5 months in the run up to the TDF, which for me begins on July 11th.

Motivated from the test, and as every good intention starts on a Monday, I resisted chocolate cake in the office, swapped caffeine for water and sweets for a banana and took to the streets on a 5 mile run.

I can most definitely say the journey over the next 5 months to reach the beginning of the 561km I will be cycling across France is not going to be easy!!! 

Diary Post 1: No Bike

26 January, 2015

Still haven’t got a bike. I really should sort this. I went for a run at the weekend wearing cycling clothes, that’s the closest I’ve been to doing a proper training ride. I also bought a bike pump and waterproof jacket which made me feel a bit more proactive.

Hopefully next time I write a blog I’ll have a bike.

Above: A nice picture of the derelict rock pool in Tynemouth taken this weekend

Diary Post 1: The Puncture Repair

19 January, 2015

Given my lack of any real significant exercise over many years I thought that I had better start doing something to at least get me on my way, so in late November I purchased a turbo trainer so that I could do something in the cold, wet, miserable days and nights of winter without having to force myself out of the house! Since that time I have been trying to use the TT on a regular basis but, to be honest, given the social events in December this was not as often as it should have been. Nevertheless it was a start.

On Christmas Eve (yes Christmas Eve!) I ventured out on my first ride on the roads on my cheap and nasty mountain bike and managed 13 miles, which I thought wasn't a bad effort for someone of my age and condition. I then had a few days recovery time, which coincided with Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and ventured out for my second ride on 27th December, this time for 11 miles - I thought I was supposed to increase the mileage, not decrease it! After these two rides the weather wasn't particularly good so I didn't get out again until 30th December when I managed a return trip of 19 miles to Roker and, four days later (and several beers as well) on 3rd January I broke the 20 mile barrier with roughly the same route. On these rides my average speed was increasing, there were fewer stops and the recovery time was also improving.

 "I broke the 20 mile barrier"

While all this was going on I went out and bought a modest road bike (well in comparison to Michaels bike it's very very very modest!) which I wanted to test but the weather held me back until I eventually took it out on Friday 16th January for a 20 mile spin down to Roker. The great news is that it is so much easier to ride and a lot quicker - not surprising really - for what I paid for it I'd expect not to have to pedal it either!

I did the same 20 mile route in half an hour less time and I wasn't pushing it as I was still getting used to riding it. This time included queuing up on the A1231 at the junction with the A19, both eastbound on the way and westbound on the way back,  which was an interesting and sometimes scary experience, which would have added a few minutes to my time. I also cycled along the pier at Roker which gave me a bit of experience for what the cobbles will be like on the Tour De Force and its certainly a different and more uncomfortable experience than on the mountain bike!

I was extremely pleased with this first trip out on the new bike and planned to do a longer ride the following day. I therefore set off early on Saturday afternoon and everything was going fine until after 7 miles I felt a shuddering from the back wheel and guess what - my first puncture. I got off and, after a quick inspection, decided that I wasn’t able (or couldn't be bothered) to repair it at the roadside so I called for emergency back up and got a lift home! Sunday was spent repairing the puncture which ultimately resulted in me taking the back wheel off and replacing the inner tube which I am quite proud of as I think I've put it back together right - I'll have to wait until my next ride to find out if that is the case. It was back on the TT yesterday for a boring hour but at least it's getting used and I'm getting fitter - already half a stone lighter than when I started!

There's a long way to go but at least I've started.

Diary Post 1: Questioning My Sanity

18 January, 2015

Today was the first time I have ever been out cycling on the road. It’s definitely not the same as being on a turbo trainer as you don’t realise how roads are not completely flat at all. I can’t say it was the best weather conditions with ice and sleet all part of the experience.

Completing 24.9 miles has really put my task in to perspective and it has seriously made me question my sanity in choosing to do such a mammoth Tour taster. There is no backing out, so a lot more work is going to be needed before I am ready for the start of the TDF.

Tweet to follow to our progess.

Diary Post 1: First Time on the Road Bike

17 January, 2015

My training for the Tour de Force officially starts now.

This was my first time on the road bike since the 2012 Great North Ride so after spending a good few hours trying to find my cycling equipment (which had since all gone missing!),  I eventually chose a relatively flat route to gauge my fitness.

It was a cold and snowy start in Durham, but I soon warmed up and covered 75km down to Barnard Castle and back, with a few refreshment breaks here and there....

I now realise what I have let myself in for, but am looking forward to improving my fitness and stamina, and already have my route planned for next weekend!

Diary Post 2: Riding With Team Sky

16 January, 2015

One week on nothing particularly sensational and finally my ride miles are greater than the distance I'll ride in the Tour de Force. So time to reset the clock and see if I can hit my January target.

It hasn't been the best week for cycling with some of the miles on Rollers in the house; and the weather with strong winds, ice and snow isn"t very cycling friendly- the highlights of the week include a Ride with Team Sky (see my twitter feed for the Youtube video) around Mallorca!! Well they were there, I just watched whilst on the Rollers!

Two other things to say about this week:

#JeSuisCharlie the impact on France of the events of the last week will be felt for some time.

2 To see absolute cycling dedication, visit www.oneyeartimetrial.org.uk, as Steven Abraham tries to break the amazing record set by Tommy Godwin, already in the first 14 days of January, Steven has cycled 2,538 miles, and it puts in a completely different context; the 2100 miles in the summer. Chapeau!

Diary Post 1: In The Beginning

09 January, 2015

Having got me and the team into this interesting, exciting but above all else challenging challenge, someone needs to take a lead on the training blogs:-

I’d like to say training started in August 2014, when I piloted my daughter across the Golden Gate Bridge on a tandem; certainly the concept and idea of doing the Tour De France – in advance of the race was in my head, prompted by both the Tour de France in Yorkshire and an eBook called “One day ahead – a Tour de France misadventure book”.

Realistically, serious training started on the 18th October, four days after Sarah Perry had persuaded me that Leathers should enter a team (and I could get a guaranteed place to do the whole lot of the Tour!!)

Even more serious training thoughts entered my head and on the 22nd October 2014, I went to see Gary Palmer at Sportstest Limited for a full on ramp test – not totally wonderful news – certainly I have less (a lot less) power than Chris Froome – but as Gary knows from previously, a bloody-minded, stubborn determination to achieve my goal (it’s worked in business as well).

We put together a loose training plan that accommodated work and travel commitments and Christmas meetings (usually with food) up until the New Year.

As of this morning – and from the 18th October, I still haven’t achieved the total miles I will do in the three weeks from 27 June being c2,100 miles. I am close; so what have been the highlights of my first training block:-

a) I have achieved 1,947 miles;
b) I have cycled at -3°, in 20mph winds, I have gotten wet and very cold, covered in road salt and assorted muck;
c) I have ridden outside at every opportunity, because, who says the weather will be nice in June/July 2015 (it is France, you know!)
d) I have started and finished riding in the dark; I have seen fantastic sunrises and sunsets.
e) I have had my first re-test ( www.sportstest.co.uk ) – and power is up, my weight is down.

Actually, there has to be a fund raising competition in here somewhere - I know my weight on the Golden Gate Bridge – perhaps we need to guess my weight loss by the time I get to Utrecht on the 27th June 2015.

I’ll get someone to start selling tickets

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