l’Etape du Tour 2017

To try and gain some altitude acclimatisation in preparation for the l’Étape du Tour, I’d cycled up to the Col du Galibier (2642m) from La Grave, did a high level ridge walk from the Col de Granon, climbed a ten pitch rock climb that started at 2189m, and finished by sleeping the night at the 2413m high Col de Granon. Could I have done more? Maybe. But that was it now, after starting my training at the end of April the morning of the race had arrived… More “l’Etape du Tour 2017”

Last long training ride … the Fred Whitton Challenge de Staveley

The Etape du Tour is just around the corner. So with tapering of training efforts in mind to give legs every chance to fully recover the weekend saw the last big training effort, the Fred Whitton Challenge. The Fred Whitton is a circuit of the Lakes that takes in all of the major mountain passes – over 180km of riding with around 3700m of climbing. Tough! Perhaps a little tougher than the Etape in some ways due to the extreme nature of some of the climbing. Hardknott Pass in particular is epic, and being near the end of the ride ones legs are already knackered. So again a little like the Etape which, in 2017, finishes with a 32km (albeit less severely steep) climb to the Col d’Izoard.

Steve arrives at Kirkstone Pass
Rachel and Steve passing Castlerigg Stone Circle
Rachel arrives at Honister Pass
Selfie of the gang at the summit of the Newlands Pass
Rachel at Whinlatter Pass
A great cafe stop at Stanton Bridge to top up on energy before tackling Hardknott and Wrynose Passes
Steve and Rachel at the start of the Hardknott Pass
Pete, Rachel, and Steve super happy having finished the final climb to Wrynose Pass

l’Etape du Tour Route

It’s the ultimate amateur cycling challenge – riding a stage of the Tour de France during the Tour de France and under race conditions. Yep, it’s the one and only l’Étape du Tour.

The official route map and time schedule have been published for the 2017 l’Etape do Tour. It’s a very long ride with an awful lot of climbing! Only 15 days to go…

So, I’ve just fitted new tyres to my bike. Plan is to scrub them in this weekend hopefully. Then the bike is as ready as it’s ever gonna be for the Etape. I just hope I’m ready now? Too late if I’m not!

Scorchio through the Trough of Bowland and on up Kingsdale and down Dentdale

Yesterday was super scorchio (hot). Apparently it’s some kind of record (since 1976) for the number of days where temperatures have reached 30°C in England! So maybe it wasn’t the best day to go for a massive cycle ride? But training for l’Etape du Tour continues, and it may well be super hot in the Alps during the race too, so maybe it was good conditions. Anyhow, it was a great ride… More “Scorchio through the Trough of Bowland and on up Kingsdale and down Dentdale”

Cornish BMC International Meet

I just attended my fifth BMC International Meet, and my third in Cornwall based at the Climbers’ Club Count House hut. These meets are an amazing opportunity for over thirty climbers from all over the world to come to the UK to sample some of what makes our world class traditional climbing so special. Plus of course it gives over thirty UK hosts a chance to show these special climbs off to the world, share some traditional climbing skills with people who may have never climbed with leader placed protection before, and have a right good knees up! The meet is fully catered – so the seventy odd climbers on the meet don’t have to lift a finger to look after themselves, we just go climbing … a lot! The catering is managed by the very able Peters family, this year led by the seemingly perpetually happy Daisy. Thanks to Daisy, Tom, Iain, and their many helpers for looking after us. 😀

The weather on two days, Monday and Tuesday, was less than perfect. But every other day was mega. More climbing, hard climbing in an awful lot cases, gets done on these days than most people are used to. My shoulders, three days after getting home, are still sore.

I got to climb with three great people over the week: Alice Thompson from New Zealand; Diego Dellai from Italy; and Michal Czech from Poland.

In my rush to leave the house before the meet I forgot my camera. This is a great shame as the opportunity missed to get some photos for the forthcoming south coast climbing guidebook is sad. But even worse is the fact that I don’t have many pictures of the great memories and new friends from the meet. However, here are a few I snapped with my smartphone…

Alice Thompson (New Zealand) – actually she was an imposter as she’s lived in Manchester for a couple of years
Scott Titt and Stephen Farrugia (Malta) at Sennen on one of the two damp days
Pete and Michal Czech (Poland) after climbing Desolation Row in the Great Zawn
Sandra Mazeikiene (Lithuania), Alice Thompson (New Zealand), Diego Dellai (Italy), Boel Aniansson (Sweden), and Sayaka Masumoto (Japan) at Carn Kenidjack
Diego Dellai (Italy), Sandra Mazeikiene (Lithuania), Paul Seabrook, and Pete enjoying a post-climb pint in St Just

BMC 2017 AGM

The 2017 BMC AGM was held on the 22nd April at Plas y Brenin, coincidentally Earth Day (more on that later).

The AGM promised to be an extraordinarily complex event with two major motions on the agenda including a motion of no confidence in the BMC executive. Perhaps it was these issues, and the CC’s campaign to get its members to provide their proxy vote to the club’s president, that led to what I think might be the CC’s biggest ever proxy vote…

Steve proud to have 96 proxy votes at the 2017 BMC AGM

As it turned out the motion of no confidence was heavily defeated. However, at the end of the AGM Rehan Siddiqui resigned as BMC President. He stated that he was resigning due to the level of personal attacks, which were impacting on his family and business. The damage, pain and suffering caused by the daft motion is really sad. I reckon most in the room (including me) were crying when Rehan resigned. But I think the strength of the BMC is probably proven along with people’s love of what it does for us all…

After the AGM, which finished a little late but still early enough to get out in the sunshine, we headed off to the Milestone Buttress. Steve and Ted enjoyed the Superdirect route. Laetitia and I decided to follow. However, perhaps the emotional events of the day were in my mind and I managed to slip off the starting polished footholds. Having not yet placed any gear I plummeted maybe three metres to the ground! It could have been very serious, maybe fatal. Luckily it was just a case of being winded, a little embarrassed, and knocked about. I got back on and was fine, if a bit shaky. Anyway, that’s what happened on my Earth Day!

Steve doing a much better job on Superdirect at the Milestone Buttress

Sunday was a fine day too! So after the BMC National Council meeting in the morning Fiona and I joined Laetitia, Steve, and Keith in Australia in the Welsh slate quarries for some more climbing. It does Make a BMC business day far nicer to also squeeze in some climbing! Sorry there’s no pictures though.

Finally, here’s a shot of the gang on route back north after a day on the Welsh slate…

Steve, Zac, Pete, Fiona, Scamp, and Keith enjoying fish and chips in Conwy on the way home after a sunny weekend of BMC business and climbing in North Wales

l’Etape du Tour Training Progress

l'Etape du TourClimbing ChallengeGan FondoMy training for the l’Etape du Tour is progressing. It started just four weeks ago with a tough hilly ride of just 37k. Yesterday I managed a 104k ride and I’ve completed two of Strava’s challenges for the month, the Gran-Fondo (100k in a single ride) and the April climbing challenge (7,500m of climbing).

Here are a couple of selfies from recent rides…

Steve and Pete at the top of the Barbondale Road

Pete & Rachel near Sedbergh

There’s still a long way to go though! l’Etape du Tour in 2017 is 178k long with over 3,500m of climbing. Plus there’s the added difficulty of the race finishing with a wicked climb up to the Col d’Izoard, the highest point of the day at 2360m. That climb is gonna be really tough with over 130k already in my legs!

The profile of the Étape du Tour route – 178km with 3,529m of climbing

Cycling … Carbon Fibre versus Steel

Twenty-five years after I gave up competitive cycling I went and bought a new road bike! What was I thinking? Have I some how forgotten the endless hours of pain and loneliness out on the road? Or the misery of riding in the rain? Or maybe I’ve simply gotten caught up in the UK’s post-Olympic cycling success fever? I’ve no certain idea. But it’s an awesome machine! So different to bikes from the 80’s… More “Cycling … Carbon Fibre versus Steel”