Wow, what an experience!! Around a year ago my wife spotted an ad for a group of guys to ride every stage of the Tour De France and to raise awareness and funds for Mental Health New Zealand. Most wives would bury the article as quickly as possible and hope their husbands never saw it, not mine, she printed it out and suggested I apply to be part of it. As a bit of back ground my father had passed away earlier in the year after suffering Alzheimer’s and my sister had taken her own life 3 years earlier so this was more than just about the bike ride, it was about getting the mental health message out there!
In terms of the cycling itself I had a training camp in Cambridge in December and then around 7 months of training (but I had the One Day Coast to Coast in February so couldn’t commit fully to the bike until Mid-February). We had another training camp in April in Christchurch which was time to see how much we had progressed through our training.
Hayden Roulston set our training program and it really did set us up for the tour. Big days, lots of hills and lots of back to back sessions were the norm! It is amazing how your perspective changes on things, a big ride for me used to be 3-4 hours, getting later in the program a 3 hour ride was a recovery ride, 6-7 hour rides became the go to weekend rides, 2.5 hours were not unusual for a weeknight. I never thought knocking out 100km on a week night would ever become part of my weekly routine!
The tour itself was a real eye opener!! If 6 hours were regular rides in NZ then 7-8 hours day after day were normal over there, throw in some 10.5 hour days and the tour became next level! The big struggle for me wasn’t so much the k’s as the heat! The cool days were 30 degrees with 35-40 (and a couple of 42’s) being the common. I also struggle on hills, so imagine how I went on the mountains over there! A 30 minute climb over here is about my standard, some days over there had 3 climbs over 2 hours!! If you know Alp De Huez then imagine that after 9 hours on the bike including 1 climb of 2hours 10 and one of 2 hours 20! I was by far the slowest rider on the hills but got a lot stronger as the tour went on and due to a bug through the camp wasn’t the last in on any of the last 1.5 weeks! I was amazed at how well the body held up, my legs never gave me any grief for the whole tour despite the hours and the climbs. The biggest issues I had were the butt (yes that many hours in the saddle takes it toll!) and my feet! I guess when you do 7 hour rides every day then you probably push the pedals around 30,000 times every day, for 21 days! Add to that the heat and the fact your feet have probably swelled and there are some pressure points that start to feel the effects. I spoke to a few other boys and they had similar issues.
If you like statistics then the following is the wash up of the Tour: total K’s ridden 3500 (over twice the length of NZ), total metres climbed 47000 (5.5 times the height of Everest)
Riding in France is a great experience and if you get the chance, DO IT! The scenery is incredible, from riding through villages with buildings 100’s of years older than our country to the mountains of the Alps and Pyrenees with spectacular views it is breathtaking (and I’ve run through many NZ mountains so have a good idea of the scenery here.) The drivers in France were awesome, not sure if it was just because the tour was on but they all gave way to us even when they had the right of way, and when they honked it was usually followed by a cheer and wave (not by the middle finger like most times when you get honked at in NZ)
I know the organizer of our tour is doing it again for 2019 as well as adding the Giro to the schedule. If any of you are financially able to and have the time to commit to it I would say absolutely go for it. When my wife suggested I do it we made the decision that 10 years down the track I would look back with regret if I didn’t do it but would never look back with regret at spending the money. I am only 3 weeks back and already know how true that has proven to be!
If any of you are interested in seeing more about the tour or about donating to the Mental Health foundation (I am still trying to raise funds under the Tour banner) please feel free to get hold of me and I will point you in the right direction, contact details are below.
Some things to watch out for: I am holding a session in September TBC to show some clips and go over some blogs I did while I was away, (these can be e-mailed as well if you are interested) followed by a Q&A session, and there is a documentary being put together by a film maker that toured with us.
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