Posts Tagged ‘joe’

Tourmalet showdown

Photo: Getty Images

Today’s stage finish up the Col du Tourmalet delivered a Tour battle to rival any I can remember. As @rich_mitch observed, it wasn’t quite Lance vs Pantani, but Contador vs Schleck, mano-a-mano through the mist, was tense and gritty stuff.

No-one but Andy Schleck could have restrained the accelerations of Contador, even though, in the end, the Spaniard made only one significant move. On the face of it, however, he didn’t need to win: with only 8 seconds separating first and second place, Contador’s time-trial pedigree means he’s sure to take overall victory on Sunday. Schleck had to attack, and he did all he could, riding a savage tempo up the mountain that had both riders grimacing in pain. Ultimately, they were so evenly matched that they crossed the line together – Contador generously, and wisely (given the events of Tuesday), handing the stage win to Schleck.


I rode up the Tourmalet in 2002, while traversing the Pyrenees on a week-long charity ride from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. On a day of drama that will mean nothing to anyone bar the protagonists, I can vividly remember flashes of that punishing 90-minute ascent (the same, tougher, side as the Tour went up today).

To recap, we were a group of 7, that included university mates Ewan, Si and Joe, plus some older blokes, one of whom was Mike B.

Mike was a keen club rider; we were an odd assortment of fitness levels, ranging from Joe, a natural talent, to Ewan, who despite radically transforming himself in recent years and completing an Ironman in 2008, was at that time shambolically out of shape. But it was a charity ride, so racing was hardly on the cards.

That is, until the first morning of the trip, a tough, drizzly leg out of Biarritz, when Blakeney rode off the front for 50 miles. Who did he think he was, Eddy Merckx? Suddenly, in the microcosm of the group, Mike B (who is actually a good guy all round), with his carbon Trek and beer gut, was the villain of the piece. Revenge was brewing, and the Tourmalet – which we hit on the Thursday – would be our showdown.


We stopped for lunch in a town not far from the foot of the mountain. I remember taking Joe to one side and briefing him for the climb: he was not to hang back with us, he was to ride at B’s pace, and keep up the tempo until B cracked. Joe and B rode off together, leaving us to await the outcome.

It goes without saying that the climb was hard. For the first time, I experienced all the usual side-effects of long, hot mountain climbs that I’m now pretty familiar with: the pins-and-needles face, the slack jaw, the aching back. I dropped Si after 20 minutes – a minor victory – and then it was me and the road.

I initially thought it was a product of my own super-heated brain when I looked up after 10km and saw Mike B, dismounted at the roadside, helmet off, pink-faced, puffy, a Dead-Elvis grin on his face. But he said something – it could have been ‘Help’ or ‘Water’, I can’t recall – and I realised with a surge of adrenalin that Joe had buried him. I was intensely delighted, not only by this reckoning, but also by the fact that I was now number two on the mountain. A celebratory hot chocolate was my reward at the summit.


January redux

With the snow and ice washed away by rain and milder weather, I’ve spent the weekend pulling January’s shoddy training schedule back into line.

Despite waking up on Saturday morning vowing to spend two days at my laptop, I braved the drizzle for an hour on Regent’s Park. As ever, the hardest part about going for a ride in bad weather was pulling on the lycra in the first place. I rode the hack, and got soaked.

Today I rode the Finchley – Knebworth ‘cheat the week’ route – for one last time before the move south. To be honest, it’s not one of the classic routes (no hills to speak of, plenty of A-road) but from North London, without taking a train, it’s about as good as it gets. I’ve never Google mapped it before, so here it is for posterity:

View Cheat the Week in a larger map

It was 3hr 30 – the majority in the small front chainring. Conserving le jus at this stage. Joe once told me one of his club mates didn’t go into the big ring before March – excessive or the best way to build an early-season base?

La Marmotte 2009

Marmotte route.

Marmotte route.

It is finished. The results are in. Now never mention the M word again!


Conserving ‘le jus’


At a weigh-in last Wednesday my weight was 10st 10, a new – and probably ultimate – low. On Saturday I was 10st 12, on the same scales as I used just before Christmas, when I was a hefty 11st 12 (who ate all the mince pies, etc.). I haven’t weighed this little since I was a malnourished student surviving on espressos and rollies. (more…)

The Galibier

On the shoulder of the Col du Galibier.

On the shoulder of the Col du Galibier.

Some epic shots of the Col du Galibier from a website called, which has a decent ride report of La Marmotte. When he came to London in January, Joe gave me one clear piece of advice about riding La Marmotte.

Focus on the top of the Galibier. If you think beyond that, you’re screwed. 

Mornflake gets a makeover

Mornflake: a true kitchen contender.

Mornflake: a true breakfast contender (old-style packaging on the right).

Mornflake has had a packaging makeover. Gone is the old skool red-and-yellow logo; a new era has been ushered in, presumably aiming to re-position Mornflake alongside Jordans in the competitive muesli market. The farmhouse colour scheme and countryside imagery hit all the right rustic notes. Back of the net, then, for Mornflake. (more…)

Half Acre Cycling


I discovered Half Acre Cycling via a post on their designer’s website. It’s a really cracking site that continually reminds me I need to create a new theme for this one. Another reminder was my discovery last night of Joe’s Échapée site, which obviously uses the same ClockWorkSimple theme as this blog. It is on my list, but I want to give it some proper time.

Epsom 45-miler

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Rode this last Sunday with Joe, who was over for a Christmas visit. It came after 5 days of parties and not much sleep, and the temperature was sub-zero: the water in our bottles was slush after a couple of hours. We completed it in 3 hours.

I am now ill and missing out on this weekend’s training!

Wilier Mortirolo 08

I was in a happy relationship with my Wilier Mortirolo Veloce 2007 for a year after we got together. Then I went to France and picked up / rode / stroked Joe‘s Trek Madone 6.9. Suddenly the Wilier felt decidedly hefty…

The trouble with cycling is that the more you ride the more you demand from your bike, and the more performance you realise can be delivered by a lighter, more expensive machine.

But for sure I still like my bike. At 16 months old the drivetrain is getting a bit sticky, but other than that it still feels stiff, responsive and flickable. The time is ripe for a series of upgrades to take the Wilier to the next level – so it’s heartening to read the review of the 2008 version of my bike.

2008 model

I quote (note the ‘Veloce version’ refers to my bike):

The Wilier’s frame is absolutely first class…

Although it doesn’t perform quite as well as the Veloce version we tested last year, our Mirage-equipped Wilier displays most of the same fundamental traits. The overall ride feel is fairly aggressive and when you push harder you get an instant response whether you’re on flat roads or climbing. Put the hammer down for an all-out sprint and the Mortirolo is up for that too, and it takes on corners in the same assured manner. On top of all that, descending is sure-footed enough to inspire bags of confidence, the steering is bang on and it smooths out rough surfaces without ever a second thought.

If we do have a negative comment, it’s that the Wilier is under-specced for the quality of its frame. The positive spin on that, though, is that if you do decide to buy this bike, you could gradually upgrade the components as they wear out without much danger of out-classing the chassis.

La Marmotte

I’ve just added La Marmotte (4 July 2009) to the calendar. No turning back now…

I decided to ride La Marmotte while staying with Joe in September. He’s ridden it before, at least a couple of times, and at his most recent attempt came 80th out of 8000. Top 1% – a truly phenomenal effort. In Joe’s view, La Marmotte – not L’Étape – is the French cyclosportive to do.

Here are a couple of accounts:

So that’s the big target basically – my plan is going to be focussed on this event, although I hope to enter further races / sportives later next summer.