Saturday 30 November 2013

A great moment with Sir David Brailsford...

28th November 2013: Cycling Sport Gala Dinner, Hurlingham Club, London.

A truly great surprise and a very special moment indeed, a signed centenary 'maillot jaune' from Chris Froome presented by Sir David Brailsford.

To be involved with such a great team at Action Medical Research is quite a privilege, a special thank you to Sarah, Toby, Oly and the whole team at Action, Keith Reynolds and Nigel Mitchell at Brtish Cycling, Fran Millar and Kelly at Team Sky for their support.

Here's to longer roads and higher mountains ahead...'the road is what you make it'.

With Sir David Brailsford at the Champions of Cycling Sport Gala Dinner

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Director's cuts...anecdotes from the road!

Here's what the crew didn't report from the road (one crew member missing from the photo and strangely no photo's of him in France either, he was there, his name is David, we'll hunt down a photo!!)

''So, ok the bits we didn't report live from the road but felt compelled to share with you....''

.....riding Stage 1 (of the 2014 Tour due to start in Yorkshire) gave rise to a total of 7 punctures in one day, in fact in less than four hours, the final puncture just before Leyburn meant the rider walking for nearly two miles before being rescued by John Hook of CycleScene,York, an unintended but welcome member to the Ride 21 crew (forever in your debt John, thank you again!) #theroadsinyorkshirearenotgreat

...throughout all the Stages in France and over 1900 miles of riding, two bikes, not one single puncture!!!!! thank you France #theroadsinfranceareamazing

.....on arrival at the hotel at Nice airport rider and crew enquired about the transfer by courier of the two bike boxes to the pre-booked hotel in Paris, the receptionist that evening, and the following morning gave an abrupt, somewhat unhelpful and very definite 'Non' that this type of courier service wasn't available in France. Feeling somewhat desperate as time drew close to hitting the road on Friday morning, one crew member mentioned that the rider was riding all 21 Stages of the Tour, to which the receptionist gave an immediate 'Oui' that this service was not a problem at all - life is full of surprises, and proof that cycling counts for more things than suffering alone! #frenchpeoplecanbesohelpfulwhentheywanttobe!

....possibly suffering the immediate effects of lack of sleep one crew member called out several times in their sleep that ''the crew had to make the beds every night'' (unsure why, we can confirm that we failed on this every single night, and continue to do so back in the UK!)

.....still the early stages of the challenge ahead and less than half way through, one crew member (possibly the one mentioned in 'Night 1' above!?!) awoke again during the night and, sitting bolt upright, pronounced with some force, and not much grace (sorry Mnsr J Bobet) that 'we' needed to take the D908, ''WE NEED TO TAKE THE D908'' the crew member shouted waking room 27. In the moment and through further follow up the following morning we decided that we had no idea where the D908 was and put the whole thing down to fatigue!!!) #lackofsleepandresponsibilitycanhavestrangeffectsonteenageyears

.....throughout the entire challenge of riding 21 Stages, the rider wore the same pair of lucky socks (no washing machines available, other than the stone trough half way up the Peyresourde but this doesn't count!) the third day in France the rider resorted to wearing two pairs of bib shorts, one pair cut down to a mankini style worn inside the other, the comfort of two layers of bib shorts is something that can only be experienced, not explained!    

....heading towards Montpellier, the mistake of trying to ride all the way into the centre of the city and onto the hotel proved a big mistake, on and on and on the rider and support car went, at least 30km beyond a spurious '12km to Montpellier sign' with the rider finding himself riding along a motorway for around 5km, not pleasant, not pleasant at all! from then on we avoided those last few km's into city centres... 
.....Stage 8, after a long soul breaking ascent of the Col de Pailheres the final 250 metres of road were blocked by wild horses that roam the mountain, along with a few other riders and determined not to get off the bike we found ourselves momentarily forced to do track stands, not to be outdone by we carefully rolled our way through the maze for a sprint along the final 50 metres, job done!    

....Stage 9, after wild horses at the summit of the Pailheres we found our way blocked again the next day at the summit of the Cat 1 La Hourquette d'Ancizan, this time by a large herd of free roaming cows, made more free roaming than usual by the sudden change in weather, from super hot clear blue skies to dark skies, thunder and lightning, torrential rain and a road turned into a river, there was no way round the naturally imposed blockade, after a long day in the saddle, tough climbs and a tough ascent in torrential storms there was no choice other than to follow slow moving 'peloton'!   

....on Stage 14, on the ascent of the Cat 3 Cote de Thizy-les-Bourges a Dutch motor managed to side swipe the rider, the thinnest of contacts which, combined with some sudden and strong arm movements, gave rise to a loud and continuous squeak as the contact between arm flesh and white plastic rolled out a somewhat strange and unexpected melody! Unaware of the near miss the motor home carried on into the distance...this turned out to be the only 'road situation' on Ride 21, lucky!  

....the only 'very real' mistake between rider and crew, for a number of reasons to do with a crew member losing a phone, rider and crew mis-reading road signs,  it meant that the crew took one road to the summit of Ventoux and the rider the other, nearly 20km of climbing without water! A few frank exchanges between rider and crew helped the simple point of taking different roads to be missed, one of those 'in the moment' sitiuations but for all the wrong reasons. Errors aside, Ventoux & Stage 15 were conquered and looking back something to smile about! 

And so, from the Ride 21 crew & rider ''we did this to raise awareness and funding for Action Medical Research, a quite small, but genuinely great & hard working team of people and an incredibly worthy cause ''

Twitter @chrisarmishaw

''Imperfection allows interesting things to happen'' 

''You know not what's round the corner, for the road will decide, it's not the destination but the glory of your ride'' (we made this up sitting in a cafe at the summit of the Col de Pailheres)


Sunday 21 July 2013

''Et fini' from the Palais to the Arc and....'

Arc de Triomphe, dodging the traffic!
Versailles, beginning of the end....
After our final early start and a long drive from Annecy we arrived in Paris, our final destination for Ride 21 and the 21st Stage of the Tour. 
The final ride was 'relatively' easy albeit along the busy avenues of Paris
A short 15 mile ride from Versailles to the Arc de Triomphe, riding three times around the Arc to celebrate the end of Ride 21, not quite! 

We then met up with the 500 riders taking part in the Action Medical Research London to Paris cycling event, to all ride together to the Eiffel Tower, a fitting end to Ride 21.

..motionless, Trocadero

Arc de Triomphe, end of the road for Ride 21

Ride 21 Blog has truly been a beautiful experience, an incredibly tough challenge - possibly the biggest yet and hopefully what proves to be a 'training ride' for bigger things to come, to 3,0000 miles across the USA. Here's to longer roads and higher mountains ahead....

Champs Elysees, meeting 500 riders on the Action London to Paris ride, a perfect end!

So, as we sign off from Ride 21 in Paris, something about cycling and a few words of thanks:

''The pleasure that cycling gives you is delicate, intimate and ephemeral. It arrives, takes hold of you sweeps you up and then leaves you again. It is for you alone. It is a combination of speed and ease force and grace, it is pure happiness''  

Taken from the book 'Tomorrow We Ride' written by Jean Bobet brother of Louison Bobet three times winner of the Tour de France.

Thank you to everyone who has followed our progress, please spread the word, the Blog and the fund raising site, and watch this space for the next two challenges that are being planned.

Some special mentions go to: 

Action Medical Research for giving Ride 21 purpose, this is the reason we put Ride 21 together, 9 months of planning, a young team, lots of commitment beforehand and what took it, and us, through the hardest moments, Ventoux, the Pyrenees and the Savoie.

Keith, Kelly and Nigel at British Cycling and Team Sky for their support (it was magical to see the team ride through Serres leading the yellow jersey, unforgettable. And then Paris, again, there are no words, it was in the moment!)

Supporters & sponsors (so far) of Ride 21, Longcross Construction Ltd, CBRE, Renewable Resources Ltd, Lawmax Electrical, Motion, Team Energy, CTS Ltd, IPT Ltd, Scott UK, British Cycling and Team Sky, CNP Nutrition, there are others to add when we update the Blog further.

David, James and Megan, the crew of Ride 21, young age is no barrier to commitment and responsibility, you guys did an amazing job, not one thing wrong in over 3000 miles (Mont Ventoux without water was the fault of the rider!)

Keith at Scott UK, the two bikes were amazing, Foil 20 for the mountain stages, Foil 10 for the flat stages. 

Clifford Davison, a remarkable cyclist, for saving me 25 miles into London to Paris 2007 and for inspiring me to ride, this is the reason for cycling! 

Matt Haigh and Graham Ginn for the hard rides through Essex (and Italy)

Bev, Meg and Sarah for their patience and support without which Ride 21 would not have been possible, and for all being in Paris at the end, this is what makes it special.

Mum and Dad, for exploring and caring, everything flows from this.

And thank you to everyone who has followed Ride 21....check the Blog from time for the next two challenges that we are working on, both of which are quite unique and very different to RAAM and Ride 21, but just as challenging...and in support of Action Medical Research.

Friday 19 July 2013

Quite possibly the most beautiful road.....

Quite possibly the most beautiful 125 kilometres of road I have ridden, Stage 20 from the shores of Lake Annecy looping through the region of Haute Savoie is stunning, worth watching this Stage of the Tour on TV for the scenery alone, the racing will only enhance the beauty of the region.

Leaving our overnight stop over on the outskirts Annecy meant a short ride down to the edge of the lake to follow the road out of town along the Western shore, in fact, following one of the familiar cycling 'road ways' in many French towns and city's. 10km out of town led to a turn into the mountains and the first Category 2 climb of the Col du Puget, beautiful villages stunning views of Lake Annecy below and of the high mountains in the distance. Warm up over and straight into the Category 3 climb of the Col de Leschaux that led to what can only be described as the most beautiful 50km of cycling, this was one of the most stunning areas of the whole Tour, the landscape alone lifted you to just ride on, again, as with Stage 15, riding with wings, one of the moments that is just there on the road, and left on the road. Riders from all over Europe take part each year in the Etape du Tour (Stage of the Tour) what a privilege for this to be Stage 20 (Sean from South Woodford, I know you were there!!).

Onto the second Category 3 climb of the Col des Pres after a brief stop in a cafe in  Aillon le Jeune for cake and tea with the locals, incredibly proud of 'their' region and with invitations to come back to the area to ski (we'll see how this works out), they showed so much interest in Ride 21, it was good to talk to them if only for a brief time.

On the road Stage 20

Riding on, passed by two local riders who offered greetings and 'good cycling' (I think) were three distinct words picked up in that single moment of passing, 'maillot jaune' and 'magnifique', let's hope that the second British rider in two years, Chris Froome, will bring home the yellow jersey in Paris in such a special year, he seems to be well liked in France, he seems to be well liked everywhere!

The moment passed as the riders moved into the distance, lucky to ride together, lucky to be able to draft! I was happy to push ahead unassisted, gliding (for a short time) towards the distant mountains and then a tough end to a beautiful route.

Onto the penultimate climb of the day, the Category 1 climb of Mont Revard, a long long climb around 20km. After finally reaching the summit the reward of a long 20km descent was a torrential storm, hail, freezing wind and a road turned into a river.

The Ride 21 crew, 25km away in the valley knew nothing of the adverse weather (lucky crew). It would have been easy to give up, but just 20km from the end of the Stage with the toughest challenge yet to come, the Hors Categorie climb to Annecy-Semnoz, an 11km climb at 9% gradient, it hurt,it hurt a lot, but after an hour of slow climbing we made it, job done, Stage 20 over, exhausted.!!

Summit of the Semnoz, Stage 20
And so, as we write this Blog post we are on the motorway half way to Paris to ride the final Stage of the Tour and the final leg of our Ride 21 challenge.

All being well, the final stage will be a ride from Versailles to the Champs Elysees joining up at the Trocadero with 500 riders taking part in the Action Medical Research London to Paris ride, it should be quite a day.

Ride 21 crew and rider, nearly there, riding for everyone that has followed our progress and for everyone at Action Medical Research, it has been quite a journey!

Twitter @chrisarmishaw

'whatever you can do, or think you can do begin it, there is no road to which there is no end'

Thursday 18 July 2013

From chaos to serenity....

As with most of our days, a very early start leaving Les Deux Alpes to head back through Bourg d'Oisans and on to the route of Stage 19, heading North East to Le Grand Bornand just East of Annecy, taking in just over 200km in distance, 2 Hors Categorie climbs before finishing with a Category 2 and Category 1 climbs, a tough day ahead.

Straight from the off, it was made tougher, we almost expected it after yesterday, queuing along roads through Bourg packed with even more motor homes and vehicles trying to get onto the Alpe, into Bourg, out of Bourg, through Bourg, into fields and it appeared almost anywhere just to 'park'. To make up for the delay we drove into the course, riding from a few kilometers before the first HC climb of the Cold du Glandon, it was a tough start to the day, 22km at 6% gradient, but back to the serenity of the quiet mountains, a far cry from Alpe d'Huez. The Glandon was spectacular, a reservoir near the summit and low lying clouds made for great photography (we think!), check some of the earlier tweets. The descent was equally stunning, watch it tomorrow on the live broadcast of Stage 19, nearly 30km straight down to la Chambre, sheer drops at the top.

We were on our way, next stop the HC climb of the Col du Madeleine 20km climb at 8% gradient, a long long climb that took nearly two hours of hard effort, the climb surrounded by woodland, meadows and nearer to the summit a small ski resort.
Madeleinem, above the clouds!

Another long 30km descent followed (again, watch this on the live broadcast, sheer drops and unguarded, we were on our guard rider and crew.

We were then forced to drive a short distance due to the now familiar 'route barrie' signs that appears in readiness for the Tour, we made it to the foot of the Category 1 climb of the Col de l'Epine, 7km at 6%, but now bard to traffic meant a lone ascent on the bike, without the support car the plan to ride onto the final climb 10km further along the road was gone, care of the the Tour.

At the foot of the Col de l'Epine was the most amazing roadside mechanical Tour decoration, hope it get's shown in all its glory on tomorrow's live broadcast.
Amazing roadside Tour decoration!
Two locals seemed to be making last minute checks as half the village looked on at a large white bicycle and cyclist mechanically moving along zip wires suspended across poles between, what appeared to be, the houses of the two locals, amazing piece of creativity and engineering, just watch it live on TV.

The climb to the summit of the Col followed local teams involved in the 'Tour de Fete', similar to Ride 21, following and riding Stage of the Tour, it was a nice way to end the Stage.

Riding with 'Tour de Fete'
And so, to the last big day of Ride 21 before reaching Paris on Saturday, an early start from Annecy to ride Stage 20, 125km along the lake and into the mountains for a finish on, you've guessed, another Hors Categorie climb.........

From the crew and rider of Ride 21, mixed emotions as we draw closer to the end of our challenge, that we put together to celebrate the 100th Tour de France, to push ourselves to new limits, and most importantly to support Action Medical Research, we had hoped to raise £10,000 though our efforts as a team.

Twitter @chrisarmishaw

'impossible is nothing'

Wednesday 17 July 2013

On the way to 'Dutch corner'.......

Early start from Orcieres for Stage 17 and 18, leaving our overnight stop over an immediate 25km descent to Gap, riding out to Chorges and back to cover the 20mile route of the Stage 17 time trial, nothing much to report, chilly descent and dodging the early morning traffic around Gap.

The riding started properly following the route of Stage 18, directly North from Gap towards Bourg d'Oisans and on to an ascent (or two) of Alpe d'Huez and the Col de Sarenne.

On the road to Bourg d'Oisans
Following the N85 out of Gap took in another ascent of the Col de Manse, and early leg warmer! before passing through small towns, wide sweeping valleys and grand views of the Alps ahead. A relatively gentle ride for much of the way until with a Category 3 climb along the way before leaving the main road to head onto the quieter roads heading to the Cat 2 climb of the Col d'Ornon. Dodging the rain, darker skies and rumblings of thunder heading from the South we headed through the valley surrounded on all sides by high mountains and onto the climb which was already lined with hundreds of all to familiar motor homes, waiting in anticipation for Stage 18 to pass through the next day.

Riding into the Col d'Ornon
Passing the summit the descent into Bourg d'Oisans was spectacular, 25km along (a slightly cracked and rutted road!) tight bends, road edged with low walls looking straight down into deep tree covered valleys straight through to main road leading into the centre of town, a quick stop for food and a chance to get the other bike repaired (thank you to Au Cadre Rouge for great service and for not charging us!).

The centre of Bourg d'Oisans was packed with riders from all over the world, maybe 10,000 or maybe 50,000, never seen so many riders and bikes!

Had to get off the bike!
Onto Alpe d'Huez, the chaos began, the roads through Bourg were now well & truly packed with drivers, walkers, scooters, runners, cyclists and many more trying to get onto or along an already packed mountain road or to the town at the summit, we were told by locals that by today there would be over 1 million people in Bourg and Alpe, it seemed that they were already there, never has a mountain pass and every bend been so packed with people, quite incredible!

The first two legs of the climb seem steeper before a slightly more gentle gradient into the famous 21 bends each of which gave a few seconds of relief as the road flattens (temporarily) on the bend, ride it wide cut in and you almost get a few metres, a few seconds of flat, marginal gains, marginal benfits, every little helps!

The first of what was expected to be two ascents of Alpe d'Huez was truly chaotic, dodging motor homes
Bourg d'Oisans
already parked, a constant line of new vehicles heading up the mountain, drink fulled revelers (sorry, Dutch cycling fans) joggers, scooters coaches etc etc etc made the experience of climbing the Alpe less special compared to what had been imagined, combined with darker skies and light rain the experience fell short of the Pyrenees and other more beautiful stages, all that mattered now was reaching the summit.

Summit Alpe d'Huez
Reaching the summit, we spent no more than 5 minutes before leaving the masses to their festivities, dropping down to pick up the 'rough' road to the Col de Sarenne and a final descent towards Bourg, cutting out the last few kilometres to avoid now packed roads and what would have been a less than pleasant second ascent of Alpe d'Huez. After the serenity and simple beauty of the Pyrenees and Ventoux we were happy to leave Stage 18 behind us, roll on the Tour for all those expectant fans, it will be quite a day. Each corner of the climb now seems to have become home to each country of supporters, the bright orange of 'Dutch corner' was certainly in full swing, possibly so for some days.......

Ride 21 crew and rider, supporting Action Medical Research, just about to begin Stage 19, one step nearer to Paris. 500 riders on the Action Medical Research London to Paris challenge now on the road, good luck!

Twitter @chrisarmishaw

''to have their names written across the highest peaks, they must cross these summits to glory on the high roads to victory''


Tuesday 16 July 2013

We finally meet the Tour, to see Team Sky leading the yellow jersey....

After a very late arrival at our overnight stop over in Orange (plus a treble course at McDonald's at around 10.30pm (necessity over choice to re-load the calories burnt on Ventoux) crew and rider slept, unsurprisingly, incredibly well! Thank you 'Premier Classe', which is actually the exact opposite to the descritpion!

Riding out of Vaison

Today was the day that we expected to be challenging, not so much for riding the relatively gentler course of Stage 16 but more to do with finally meeting up with, and crossing over the Tour, we weren't to be disappointed!

Tour 'Official'
An early start with a short drive into Vaison la Romaine found the town and Tour in full swing, the whole region seemed to be in town, markets, fairs, Tour carnival, team buses and cars, marshals and organisers, the works, then the fun begins. Trying to stick together to ride and drive out of Vaison following the parcours of Stage 16 proved the biggest challenge so far, support vehicle sent off in one (completely wrong) direction and rider sent off in three different directions (GPS support from the device we relied so heavily on with the bike is a long forgotten thing, more on this when we finish), the Gendarmes don't quite seem to have the controlled support and passion for Tour supporters and riders looking for assistance, just a case of pointing in the most obvious direction. Having ridden an unnecessary 40km in various directions rider and crew were finally re-united to follow a different route of similar length and profile to the Tour route heading towards the town of Serres just beyond the half-way point of the 168km course, a long but fairly gentle ride.

The maillot jaune, unforgettable!
Our luck was in at last, arriving in Serres with 10 minutes to spare we stood alongside the small roundabout in the middle of the town to watch the whole race pass through, leading group, peloton and of course the men in black from Team Sky leading the race leader 'yellow jersey' of Chris Froome, what a sight to see the whole peloton pass through and how great to see another British team and rider leading the way, a very uplifting moment. See the tweeted photo's from earlier, @chrisarmishaw. It was also good to meet other riders from the UK on the roadside, John (Read?) of Colchester Rovers Cycling Club, not far from home in Essex, we'll catch up with him somehow when we get back, nice to meet you John.

The Tour passed through Serres in a matter of minutes, roads re-opening as soon as the last Tour vehicles had passed through, so back on the bike for the last 45 miles to Gap, a gentle ride with only the sting at the end, the Category 2 climb of the Col de Manse with a 500 meter descent straight into Gap, job done.

Orcieres, facing into Stage 18!
Our plan was to also ride the short 20 mile course of tomorrow's Stage 17 time trial from Embrun to Chorges, time didn't permit with the drive up to Orcieres for our overnight stop over. Stage 17 is the first order of the day tomorrow with another very early start followed by what can only be described as a brutally tough Stage 18, from Gap to Alpe d'Huez taking in 172km in distance, 3 Category 2 climbs, 1 Category 3 climb and for the first time in Tour history to celebrate the 100th Tour, Alpe d'Huez (an 'Hors Categorie' - beyond categorisation climb) not once but twice, it should be an incredible challenge and no doubt another very late finish for crew and rider. At least by this time tomorrow we should be on plan to be one day ahead of the Tour as we edge closer and closer to Paris and our plan to meet up on Saturday afternoon with the 500+ riders who will take part in the Action Medical Research London to Paris ride, to ride the last few miles together to the Champs Elysees.

From the crew and rider of Ride 21, supporting Action Medical Research thank you for following our progress. Good luck and safe riding to all 'London to Paris' riders.

Twitter @chrisarmishaw

''why do it, because it's there''