As its St Andrews Day , here is a tale of 2 gallant Scots [The Boys from Velo Club Don Logan]

On va dire, tout le monde – what a pair of eejits!

This picture fairly accurately captures our feelings in the starting pens. Actually, veal crates may be more accurate than starting pens given the stress levels for the half hour before the off.

After cramming down cereal, fruit juice, coffee (as per Rule 34), sandwich du jambon, rice pudding and any other food source we could lay our hands on at the ungodly hour of 4am, we boarded Dave’s wee happy bus for the journey of about an hour or so to Montelimar. We had been warned to expect traffic delays on the tolls at the outskirts of the town but despite a bit of heavy traffic we were reunited with out bikes & we shuffled our way less than a kilometre to our veal crates. There we stood as daylight crept up on us, the smell of nervously digesting French food catching our nostrils unawares. Big Col & I paced around with 2 of our new-found friends as the 7am Depart approached. Whn it finally arrived we really didn’t notice anything. The layout of the pens meant that there were four-thousand starters before we even got moving but after a bit of shuffling and a few stop-starts, we crossed the line at around 7.25am & we were off. The horror stories of handlebar to handlebar congestion proved unfounded and the pace was rapid as we whirred past the crowds who had gathered to witness the spectacle. I jumped on a few wheels, settled into a group and didn’t dare to look back to see the whereabouts of Big Col. However, a couple of minutes later I was aware of someone behind me saying “Is this the autobus then?” We exchanged a few words and alas, that was the last I was to see of Big Col for the next 11 hours or so.

Cote de Citelle – 5.2km at 3.9%

Well, that sounds entirely benign, doesn’t it? It certainly wasn’t a killer but it was a drag and the “average” figure of 3.9% hid the fact that there were certainly some steeper sections. It was whilst climbing this that I realised my strategy of conservative climbing was likely to be the right one. Some people pushed huge gears, out of the saddle the whole way up but I engaged the 25 and pushed as lightly as I could. Very few people were screaming past so my rate of climb was pleasingly average and before too long the Citelle was conquered and gravity points were duly cashed in. If I was disappointed that I didn’t have any long climbs to practice on, I was gutted that we don’t have the equally long descents to play on. Even this short, first descent was an absolute hoot and the best was yet to come. The descent was punctuated by the collective waving of arms and the shouts of “Alors, chute!”. Now while some pour soul was lying on the deck minus most of the skin on one side of his body, it was pretty cool to be in a french peloton reacting to shouts of “chute”.

Details, details!

Luckily for you, dear reader, my memory of the day’s events lends itself more to the scribbled napkin than the photographic. The 6.3km ascent of the Col D’Ey? Uhm, don’t remember too much about it although I do recall being terribly disappointed that my lovely new Defeat World Champion socks were receiving muddy splashes as a result of my roadside bladder evacuation into the barren French countryside! I do remember the descent of this Col as being truly awesome, as much for the experience itself as for the realisation that I am not the slowest descender in the world, as I had assumed. I confidently swept past nancy-boy Americans (as they mostly seemed to be) taking sweeping lines into the corners & generally feeling a bit like a superstar!

Most small villages had crowds & I shouted at the odd saltire that I saw being waved and received very encouraging cheers in return. Oddly, some villages appeared entirely deserted – either that or the entire village belonged to the local Velo Club & was taking part.

Shortly before the 4.7km ascent of the Col de Fontaube was the carnage of the first feed station. It realy was like a war zone and after fighting my way to the rereshment tables I grabbed a few bottles of water & retreated to top up my bidon (see Rule 40. Duly topped up it was off again. Little memory remains of Fontaube but the valley between Fontaube and the final, Cat 3 Col de Notre-Dame des Abailles is remembered as a bit of a slog. The big groups had all-but dispersed and the wind was up a bit. This, combined with the 70-odd miles already in the legs and the constant, looming spectre of the Mighty Ventoux conspired to make this the least “fun” part of the day.

I can’t believe it – I’m here!

The village of Bedoin, the “official” start of the Ventoux climb, was another designated feed zone – no, make that war zone again. It wasn’t as busy as the first one but it was still very hectic. I grabbed some water and 2 bananas and asked a nice Dutchman to take my photo – and I think you can see that I was starting to look a bit scunnered. However, despite the miles so far, I couldn’t wait to get on to the Ventoux. The miles were just a means of getting there – Ventoux was the prize. As I took the right turn out of Bedoin that I had seen many times on television, I’m sure I said, out loud, “I’m here, I’m actually here” and I must admit to being a bit emotional at the thought of everything I had done to get here and everything I was about to experience.

The first 3 k’s are almost flat!

Oh, how wrong that statement proved to be. Perhaps with fresh legs they may have appeared flat but from start to finish, Ventoux felt like a climb. It was now blazing hot, 34 degrees by all accounts, and I thought “3k’s until the shelter of the forrest”. Wrong again! Mid-summer, mid-afternoon sun means that the trees cast little by way of shadow onto the road. What little shade there was seemed to be occupied by sweaty, broken heaps of cyclist who had exploded spectacularly. The greadient was steep, relentless. The shape of the road meant that you could only see the climb a few hundred metres ahead. This was probably a good thing since you would only have seen more steep, relentless scorching tarmac. The biggest shock for me was the number of walking wounded. At some points I would estimate that 80% of cyclists were walking and pushing. I saw people throwing their bikes in ditches and running into the shade of the forrest. I saw many people doing the unmistakable, hobbling shuffle of the cramp victim, pain and disappointment written all over their bodies. I got to about 15km from the summit before my speed became insufficient to generate the gyroscopic forces required for two-wheeled motion! After a few hundred metres of walking I re-mounted & carried out. Another brief walk-break accompanied the longest banana-eating effort in history. I knew I had to eat but I could not get this banana down. Eventually I hurled the skin away & re-mounted to the first murmers of Chalet Reynard. This is where the forrest ends and the moon begins! A kindly man filled my bidon with a hose and I soaked my Tom Simpson Peugeot hat & replaced it on my head to cool me down for the last 6km slog to the summit. When I got to 5k to go I was thinking, “I could go out my door and run 5k in 25 minutes, I must be able to do this”. Another short walk-of-shame at about 3k to go & I remounted for the big push home. The noises from the finish line grew louder and before I knew it I was rounding the last hairpin & sprinting – well, as much as I could manage – for the finish line. The clock read 10 hours 34 minutes – that’s a lot of “chamois-time”

Join me shortly as I wrap up the whole Etape experience and find out whether I will ever sully a bike with my arse again!
Brought to you by the mighty, motivational strains of Two Minutes to Midnight by Iron Maiden!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

– “The 3rd & 4th cat climbs should be easy”
– “Hmmm, that bit doesn’t look too steep on TV”

And so the list goes on. Various people have asked me if it was harder than I thought it would be. Well, I knew it would be hard. I certainly don’t think I under-estimated it – but thankfully it wasn’t the miserable slog-fest that some people seemed to find it….but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Mid life crisis, what mid-life crisis?

Having visited Provence 2 years ago and made a pilgrimage to Mont Ventoux, it held a special place in my middle-aged mind. I knew the Tom Simpson story. I had watched a few Dauphine’s and Paris-Nice races and seen the climb up to the much-hyped lunar summit. Mont Ventoux is never just called Mont Ventoux, there is always some dramatic adjective associated with it. The “legendary” Ventoux, the “cruel” Ventoux and so on. Certainly, as I drove up it 2 years ago in the searing heat, passing struggling, wobbling cyclists, I realised that it deserved its reputation.

So the combination of mid-life crisis & the announcement of the Montelimar to Mont Ventoux stage of this year’s tour as the Etape route conspired to put Big Col & I on the start line at 6.30am on the 25th July with 9498 of our closest friends.

Scotland? Hilly? Pah!

I knew that training had to involve hills – and generally I like hills. My ectomorphic frame would appear, outwardly, to lend itself to climbing and I responded well to my training, finding my regular routes around the Bathgate Alps becoming more manageable with each ride. I sought out longer climbs, such as the Rest & Be Thankful which offered just over 4 miles at around 5% or so. I conquered it fairly comfortably but little did I know that the confidence gained here would only carry me for the first Category 3 climb of the Cote de Citelle, weighing in at 5.2km at an average gradient of 3.9%. It was at this point, climbing amid the collective silence of hundreds of other cyclists, that I was ruing the day I looked at the course profile & belittled the efforts involved in Cat 3 & cat 4 climbs.

How much is enough?

I didn’t have an overly formal training plan and despite some residual fitness from the tail end of last year, I consider that my training really only started during the Christmas holidays with a nice, slow, Tri-Club group ride in the frost. A comfortable 40-miler was enough for me to feel that this was a reasonable starting point. For the second winter the turbo was my friend as I discharged the sweat of my labours on the kitchen floor for the mind & crotch-numbing sessions once or twice a week.

I was given a book called Successful Sportives which contained some good, monthly plans which gave a good idea of the sort of volumes I should be aiming for. April always felt like a milestone – come April I had to be out on the road, a couple of times a week, getting towards volumes approaching 100 miles per week. A nice spell of weather and a quiet spell of work made daytime rides a possibility and slowly the volumes increased.

It was around this time that I made what I believe was a crucial decision. I was probably out on one of the many soul-destroying rides during March and April that seemed to involve hour upon hour into a headwind. Given that Big Col had decided to do the Embra Marathon rather than 10-Under, I had agreed to do the Embra Half Marathon with him as part of his training. As I was weighing up the time I had to give to my training I decided that any time I was supposed to have been doing a long run, the time would be better spent on the bike. So the Embra Half was canned & other than the distraction of a couple of sprint tri’s – the bike was the focus. (And the lovely new bike certainly didn’t dampen the enthusiasm any!)

Now that I have completed the Etape, there are definitely things I would do differently in my training, were I to tackle it again. But since I did not have this knowledge to hand before the event I was fairly satisfied that I had done as much training as I could. As well as the shorter rides I had 2 one-hundred-milers and about 5 eighty-milers (One of which was the Etape Caledonia) which I knew would stand me in good stead as far as endurance was concerned. One of my 100-milers included 7600 feet of climbing so I was happy that I had gone up as many hills as I could practically find. I was even happy to taper over the final week rather than cram in some more panic rides.

So then, with all that training, there was only one thing left……

Three Days in Provence

Having decided to undertake a package tour with Sports Tours International, other than booking flights we were catered for from start to finish. The organisation was pretty flawless, as you would expect from a company who apparently represented 8% of all the Etape entries. Other than our overly-pessimistic tour-rep, Dave, I would have no hesitation in recommending Sports Tours. Dave told us, in his thick Brummie accent, that if we didn’t die in the heat of the slopes we would likely die on the descent into Malaucene. Nervous first-time Etappers were positively bricking-it by the time Dave had finished dispensing his prophecies of doom!

After checking in to the well-appointed Novotel, which claimed to be in Avignon in much the same way that Ryanair would have us believe that Prestwick is in Glasgow, we scouted the luxurious retail park surroundings for le supermarche. Duly discovered, we stocked-up on nutritional essentials (ok, not really) and water. Our “dinner suitable for athletes” (yup, “athletes”, that’s us alright) was polished off & we headed off for a fitful few hours sleep as the nightmares of Happy Dave’s predictions played in our minds.

Gotta love those freebies!

Sunday was registration followed by the hoovering up of freebies & cheep kit and wandering about in the sunshine thinking “aye, it’ll be a scorcher tomorrow”. Tourist-of-the-day award went to one of our party who went into a shop and asked, albeit in broken schoolboy French, “je voudrais un sandwich”. We muttered our praise at his efforts only to be taken aback at the next sentence, “and a can o’ coke as well please”. B minus, must try harder.

More athletic sustenance at the hotel and we retired to the prospect of a very few hours of sleep before the 4am breakfast, 4.50am departure & 7am Grand Depart from Montelimar.

Tune in next week for Tales From The Peleton as I expose the rampant abuse of performance-detracting substances!

Colin Nichol of Teviotdale Harriers running in the Ben Nevis Hill Race


Follow Colin @colinnichol on twitter, He was just a wee laddie when FRR was in the club

Running in the Cold

Cold Weather Running Safety Tips

How to Keep Running Outside in the Winter

By Fun Run Robbie

Updated November 2010

Falling temperatures and fewer daylight hours don’t mean that your outdoor running routine has to go into hibernation for the winter. Running through the cold weather can help shake those winter blues, improve your energy level, and guarantee that you’ll be in better shape once bathing suit season rolls around. Follow these tips for cold weather running:

Dress in Layers

Start with a thin layer of synthetic material such as polypropylene, which wicks sweat from your body. Stay away from cotton because it holds the moisture and will keep you wet. An outer, breathable layer of nylon or Gore-Tex will help protect you against wind and precipitation, while still letting out heat and moisture to prevent overheating and chilling. If it’s really cold out, you’ll need a middle layer, such as polar fleece, for added insulation.

More: Tips on Dressing for Winter Running

Sponsored Links

Nike+ RunningShop the Official Nike Online Store for Nike Trainers, Gear and

Buy M&S Running ClothesLet M&S Help This Christmas. Buy Running Clothes at M&S This

T6 Hot And Cold WaterVery High Quality Water Filter & Dispenser 12 colours to choose

Protect Your Hands and Feet

As much as 30% of your body heat escapes through your hands and feet. On mild days, wear running gloves that wick moisture away. Mittens are a better choice on colder days because your fingers will share their body heat. You can also tuck disposable heat packets into your mittens. Add a wicking sock liner under a warm polar fleece or wool sock, but make sure you have enough room in your running shoes to accommodate these thicker socks.

More: How to Keep Your Feet Warm on Cold Runs
Cold Weather Running Socks

Pay Attention to Temperature and Wind Chill

If the wind is strong, it penetrates your clothes and removes the insulating layer of warm air around you. Your movement also creates wind chill because it increases air movement past your body. If the temperature dips below zero or the wind chill is below minus 20, hit the treadmill instead.

Avoid Overdressing

You’re going to warm up once you get moving, so you should feel a little bit chilly when you start your run. A good rule of thumb: Dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer outside than it really is.

Don’t Forget Your Head

About 40% of your body heat is lost through your head. Wearing a hat will help prevent heat loss, so your circulatory system will have more heat to distribute to the rest of the body. When it’s really cold, wear a face mask or a scarf over your mouth to warm the air you breathe and protect your face.
More: Men’s Winter Running Hats
Women’s Winter Running Hats

Watch for Frostbite

On really cold days, make sure you monitor your fingers, toes, ears, and nose. They may feel numb at first, but they should warm up a few minutes into your run. If you notice a patch of hard, pale, cold skin, you may have frostbite. Get out of the cold immediately and slowly warm the affected area. If numbness continues, seek emergency care.

Check With Your MD

Cold air can trigger chest pain or asthma attacks in some people. Before braving the elements, talk to your doctor if you have any medical conditions or concerns about exercising outdoors.

Get Some Shades

The glare from snow can cause snow blindness, so wear sunglasses (polarized lenses are best) to avoid this problem.
More: Top Running Sunglasses

Sponsored Links

Join in the Santa DashGet in the Christmas spirit with a fun 5k run for

Ronhill at Run4ItThe largest range of Ronhill Gear Fantastic Prices, Fast Delivery!

Don’t Stay in Wet Clothes

If you get wet from rain, snow, or sweat in cold temperatures, you’re at an increased risk for hypothermia, a lowering of your body temperature. If you’re wet, change your clothes and get to warm shelter as quickly as possible. If you suspect hypothermia — characterized by intense shivering, loss of coordination, slurred speech, and fatigue — get emergency treatment immediately.

Stay Hydrated

Despite the cold weather, you’ll still heat up and lose fluids through sweat. Cold air also has a drying effect, which can increase the risk of dehydration. Make sure you drink water or a sports drink before, during, and after your run.
More: How to Stay Hydrated Before, During, and After Runs

The trouble with Spain

Whilst having a chat with Scouse Pepe, he started ranting and raving about his fellow Spaniards. He runs a food company importing speciality products from Spain, he was telling me that the first week of December all of spain shuts down for some bazar holiday, its his busiest time of the year and when he speaks to suppliers he cannot get the goods he needs as the company’s are on holiday.

 Secondly on the culture of the spanish property business, he told me there is a duty on all purchases. If you have a house worth $400,000 you officially sell it for $200,000 and your seller gives you a brown envelope with the other $200,000 , the government only gets half the amount  . If someone builds an extension , they do not tell the local authority of the larger size property, so they don’t pay the tax, if they sell they tell the new buyer not to declair the correct size , so the government only gets a fraction of the taxes, in the village where he has a relative , he has fallen out with many people because he will not conform with this corrupt practise , Living in the UK has taught him to be an honest citizen and pay the government what you owe them. This is also the philosophy of FRR.

The big question we all need answered is if Alberto Contador is a wee bit like his fellow countrymen , can he be trusted, WADA has conducted tests on the meat from the butchers and the abattoir where his meat was purchases and found no illegal contaminants in the meat.

Next move is yours Beefboy

A popular pastime in Spain- Sleeping, get up and do some work you lasy rascal 


This type of girocopter was invented by the spanish.

During December at the Horn in St Albans Captain Sensible and the Glitter Band

Go to the @hornvenue on Twitter [Captain Sensible and the Glitter 

Band play at the Horn on the 9th of December in St Albans.

The Isle of skye a great place to ride a bike

Mountain biking on the Isle of Skye

In Scotland, you can ride everywhere you can see – which means some pretty raw, wild and epic scenery

  • By Jimmy Mackerron , good friend of FRR 
  • Article history
  • Riding the marble mining trail Riders on Skye … the marble mining trail. Photograph: Tom Humpage/ say the village of Boreraig is haunted. At night, if you sit on the beach, they say you can hear voices as well as the sounds of livestock. Forcibly and violently vacated in 1853 as part of the Highland Clearances, the ruined crofting settlement casts a mournful eye over the Sea of the Hebrides and North Atlantic Ocean.

    All of which made our whoops of joy at the descent to the coast suddenly seem a bit inappropriate.

    This is mountain biking on the Isle of Skye. Scotland’s open access laws mean everything you see you can attempt to ride. Yet at every turn you come up against a land battling to contain the vastness of its scale and the weight of its past.

    Our plan to leave the maelstrom of London for a weekend of back-to-basics, challenging cycling morphed into two days of epic singletrack biking laced with the feeling that we were riding ground that hadn’t been touched by two wheels before. To say we were out of our depth is something of an understatement.

    There was little hint of how far we would end up travelling when we were met, fresh from the overnight sleeper, at Inverness station by Kat and Euan from Highlands and Islands Adventures. Euan made it sound like nothing more than a pop to the corner shop. Except there aren’t many corners on Skye and there aren’t many shops. In blissful ignorance, we threw our bags into the Jeep, loaded our bikes on to the roof and sped off into the gathering clouds.

    By 10.30am the next morning these clouds were obscuring the view and testing our nerves. We had climbed up to ride the Quiraing, a series of brutal-looking rock formations in the north of the island, near the Trottenish Ridge. Quickly, the severe drop on the right-hand side of the trail became obscured – but not before a sheep was spotted slipping and rolling downwards.

    Whipping along a trail – which mutated from mud to rock garden to waterfall to grass to scree- all skills were called into play. Hanging on to the bike was not an option – you had to ride it hard and think on your feet. Dropping down out of the cloud, we rode past lochans with the sea in our sights, bursting out on to a road covered in mud, grinning broadly.

    Euan’s knowledge of the trails on Skye is exhaustive. Trying to ride the island without him would have been dangerous. He also had the knack of knowing when to call it a day. We had been pushed solidly out of our comfort zone – a steak and one of the 250 malt whiskies on offer at the Sligachan Hotel was his immediate prescription.

    The hotel sits on its own in the middle of the island – its location harking back to its creation in the 1830s as a droving establishment, when around 6,000 head of cattle were sent from Skye to the mainland each year. From the hotel’s front door, you can ride a trail deep into the heart of a glacial valley. Cycle for 10 minutes, look back and the hotel has disappeared. It’s easy to be alone on Skye.

    Which is why, when we met four hikers over the course of three hours the next day, some of our party could be heard to grumble about the “crowded trails”.

    We had left the Jeep in a field and set off towards Boreraig, following a trail the marble miners had used 200 years before us. The rocky, slender path took us up steep climbs and down big slabby descents and across moorland dense with bracken.

    Cresting the final hill we gazed down upon the deserted village – roofless ruins and stumps of stone-wall pens – resolutely resisting the elements. And then the brakes were off and we screamed through bog and mud to the fossil-heavy beach. The scene was of two worlds colliding: four dirty mountain bikers sat next to their modern machines against a backdrop of ghosts and dinosaurs.


    The Caledonian Sleeper run by ScotRail operates an overnight service from London to Inverness. Prices for a return ticket start at £110. You can take your bikes on the train if you book ahead but if you’d rather hire one on arrival, Base Camp Mountain Bikes in Laggan is a good bet.

    Bespoke mountain bike tours of Skye by Highlands and Islands Adventures can be booked throughout the year. The price for a long weekend is £300 per person.

    If driving you can catch a ferry to the island from the port town of Mallaig to Armadale on Skye with Caledonian MacBrayne. Fares start at £3.65 one way.

    John Galloway’s Peebles Clock Tower and FRR’s Hawick Town Hall Clock Tower

    Peebles Church Clock

    FRR Always has a wee cry when he sees this picture, The Queens Head Pub is right next to the Tower, I can taste the pints O Heavy now.

    A Cycling cartoon for Thanksgiving

    New Two Johns Podcast and the Three Dons Podcast [Veloclub Don Logan ] are ready for your cycling ears

    Thank You Folks! , Just passed the 50,000 hits , and two bikes that are fun to ride