Day 9 – Bidart to San Sebastaian

“Cat Whores Juliet” said the lady in reception. It took me a while to realise that this wasn’t a service they were offering but is instead a public holiday over here – Bastille Day. Always a big day on the Tour de France. I haven’t checked but today and tomorrow will be big stages of the tour. Well worth watching those boys blast up the Col’s of the Pyrenees. I did the Tourmalet a few years ago. It took about 3 hours to do and I stopped for coffee twice along the way. Anyway, if you want to read about Bastille day, here’s the info. I’m off to Spain: What to do on Bastille Day

I’d arranged for Tim (by companion of the last few days) “to call for me” as he came through Bidart. Having spoken to Tourist info we decided to go our separate ways at that point. Tim headed for the hills and I hugged the coast to a town called Hendaye and jumped in the ferry. The ferry is a wee boat that takes you over the river to Spain. The route down was ok but slow. The French appeared to be out in force for the public holiday with traffic everywhere in the towns, villages and cities I guess. 

My first impression of the area south of Bayonne and into Spain is that you don’t notice the two different countries The locals are all Basque. To them, that’s the only country that matters. The houses are all white and tend to have Basque red shutters. I now understand why Biaritz rugby play in the red and green that they do. 

From the boat, Garmin took me to Irun which reminded me of any of the worlds war zones that you see on the BBC news. The only difference I could see was that the windows hadn’t been blown out of the buildings!

The route took me up the hills you can see in the following tweet https://twitter.com/1jondear/status/620906315737624576 very tough climb. Had lunch at the top in an old taverna. Some sort of thick frittata. Really nice family owned it. Their family had owned it for 80 years and they’d kept it as it was then – it reminded me of the Mug. I stopped a cyclist as I descended the hills. I reckon the only words of english that he knew was “where you go?”, He then took me to San Sebastián and my poorly selected accommodation. Let’s just say if will be an experience!

Despite all the reports, my first impression of San Seb isn’t great. It’s big – far bigger than I understood it to be. It’s noisy and busy so much so that I fear that I’ll get my stuff pinched should I venture On to the beach and try and find a square foot of sand that isn’t taken. 

I’ve taken residence in a bar by the sea and had my first tapas that was excellent. I’ve spotted an Indian restaurant that may just get a visit later. It’s very much a rest day tomorrow. Replenish the stocks, get my washing done and give the bike the once over for the push into Spain. Job number one is to validate my routes with local cyclists. They have cycle routes down here but it feels a whole different world to my French experience which had been fantastic. “Chapeau” to the French (where would I be without google translator?

Day 8 – Parentis en Born to Bidart

Ok,  so I know these are all out of order but you’ll have to bear with me! The days have been long and the nights short.

I thought these 3 days would be the toughest but I’ll suspend judgement until I’m sitting at AB’s villa being plied with more of Barb’s wine and probably been encouraged to do something else of an equally ridiculous nature!

Anyway today has been fun. You may have seen from the tweets that I met a guy called Tim whilst waiting for the ferry at Royan. He was wearing a Rapha top which is one of my favourite cycling brands and without doubt one of the most comfortable. It’s a premium product but believe me – when you are doing something extreme you realise the value straight away. Rapha manufacture the Team Sky kit (if you don’t know what I’m on a about – turn on the coverage of “Le Tour”, look for Chris Froome and you’ll see. ” you ‘ave the same top” I said with a slight French twang. “Yes mate” he said. It transpired Tim was from Leicestershire and was going to Parentis en Born too so we hooked up. Pure chance.

We compared routes, agreed that we would try my slightly longer – but closer to the coast route and off we set. Our route took us along cycle tracks by the side of a lake and then towards the coast. There no agriculture down here. Its miles and miles of Pine forests that either have cycle routes along quite (ish) roads or the French have simply cut straight lines through the Pines and tarmacked them. They go on for miles. As you ride through, dependant on where you are they are either deserted or used by sports cyclists (then men and women aged over 45 – clad in lycra) or holiday makers on rental bikes. All tend to say “bonjour” as you pass which even after 50 miles of saying the same – you make sure you return the compliment. I didn’t here “aw’right mate” once.

We stopped for lunch right by the sea at Contis Plage which appeared full of surfers like so many of the places down the coast. We kept coming across what looked like the refugee camps of Calais only for Tim to point out that it was Dutch campers enjoying a DIY centre parks. “Yesh” as they would say. We managed to make good speed on these smooth routes where the French have laid the perfect tarmac for cyclists. When you ride a bike you quickly come to realise that not all tarmac is smooth. Some of it has rougher stone that seems to cause the saddle to vibrate right up your arse meaning that you have to stop and reapply the cream. I bet the big lumps are cheaper for our councils to buy it wont encourage people to ditch their cars.

This scenery went on for ages. At some point we thought it would go from Maziman to Bayone – 50 odd miles – but as we got closer to Bayonne we had to go through a number of seaside town which are just a pain in the arse (not because of the tarmac) but because of the navigation. The crickets were screeching in the forests which at times seemed deafening but you become immune to it. Before long we approached the outskirts of Bayonne and abandoned the cycle routes as the lure of the cold beer became too much to resist. Bayonne seems lovely. A city built on the sides of a wide river that seems quite classy. It’s rugby country down here and you can see why many UK players opt for a few years in the sun enjoying a great quality of life. As I’m quite ignorant when it comes to French geography aside from the Alps, I had no idea that Bayonne and Biaritz were such close neighbours (think Birmingham’s proximity to Solihull without Small Heath and Sparkhill in between). We headed for the bar of the hotel that Tim was staying at, downed 2 quick ones before I headed round the coast to Biaritz and on to Bidart. Bidart is about 3-5 miles beyond Biaritz and the Garmin (that’s earned its spurs again) routed me along the sea front at Biaritz. The beach was full at about 7.15pm with people preparing to watch the sunset. It really does look a smart place. Surfers whizz in and out of the traffic with their boards strapped to mopeds (imagine that in the UK?).

I arrived at my hotel at about 7.45. From the room I can see the mountains of the Pyrenees beyond and the coast around to San Sebastian. It will be a lumpy 40 miles tomorrow – like that Suisse Normandy bit on day 3. My legs are getting stronger though – although they are knackered so it should be fun. Despite carrying swimming trunks with me (for the cold water treatment), I’ve not got near to the sea yet so i’m looking forward to having a dip at San Seb.

Whilst enjoying the 2 beers with Tim in Bayonne, it transpires that his route to the Pyrenees brings him through Bidart so we will ride to the Spanish border together and then go in separate directions. I can’t believe that it been 8 days in the saddle (having left a week ago today) and I’m so close to Spain. By the time I write tomorrow, I’ll have completed 2 of the 4 countries. France has been fantastic, we have so much to learn from these guys albeit I recognise they have more space to play with than us.

146 km today

Day 5 – Chateau Gontier to Bresseuire 

I fell asleep before 10 last night my thighs throbbing like a blind coblers thumb. I’m a bit of a light sleeper when I’m not in my own bed. It’s so quiet at home that any noise tends to wake me up.

In hotels you get people entering their rooms at all hours of the night. That’s just the way it works but during the night I was aware of a noise that was like a key going in a lock. It happened again and again. I was awake by now. Then I thought that’s my door. I jumped up and opened my door only to find some French guy trying to get in my room. I speak very little French. I didn’t study it at school; languages bored me so in the lessons that I did attend up to about age 13 – I didn’t pay attention.

It was 1.45 am and I was about to test of the theory that the vast majority of communication is not what you say (the words). c50% is your body language and c35% is the tone of delivery.

‘What the f**k are you doing?’. I yelled. Swaying gently in the zero breeze of the corridor came the response “zorrie”.

“Vous Grand Twat” was all I could come up with before offering the suggestion that he should “go forth and multiply”. All of a sudden I remembered what I was wearing. A Pound Shop eye mask to keep out the light and a single orange ear plug so I can sleep through most night time noise. I offered my advice again and shut the door. Now who is “Le grand twat” I thought I must have looked a picture. it’s a good job that my hotel door was locked.

It’s one of the things that I religiously do after a spooky incident at the Hotel du Vin in Edinburgh.

There’s a similar start to the story. It’s the middle of the night (or so it felt). I was aware that a door had been opened. I rolled over. The next thing I knew was my door opening. Lit by the lights from the corridor outside, a young blonde haired girl walked into my room. Dressed in grey and yellow stripped shorts pyjamas she headed for the bathroom, opened the door, went into the bathroom, used the loo , flushed and left. It was incredulous. I just lay there pretending to be asleep before jumping out of bed to lock the door as she left. I’m reported it next morning and it wasn’t the first time she’d done it. Another guest had reported something similar the night before. After that, I’ve always locked my hotel door.

I was awake for about an our after the visit of “Le grand twat”. I was looking forward to seeing the pillock at breakfast.

Breakfast was much better. Decent choice of eggs and croissants washed down with gallons of coffee. I sat with about 5 French people just adjacent to the reception. Then he appeared!!  He looked sheepish and the manager chatted to him in what appeared to be an inquizative manner. Le Grand Twat looked most uncomfortable and keen to disappear. The French in the restaurant appeared to stop what they were doing and were listening in attentively.

When he left I asked if he was in room 8. With that all the French joined in with a gibberish chorus of disapproval. Tres bien or however you spell it was all I could make out although one did say “we ‘erd you”. I apologised that the queens english was less than perfect. Whether “Tres Bien” was for waking up the Englishman or for my protestations will remain a mystery.

I eventually got moving about 9.30 after one of my fellow diners lent me a pump to do my tyres. I must say that everyone that I have met in France have been really friendly. I wasn’t really on top form but eventually stopped after a slow couple of hours pedalling through more sweet corn fields. As bizarre as this place is I stopped In a deserted village and found the bar.

I walked in  and noticed the pictures of Jim Morrison, Bob Marley, and Jimmy Hendrix on the walls with Ibiza style tunes playing out in the background. It was some sort of hedonistic bar in the middle on no where – no clientele but with the obligatory PNU terminal and racing on the TV. 2 coffees bought me round and I ploughed on. For a while the sweet corn was replaced by cows in the fields but that didn’t last long.

The garmin beeped and said it was full again so I stopped right by the Loire, had lunch, reset it back to the factory settings while I devoured a foot long baguette with more coffee. The next 10 or so miles were lovely along the Loire. It’s sand banks were like a massive sandy beach. There were lots of touring cyclists laden up to the max. It takes me a while to get set in the morning – they must only move about 10 miles a day given the time it must take to pack up. That said it would be a great way to see the Loire.

I left the relative flat of the river cycle route and headed for Bressuire. No sweet corn here. Just miles and miles of vines growing future vintages. The journey to Bressuire went on for ever. It got progressively hot peaking at about 3.30-4pm at about 31 degrees. I was stopping anywhere I could for water – the oddest place was a hairdressers who duly obliged breaking away from their only client to fill my bottles.

The garmin kept beeping and telling me that it was full – which was odd as I’d stripped it and in a moment of pure genius I remembered that I had a micro SD card in my tablet so had put it in (when you are knackered any useful thought counts a genius in my book). I saved the data at that point – but it transpires that it didn’t save – which really pissed me off. I’ve lost 2 segments now. For the rest of the afternoon it was a constant climb up hill to my destination.  All I could think about was what I was going to do with the garmin – Smash it, throw it away buy a new one etc

I got to the hotel at 7.30. Ordered 2 pints which disappeared in about 6 mouthfuls. I lay on my bed stinking (think dead fox again). I then remembered I had to sleep there so showered in the 1960’s bathroom. (It really is a  pit; a clean pit but what do you expect for 38 euros?).

I need to refuel for my 104 miles tomorrow to Royan so I went in search of food. I found a great pizza take away and sat in a square drinking a can of beer while they cooked the tuna pizza. I ate it and wandered down the street to where I’d seen a band setting up. They were fantastic – but before long I was ready for bed.

104 flatter miles tomorrow.

Day 4 – Domfront to Chateau Gontier

Yesterday was pretty tough (I think I’ve said that every day). Suisse Normandy in the rain finished me off. I slept well in two bites – once until 4am and then again until 8.10 am. When I woke a 4, I had a searing pain in my thighs – I think that’s what woke me up. I paid a visit (as you do). As I walked the 3 paces to the bathroom my legs had the flexibility of one of those display models that you get in a shop window – basically none. When I woke at 8 I felt well rested but my legs still weren’t keen on bending. 

I spoke to H early on just to show off that I’d had a pretty good nights sleep. It was just a quick check in to see how things were. I did a few bits and pieces and went for “petit déjeuner”. As much as we can learn from the French, breakfast is definitely not going to make the top 10 list. Croissant and two chunks of bread with plenty of coffee. 

It was then that I got the killer text – “I know it’s the last thing on your mind – Happy Anniversary 19 years x”. I’d forgotten to wish H happy anniversary. 19 years ago today we got married in Las Vegas. Not a great start to the day!

I got my stuff together and headed off. The roads out of Domfort were good. I was in to the countryside quickly. Field upon fields of sweet corn. The terrain was pretty flat and I picked up speed well. As I headed south I followed a lovely river and came across a deserted canoe school (see the pictures on Twitter). Really lovely area. I’d had a relaxed start and didn’t leave until 10.30. By 12.30 I was ready for coffee and found a small village and bar where I enjoyed coffee poured from a traditional pot. I had a bar of chocolate which just to remind me of the previous day was Swiss Milka. Ironic I thought. I was on the bike again. More sweet corn fields. These things must have gone on for 30 miles or so. There was so much sweet corn growing that I thought the Jolly Green Giant would jump out at some point holding a can singing “green giant”. I crossed the route of the Tour de France and on to St Mars Sur Colmont. Something looked odd. As I got closer I could see that armed police had the road blocked. It won’t apply to Cyclists or Brits I thought but the Gendameres found one that could speak “un petit” and he explained that “zare iz a dangerooss man in the howse”. I thought about asking if it was the green giant but thought better of it, turned round and followed his detour. When I said I was going to Chateau Gontier he looked at me as though I was nuts.  I pushed on and by about 3pm I was starving. Luckily I came across a larger village with a carfourre store and had a great tuna sandwich and half a litre of orange juice. I also replenished my cereal bar stash. 

The garmin was earning it’s Spurs and by now had lost its “bloody” prefix. I know I’m going to have a love hate relationship with that thing but for now all was well. I ignored it as I headed towards Lapal (spelling will be wrong). It was a busy but ancient town with lots of old architecture. Probably a nice place to go but I  couldn’t be bothered to stop. On the way out of town I was joined by a local cyclist who like so many people here speak very little English. He indicated that the route ahead was quite hilly – which it was – but by now I’m starting to realise that if you know what’s ahead your mind starts playing tricks on you. It’s amazing that if you don’t know, you just get on with it. As an example, at home. I wouldn’t ride hills out of choice and rarely go out in the rain. Over here, I’ve a destination to reach each night so I just “ride it”

Chateau Gontier was a welcome site as I rode in. It’s seems quite a big place. I arrived at the hotel – downed 2 pints and went and sat in a freezing cold bath. Pete Boyle physio at the cricket club said its what all professional sportsman do. I did point out to him that I was neither of those – but I’d give it a go. That was about 6.30. As I sat in the freezing cold water, my nuts headed north taking refuge In the warmth somewhere behind my stomach. It’s now 9pm and they show no sign of reappearing anytime soon. I feel how a castrated dog looks. That said my legs feel ok and I can bend them which is more than last night. 

I’ve just devoured a tuna pizza (yes Seb – it had a soft egg in the middle) and I’m about to walk into the “centre Ville”. 

It’s all change at home. Seb finished school today and Lou does the same tomorrow. Meanwhile I haven’t got a clue what day of the week it is but know that it’s off to Bressuire tomorrow – riding the first of the routes that I have had from the Hadlow Bikers. From memory it’s 94 miles so an early start tomorrow

Day 3

Day 2 ended well with a couple of pints on the Ferry before I turned in to my cabin. It was about midnight I think when I finally turned the lights out. Whilst having a beer, I don’t know why but a started thinking about the Zebrugge disaster. Just how did that ship turn over? That was a bad move. I fell straight asleep – despite the fact that the bed was less than 2 foot wide – but during the night, every time there was a bump, an unusual “land based” movement or the ship just moved a little too much with the sea, I woke up.

It felt like I got to sleep again about 5 am UK time but what I didn’t realise about these night crossings is that they get you up by playing an alarm into the cabin that you can’t turn off. It was some sort of medieval tune – I can’t imagine why – it was just like Heidi Hi – without Ruth Maddock. It was an early start to the day as a result but I was soon walking off the boat and through to passports. I popped to get some cash and while I was inside the heavens opened. It was about 8.10 by now.

I cycled off and was soaked within 5 minutes and remained so for the rest of the day. The garmin was driving me round the bend, beeping in annoyance because I was off course. I followed my nose and went to the nearest “centre Ville” and found a cafe to shelter – and have coffee. I must have found “Le Wetherspoons”. At about 8.45 some blokes were already having half’s of lager and putting their bets on at the PNU terminal (I think that’s what it’s called).

I looked at the map and headed in the direction of the course (which is what Garmin call the route). By chance I stumbled upon Pegasus Bridge. I remember this from a film that I’d seen. Pegasus Bridge for details.

I carried on at a leisurely pace along the river to Caen. The cycle paths were fantastic and we could learn a lot from the French in this respect. Throughout the day, I kept thinking about “Fury” (if you haven’t seen it – get it and also saving Private Ryan. Parts of Normandy are really exposed. The wind whistles across the really open fields. Any advancing troops would have been seen for miles.

I kept seeing these signs “Suisse Normandy”. Suisse must mean something else here I thought but after the 6th “Alp” I began to catch on. They were long climbs and quite difficult in parts. They certainly seemed longer than Snows Hill from day 1.

I decided to keep going. After a crap nights sleep it would have been easy to stop. I stopped for lunch in a lovely hotel in a village called Saint-German-du-Crioult. Everyone else was dressed for lunch. I sat in the corner soaked right through and starting to stink like a dead fox does on the side of the road.

The afternoon was a little better in the legs but still quite alpine in my opinion. I can ‘t wait to get to the long flat days from Royan (providing there is no headwind that has plagued me for 3 days now).

After a long 3 mile straight I could see Domfort perched on top of a steep hill. Up I went only to find out that my hotel was at the end of the 3 mile straight. I was too knackered to realise. It had rained for the majority of the day and my rain coat that I’d nearly left behind had been off and on (mostly on) all day. I’d discovered muscles in my arse that I’d only used previously whilst riding a motorbike in the wet. Somehow you use whatever you can to hold on and keep the bike upright. It was quite twitchy at times and I slowed down a lot on the descents. The days time was really slow as a result of the ups and downs but better safe than sorry.

The hotel is OK. They are drying my minging kit that has had the travel wash treatment. Let’s hope it’s ok in the morning. Having a wet arse all day is no fun. No wonder toddlers cry when their nappies are wet through.

Apart from sampling the hotels Kronenburg, I’m going to replan tomorrow. I can’t stand another alpine stage in the wet!! Let’s hope I get a better nights sleep. Chateau Gontier tomorrow!

Day 1 – Home to Marlborough

The big day was final here. My final preparations are unlikely to have been followed by the professionals; Sunday lunch at Zizzi washed down by a couple of glasses of Sauv followed by an afternoon at the 2020 (Worcester Rapids vs Durham). You can’t watch cricket without a beer – so I had 3. I got home and we’d arranged farewell drinks with Julia and the Captain. The captain doesn’t drink in the singular so we had a few.

On Monday morning we took the boys to school – Lou is on a D of E expedition and Seb had a big transition day to his new class in year 7 and the senior school.

H had arranged for many friends and family to join me for “the grand depart”. I was still repacking bags at 7 am that morning just to make sure that I had enough – without having too much. One of the last things that I ditched was a UK plug/electrical cables. I wouldn’t be needing those.

We finally left at about 10.15 – Me, Nick, Dave and John who joined me for various stages of day 1. It was a great send off – thanks to all those who came around to ensure that I definitely left. It was good to be on the bike and starting the adventure – but I was also nervous about what lay ahead.

After about 10 miles the heavens opened. Thankfully in repacking my bag i’d decided to put my rain coat on the top. Rain coat on we pushed on to Broadway – it rained for 21 miles and as we jumped off to dive into the café the rain stopped. 3 latte’s later we were revitalised. Dave headed off leaving just the 3 of us. We went to the Broadway deli and grabbed a sandwich. I must apologise to the lady on the till in the deli. “Have you got far to go” she enquired politely……”about 1900 miles” I said feeling a bit of an arse for dropping that one in.

We pushed on and in typical fashion after Broadway the route out was a tough one – Snows Hill. If you don’t know it, its a real drag of a climb. Tough enough on a bike – let alone one with panniers on the back. All the way up it felt like Seb was sitting on the back. From the top of their the next area that that I remember is Northleach. Great little Cotswold village with an excellent hotel and wine bar. We visited the wine bar……..for about 3 cups of tea before pushing on up another hill, through some other great villages such as Barnsley and on to Cirencester. JB looked like a man who needed food. We’d been pushing it and it was already his longest ride yet. We dived into a local shop and 5 minutes later – thanks to a Branstons sausage roll JB was back on form. We pushed on following the Garmin Cycle routing. The software picks out quiet lanes and cycle tracks based on the defaults set by the user (me). The lanes were great to be fair, but there were just too many of them,

I started coming across villages that I remembered from the time that I worked in Swindon. Again there are some great places down there. As we approached Brinkworth (I think) we cam across a road closed sign. We thought that we’d be able to get down it as we were on 2 wheels so we carried on. Half a mile down the road we came across a very important looking little man in a orange coat. Lets call him Peter Rick for the sake of this story. You will have come across his type in life. Typically about 5ft tall, wearing the cleanest fluorescent jack (for health a safety reasons), rule bound and accompanied by a young female apprentice.

He’d been waiting for us to come along all day and now he had his chance to impress. “Hi mate” we called out – “we are cycling to Portugal – any chance of letting us through”. We tried to reason with Peter – but he was having none of it. “Its full of machinery and holes down there so you ai’nt coming through” he scowled (arms crossed – looking at the apprentice for approval. “You’ll have to do a 5 mile detour – which wont be bad if you are cycling all that way”. Peter turned and walked off and over the very dangerous bridge that we couldn’t cross. “Prick” was about all we could muster. We turned around and cycled off, round the diversion and onto a cycle route to Marlborough. This was a killer – 2 monster hills after about 88/90 miles. One led up to the Ridgeway – nightmare. From there we cycled down to Marlborough and our hotel for the evening.

Our stats were 95 miles travelled, 5167 ft climbed (about 1575 meters). I didn’t keep the calories and annoyingly the full ride didn’t save.

[more to come – along with Day 2]

2 Weeks to Go!

Well its almost upon me. The final preparations are under way as I get ready for the “Grand Depart” on 6th July.

Training over the last few weeks has been a little stop start with less than ideal preparations. Training was interrupted for 5 days by a most magical trip to Switzerland with Worcester Rugby’s under 11’s. We took 23 boys – accompanied by 23 “big boys” on rugby tour to visit Zug RFC where we stopped in Unterageri, about an hour from Zurich Airport. The weather was fantastic, our hosts were brilliant and the experience for the boys was one that they will never forget. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Seb had an absolute ball which you cant put a price on. That weekend away with Seb will always be special. 4 years ago I had a similar experience with Louis at the same place. Just priceless fun and memories.

Riding last week was tough. The effect of the weekends alcohol was apparent. Every turn of the pedals was tough, around every corner was a headwind – it was just brutal. Thankfully, it wasn’t just me. My cycling pal John also suffered. 2 coffees and fish and chips at the Queen Elizabeth was a welcome interlude and the fuel required to finish the ride. Two rides since have been a lot better – it must have been the excesses of the previous weekend catching up on me.

I’ve been replanning my routes. I just haven’t been out enough and as a consequence don’t want to over do it too early on. The accommodation is now booked down to San Sebastian and I’ve been boosted by the news that I’m going to have company on the trip to Portsmouth – Nick is going to join which is great and two others – possibly including “my pal” may also join. It would be great if he could do some of the ride but the Chemo is just terrible stuff and wipes him out for a week. Thankfully, he’s had the last bout and he can look to the future now with confidence. The was he’s dealt with it has been inspirational.

I’ve been working on raising awareness of my ride and have been interviewed by BBC Radio locally and featured in the local press (I just wished I was more photogenic!!) Worcester News

Hopefully they will be covering my exploits “en route”. The boys have been helping delivering fliers (thanks for those Dean) to local people and businesses so hopefully sponsorship momentum will pick up.

Sponsorship has been boosted by the generosity of 3 companies; Partnership Assurance, Prudential and Rock Power Connections. Thank you to you all – much appreciated. Together they have pledged £1,650 – so well done guys!

Personal donations have been a little slower to come in – I guess that human nature – but its just one extra thing that I have to worry about. So if you are thinking of doing something – don’t wait – click on the following link and donate today.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

It could be the extra £1 that you give that makes all the difference – and when times are tough, when it gets hot, my legs are aching or my arse is sore – your donation could be the one that keeps me going.

It would be great if I could get over £5k before I set off. Every little counts as they say!!

Many thanks

JON

Blazing Saddles

This ride is a voyage of discovery. I’ve written separately about this reminding me of setting up and running a business and the last week or so has reinforced that view.

The last week or so has been great from a training perspective and I’ve done 5 great rides. through the wonderful Worcestershire countryside. On Thursday 21st I went over the Malvern’s heading for Ledbury and a café/deli that I found last year (http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g186303-d1820853-Reviews-Cameron_Swan-Ledbury_Herefordshire_England.html). Well worth a visit – excellent tuna sandwich! We really are blessed with the choice of villages that I can ride through and the Colwall side of the Malvern’s never fails to disappoint (although the road down the hills is full of pot holes which you can do without when you are travelling a speeds of 30 mph plus).

In business, you really never stop learning and you can become complacent if you are not careful. You can take a short cut and it can work well and you quickly establish a new normality. You forget why things were done in a certain way. I had a harsh reminder on the 21st. After Ledbury I headed for one of my favourite cycling roads; a quiet lane that runs from Eastnor Castle towards Birtsmorton. Its a road called Clenchers Mill Lane and I was about to discover a modern theory as to why and how it came to be called that.

I’d had my lunch and was peddling happily along through the countryside. there were no cars at all. It was still and about 19 degrees (thankfully) and it was the first time that I’d been down the lane this year. Partway down there is a ford (a stream that runs over the road) which I’ve been through before on quite a few occasions. This time, something told me to slow down. I proceeded with some caution – say 8 to 10 mph. I cycled through the ford as I had done previously – everything then seemed to go into slow motion. As I got the the middle of the (stream/river/raging torrent) that was about 3 inches deep, I hit green slime that was like sheet ice. I felt the front wheel go first. Everything seemed to stop for a split second before I felt the rear wheel go. I clenched every muscle in my rear quarters to grip the saddle, but before I knew it I was sitting in the middle of the ford – bike by my side looking a complete idiot. Once I’d realised that I was in fact sitting in a stream completely wet through I jumped up, slipped again and walked out. I cycled the next 5 or so miles feeling like a toddler with a wet nappy. That’s one short cut that I’ll not be taking again!! Thankfully I was dry by the time I got back.

One big area of learning for me has been my saddle which continues to cause me issues. I must have been lucky in the past – somehow they seem to have just fitted fine or were comfy enough (to put up with). After all, a saddle is a saddle – right? Wrong!

A friend PH very kindly let me borrow 2 to try. For the last 2 weeks I’ve used what can only be described as something that would look more at home in the torture room of a medieval castle. If you are sitting at your home or office have a look at the skirting boards running round your room – focus on the bit that gathers the dust. Now imagine sitting on those two pieces for 3 to 4 hours! Utter pain – literally a right pain in the arse! Over the weekend I’ve tried one called an “Adamo”. This thing was really well thought through -gel pads in the right places, gaps in the saddle where you don’t want vibration. It had all the theory – but God it was uncomfortable!

The saddle search continues because in just 5 weeks today the ride starts. I feel in reasonable shape but I’m going to re do my routes so I target between 75 and 80 miles per day. The routes in France have been done before so I’m less concerned about those – but I’m nervous about the Spanish and Portuguese days.

Fund raising is lack lustre with just £1300 raised. Thanks to all of you who have donated so far and a special thank you to Prudential for their support. This week sees press releases going to the local press in Worcester so let’s hope that drums up some further support. I really want to raise that £10,000!!

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/4countrychallenge

JON

The Camera Never Lies

Well its been a better last week where training has been concerned. Training was interrupted by the Professional Rugby Players awards dinner on Wednesday evening at the Battersea Evolution in London. It was a great night that recognised the players past and present of the game. Jonny Wilkinson received a special award and what struck me was the humility of the man who has achieved so much throughout his career. A model professional and role model for all to follow. His appearance was upstaged by Matt Hampson.

Matt had a promising England career in front of him and had made it to the England under 21’s team where he was injured during an England training session. He was paralysed from the neck down and now breathes with the aid of a ventilator. He battled with his own situation and as a testament to his own character he set up the Matt Hampson Foundation to help others with catastrophic injuries. Hambo is an inspiration to others. Read his story and the great work that he does at http://matthampsonfoundation.org/about-us/matt-Hampson

The ride and all the preparations are taking more and more time. If I’m to reach my goal of raising £10,000 for charity more people need to know what im doing so and choose to sponsor me.

With this in mind I thought I turned to master photographer Simon Fall-Taylor. Si loves his photography and like a true professional had it all worked out by the time I arrived for the “shoot”. He knew exactly the shots he was going to take, the poses that would get the best image, where he was going to sit , stand or kneel and of course which of his family of cameras he was going to use. I arrived with my bike any my cycling kit and like Kate Moss at modelling engagement I was encouraged to look in one direction then another, moving my chins (both of them) all in the pursuit of the perfect snap. After about 15 minutes we stopped to take stock. Si looked happy with how it was going and invited me to preview the images on the screen on the back of his camera.

Now for full effect you need to imagine the delivery of the next bit in a Brummie accent…………………. “ ‘kin Hell Si !” I exclaimed. Si thought it was a sheik of approval and a broad smile came across his face as he proudly inflated his chest to receive the apparent praise. “What’s happened to me bloody forehead…. I looks like it’s going all the way to the horizon”.

“Perhaps I’ve parted my hair in the wrong place” I offered, followed quickly by “haven’t you got software to cover it up?”

“Bert Reynolds style” Si enquired trying to bite his lip at the same time to stave of laughter. Si pointed out that he didn’t think that such software had been written yet. “Put your helmet on” he suggested. I’d forgotten it. “We’ll have to do it again from the other side – and this time I’ll hold my gut in too” (you try holding your gut in for quarter of an hour – it aint easy)!

This time I had problems with my quiff dropping at the wrong time – just like the chap in the hamlet advert – if you can remember that (well not quite that bad)!

You can tell we had a good laugh trying to cover up the obvious.

I was really pleased that “My Pal” was able to join me for a ride on Friday. Not phased by his condition he is hitting it head on. He’s now getting used to his 3 weekly cycle of chemo. Week one he’s washed out and not himself. By week 2 he’s getting back on form and by week 3 he feels normal. To his absolute credit he joined me for about 28 miles which was a great achievement.

I have a big weekend ahead of me where I plan to ride every day Thursday through to Monday cycling at least 50 miles each day. One thing I’ve got to get right is my saddle – I’m trying one out at the moment but its cutting me in half! more about that in my next update.

Sponsorship is also behind plan so if you are thinking about it – don’t delay and click today!

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/4countrychallenge

Many thanks

JD