Please give a warm welcome to our guest correspondent Gareth, my husband and chief typo spotter. I roped him into telling you about his crazyass cycling plans for 2012. Take it away, Doc!
I've been into bikes since I was a little kid. Anything with two wheels, with or without an engine. I've been riding bicycles from the age of four and motorbikes from fourteen.
When we were weans a bike was a huge part of our lives. We spent days racing each other, jumping over piles of bricks, jumping over other kids like stuntmen and generally hooning around. Sometimes we'd cruise around in pairs like the Californian dudes in the TV show CHiPs. There was much less traffic on the roads back then today so our parents were a bit more relaxed about letting us roam free.
My brother and I raced motocross bikes as teenagers (thanks dad, it must have cost you a fortune!) and I started mountain biking when I sold my motocross bike to raise some funds for university. Mountain biking is brilliant fun and, as long as you don't crash too often, a good way of keeping fit. It's a pretty chilled out sport with ample opportunities for mucking about and jumping over things like the big kids we've all grown into. We're really lucky in Scotland as we have amongst others the 7Stanes mountain bike centres which provide blue, red and black trails with obstacles ranging from easy to deranged!
I slowly became interested in road riding through watching the Tour de France on ITV4. Shauna and I had also made some new friends (hello Gillian and Jason) who were big time cyclists. After a bit of dithering I bought a road bike, a Specialized Allez Sport. It's nothing fancy but after riding a mountain bike for years this thing felt so fast and responsive that I was an instant road riding convert!
Road cycling has its own distinctive culture which to the relative newcomer such as myself seems to be based upon the art of suffering! Suffering is big in road cycling, the ability and willingness to suffer is a badge of honour. Pro cyclists have perfected the art of pretending to suffer in order to dupe their rivals into an misplaced state of relaxation or will strive to appear strong and relaxed whilst feeling like their legs and lungs are on fire. These tactics are used in order to try and gain an advantage on the beautiful and iconic climbs and mountain passes in the Alps and the Pyrenees during the Tour de France.
The names of the mountains sound so evocative and, well, so French: Alpe d'Huez, Col de Tourmalet, Col de Madelaine, Mont Ventoux. Many iconic cycling battles have been won and lost on these mountains, amazing athletes have lived and died. Sometimes when I'd ride up Cleish Hill or up the street back to our house I'd pretend I was leaving Cadel Evans et al in my dust up the slopes of the Galibier! When I watched the Tour on the telly with Shauna I'd say, "I wouldn't mind a go at that!".
Unfortunately about two months ago Shauna called my bluff! I've been given the opportunity to ride in the Etape du Tour which allows mere mortals to ride a stage of the Tour de France a couple of days ahead of the Pros. Shauna dared me and I couldn't look like a chicken, could I?
So, I appear to be entered into Acte 1 of the 2012 Etape du Tour!
The route is 140km or 87 miles up four(!) mountains. Proper mountains. In the French Alps. We don't have Alps in Scotland. And it's never 40 degrees celcius in Scotland. And I've never ridden further than 70 miles in one day. And I didn't have to ride up any of the Alps when I rode 70 miles. And I was knackered. My legs were weak. I bonked.
You may have guessed that I'm feeling a bit apprehensive so Shauna kindly suggested that I contribute some blog posts to Dietgirl in order to keep myself accountable. After all, who'd want to explain that I skipped a training ride to all of her lovely readers!
So, if all goes according to plan I'll string together some incoherent ramblings over the next six months or so and let you know how I'm getting on.
Well I'd better get back on the spinning bike and get some miles in. Au revoir, a la prochaine!