Le Tour One Day Ahead, which aimed to raise £1m for Cure Leukaemia, was an epic charity ride that took place over the summer covering the full 3,344km Tour de France 2015 route. Former-GB triathlete Helen Russell (Gold medallist – 2011 ITU World Sprint Duathlon) was amongst the plucky few who took part and here, in the second of a three-part series, she shares her experience with Cyclo…
At breakfast the team were introduced to our guest cyclist for the next two days – Lance Armstrong. Most of us, including myself, had met him before at our training camp in Aspen and it was good to see him again. As we arrived at the stage start we were met by a melee of press and fans.
I was worried about what speed Lance would set but he was very kind and set a reasonable pace out of Muret to our lunch stop where once again we were met with the world’s media. I found the afternoon harder as there were three categorised climbs and as we eventually rode into the town of Rodez, where there was a final kick of a 400meter rise at a 9.6% gradient.
The following day started again with a press entourage for company and an immediate Category 4 climb of the Cote de Ponte de Salars and the Col de Vernhette. We were joined by the women’s team Donnons des Elle who are also cycling the whole of the TdF route to raise the profile of women’s cycling and advocate for a women’s Tour de France.
This was one of my favourite moments of the Le Tour One Day Ahead so far as it was a real honour to cycle with them and share experiences of, and visions for, women’s cycling. Another highlight of the day was in the afternoon where a young boy in an Astana team jersey joined our peloton and was welcomed at the front by Lance where he gave his all to stay with our group. Lance pretended to be really blowing hard and struggling to stay with the boy and it was such a cute moment.
It seems that most stages this year have a nasty end and this day’s finish was up a 3kilometre lung-busting climb at an average of 10%! After battling through the press to get onto the team bus we said our goodbyes to Lance who gave a moving farewell speech and wished us luck for the rest of the challenge…
Of course Lance is a controversial figure but his presence on Le Tour One Day Ahead undoubtedly raised the profile of our challenge with media reports being broadcast worldwide. This attention has translated into more money for the charity Cure Leukaemia, which is what is important. At the end of the day this challenge isn’t about cycling it’s about raising money to fund research nurses and clinical trials. Some of the patients we met at the Centre for Clinical Excellence knew very little about Lance Armstrong, but what they did know was that more money was needed to fund the pioneering work of the Centre. I was actually surprised at the positive response Lance received along the route with the vast majority of people cheering and applauding him as we passed.
After the excitement of the last two days, stages 15 and 16 were more peaceful and almost mirror-images of each other in terms of their profile. Stage 15 through the Rhone Valley had two large descents whilst stage 16 was a day of long and steady climbing into Gap, the gateway into the Alps. The final descent of the day was down the Col de Mense, where in 2003 Lance Armstrong had to cut across a field after Joseba Beloki came off and Armstrong was forced off the road! Luckily I managed to stay upright all the way down the descent into Gap and am enjoying my rest day, before tackling four brutal days of climbing in the Alps.
Part Three of Helen’s Le Tour One Day Ahead feature will be published on Cyclo soon – follow us on Twitter for all the latest news, plus feature and review alerts. You can read Part One of her report here. Helen’s efforts in Le Tour One Day were supported by SportsCover Direct.
Further details of Le Tour One Day Ahead at beforethetour.com and, most importantly, you can help add to Helen’s incredible fundraising total for Cure Leukaemia by donating at JustGiving.
Le Tour One Day Ahead, an ambitious charity ride covering the full 3,344km 2015 Tour de France route with ambitions to raise £1m for Cure Leukaemia, captured the public imagination this summer. Amongst those taking part was ex-British triathlete Helen Russell (Gold medallist – 2011 ITU World Sprint Duathlon) and here, in the first of a three-part series, she shares her experience with Cyclo.
After cycling just over 2,000miles, including 40,000meters of ascent and burning an estimated 95,000calories I am back home in the UK having completed the Le Tour-One Day Ahead challenge for Cure Leukaemia. It was without doubt the hardest thing I have ever done and was a struggle both physically and mentally – not helped by the fact that I needed ten stitches on only the second stage! The first week of this year’s Tour de France was touted as being one of the hardest for years-and I can vouch for that…
The Tour started in the Dutch town of Utrecht with a leisurely team ride around the 13.8km opening prologue. If only each stage could be so easy! On paper the next day looked like it would be an easy first long stage, with a typical Dutch flat profile, but things don’t always turn out as anticipated. Unfortunately at about 100km into the stage one of my team members got their wheel caught in a bridge extension track near the town of Hellevoetsluis and came down bringing another rider and myself down. I landed on the second rider’s disk brake, which sliced open my thigh.
I looked down and could see that the injury was serious and thought that my One Day Ahead ride was over before it had even started. However, the team medic reassured me that he could get me riding again and gave me ten stiches in the mechanics van at the side of the road. I don’t think he quite expected me to be riding again quite so soon, as I insisted that I get immediately back on the bike to finish the stage. I just thought of all the people that had sponsored me and didn’t want to let them down. I was allowed to get back in the saddle, but only on the proviso that if I felt any tugging on the stiches – or if the wound started to bleed – that I would have to dismount.
I think I rode the rest of the stage on pure adrenaline; there was no way that I was not going to finish the first long day. I was, however, dreading the next morning when the adrenaline would have worn off and a decision would be made as to whether I could continue. I was relieved to have good travel insurance with SportsCover Direct, as I knew that if there were any complications or if I needed to seek extra medical treatment or even be sent home I was covered…
Due to the excellent work of the medic I was given the go ahead to start the following day and thanks to the rest of the team, who looked after me and kept to a slower pace, I was able to finish the stage up the infamous Mur de Huy or ‘Huy Wall’ – a 1.3km climb with a peak gradient of 25%.
Stage four was a stage that I had been very nervous about for weeks as, at 223.5km, it was the longest leg – but not only that-there was also the small matter of seven cobbled sections!
Not surprisingly the organisers were concerned about me riding the cobbles as a fall would almost certainly result in me going home. However, for me this was such an iconic stage that I really wanted to conquer it so it was agreed that I could attempt the first cobbled section and, if I handled it well and felt comfortable, then I could tackle the other sections. I had been told that the best way to ride cobbles is to attack them, ride quickly and don’t hold on too tight. I was already feeling angry about my injury and therefore channelled it into riding aggressively and much to my surprise I enjoyed the cobbles and felt confident, which meant that I could continue to the stage finish. I was grateful to have been given in advance the advice of wearing two pairs of mitts over the cobbles, as the constant friction had caused many in the team to get blisters.
After the cobbles my body was feeling very tired going into stage five (Arras to Amiens.) That evening my partner arrived for two nights and it was so good to receive a big hug and some TLC! It was just the lift I needed after a tough few days.
Abbeville to Le Havre saw the first rain of the Tour and the coastal route meant that there was a very strong crosswind, resulting in a tough stage.
Stage seven was relatively flat; starting from the cheese producing town of Livarot and going through rural villages and over rolling hills to Fougeres. Stage eight from Rennes to Mur-de-Bretagne was another rolling stage, with only two category climbs. However, one of them was at the end of the stage and after 180km in 35degree heat the 1.3km at an average of 8.4% was a real challenge. Still, the short 28km time trial from Vannes to Plumelec the next day offered welcome respite from the long stages and the team used it as an opportunity to recover. We headed out early as we had a long coach transfer to the Pyrenees, which was actually harder than the day’s ride!
I was looking forward to my first day in the Pyrenees, as I usually love mountain climbing. However, I got a shock when we reached the first mountain stage finish at the Hors Category Col du Soudet, making its debut appearance in the Tour de France. I didn’t have as many gears as I usually use in the mountains and felt like I was grinding all the way up the 15km climb. I just couldn’t get into my normal rhythm and contemplated getting off the bike a few times. However that morning we had seen a video message from Leukaemia patients at the Clinical Centre for Excellence at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and I knew that the pain they had been through and in many cases are still going through, was much worse than what I was feeling and so kept on grinding to the summit, where my frustration took over and I broke down in tears. That evening the team’s mechanics realised that if I were to survive the rest of the Pyrenees then I would need some extra gears and so, much to my relief, changed the gearing.
The next morning there was a sense of trepidation on the team bus as we would be climbing the infamous cols of the Aspin and the Tourmalet. After my struggle up the Soudet I was really hoping that the extra gears would make a difference.
We reached the Category 1 Col d’Aspin in the afternoon and much to my relief the new gearing meant that I was able to comfortably reach the summit. The second major climb of the day was the Hors Category Tourmalet – at 17.1km at a gradient of 7.3% it is a legendry mountain of the Tour de France. Lots of the cols have kilometre markers that count down how far you have left until the summit. I focussed on reaching the various landmarks of the climb, including snow protection tunnels, hotels and shops whilst counting down those markers… As we rode into the finish at Cauterets we had conquered six categorised climbs!
On the final day in the Pyrenees we were due to climb three cols and tackle our second mountain summit finish. However, after climbing the Porte d’Aspet and the Col de la Core we were informed that the Port de Lers was closed due to someone sprinkling tacks on the descent and therefore we wouldn’t be able to do the climb. I was absolutely shattered at this stage and when given the option of going up an alternative col or heading straight to the final col I took the latter option and joined the others in the team who had ridden the alternative col at the foot of the Plateau de Beille.
This was without doubt my favourite climb so far on the One Day Ahead challenge. Almost the entire route of the 15.8km climb was lined with spectators from all over the world encouraging us to keep going and many recognised us as being part of the ‘Geoff Thomas Challenge.’ There was an incredible party atmosphere with music and pop-up bars along the climb. I reached the top just after 8pm – it had been an incredibly long day but we were all excited and slightly anxious about what the following day and what our guest arrival would bring…
Part Two of Helen’s Le Tour One Day Ahead feature will be published on Cyclo soon – follow us on Twitter for all the latest news, plus feature and review alerts.
Further details of Le Tour One Day Ahead at beforethetour.com and, most importantly, you can help add to Helen’s incredible fundraising total for Cure Leukaemia by donating at JustGiving.
With Revolve24 just around the corner, we figured it’s time to find out what it takes to cycle in a 24-hour endurance event… So we asked a man in the know, Simon Lillistone, the Race Director for Revolve24.
Lillistone is perfectly positioned to offer advice on cycling events; the two times Olympian (1988, 1992), also led the delivery of all the cycling events at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Now he has his sights firmly locked on Revolve24, with the first relay-race taking place in September at Brands Hatch. Here are his tips to help you take on this 24-hour endurance event…
Keeping fuelled is essential whether you’re in for the win or just for fun. You’re pushing your gut to the limit as well as your legs, so make sure you know what works for you by trying different foods and drinks before the big day. Eat accurately too, refuelling straight after each ride session and snacking regularly while you’re riding to keep energy levels stable.
Worrying about how to deal without sleep concerns a lot of 24-hour first-timers. Get your head down and your feet up to aid recovery blood-flow while you sleep. Don’t slouch in a chair. Even if you can’t actually sleep, just lying down, relaxing and closing your eyes is valuable R&R. Obviously waking up again is just as crucial as sleeping! Make sure you have a good alarm clock, and a second back-up alarm on your phone or watch, both set to give you enough pre-ride prep time when it’s your turn in the relay.
24-hour racing can be an emotional experience, especially if something breaks. Bring any specific spares you might need (gear hangers, long-valved inner tubes, Di2 chargers, etc.) but also pack ‘pit kit’ such as a spare pair of shared wheels for a fast change between laps. While mini tools and C02 inflators rule on the circuit, in the Pit Garage, a decent work stand, a pair of wash buckets and a track-pump makes keeping your bike clean and dialled ready for the next lap easy.
Head torches are also super useful whether you’ve got a midnight mechanical, or you’re trying to put your bib shorts on the right way round in the dark (we’ve been there!) If you have the room, rollers or a turbo trainer are great for a quick warm up/down to keep cramp at bay as night turns to day.
If there’s one piece of advice the best 24-hour racers always share about clothing, it’s “take everything”. Be versatile with what you wear on the track: arm and leg warmers can be rolled up or down depending on conditions and thin shells can keep you surprisingly warm but still stuff into a back pocket. Pack all your shorts and socks too, as dragging stinking sweaty kit back on for another lap can be enough to crack the strongest resolve, and can rub you raw. We can’t recommend saddle cream highly enough in an endurance event – it can literally save your ass – and baby wipes are perfect for freshening up before laps.
Get your bike professionally serviced, lubed and running smooth in the weeks before the event. Check tyres are in good condition. Don’t be afraid to try small tweaks beforehand either. For example lowering tyre pressures to 90psi or switching 23c tyres for 25c can also add comfort and control you’ll really appreciate by the time dawn comes around or corners get damp with dew.
Resist the temptation to change anything significant for the race weekend. Being able to trust that your bike works perfectly is way more important than risking reliability for the sake of a handful of grams of drag or a few more watts at the rear wheel.
Revolve24 is a global series of 24-hour cycling relay races set at iconic motor circuits around the world. Officially launched at Brands Hatch – which will also play host to the first event on September 19-20 – the series will then embark on a world tour throughout 2016 including famous motor racing circuits in the USA, France, Spain, Portugal and Canada. Full details of Revolve24 at revolve24.com
Good hydration is crucial and with warm weather here now could be a good time to think about how you will make sure you are correctly hydrated so that you get the most from your training, and recover fast.
The first goal is to be in good fluid balance at the start of your training session.
To do this, you just need to drink sensibly during the day. It is a myth that you should drink eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy, and there is no evidence at all to say that this much helps you with your training. Instead, drink when you feel thirsty, and take a drink at meal times.
Most people don’t need more that about 2 litres of fluid per day. This fluid can come from any source – water, juice, squash, milk, tea, coffee, food – so you can see it is quite easy to get most of this through normal meals and little more than a couple of cups of tea.
To make doubly sure you are ready for your training, you could drink 250-500ml about one hour before your session. It is perfectly okay if you drink a bit a little more here – you will just get rid of the excess when you take a visit to the toilet before you start your exercise.
What you should drink depends on the duration and intensity of the training, and your goals.
Duration: How long are you training for?
If you are training for one hour or less, then it doesn’t really matter if you drink or not; it is very unlikely that you will become significantly dehydrated in an hour, even if you are exercising hard in hot conditions. Your body has enough energy stores to easy cope with this amount of hard work, so you do not need to take in anything that contains energy.
If you are training for more than one hour, then you may need to replace the energy/fluid that you use. Plain water is not a great choice here – choose squash or a sport’s drink instead or consider electrolyte replacement tablets such as H2Pro or VipVit’s ZV0.
Intensity: What kind of session is it?
If the session is long, warm, and at a high intensity, then along with losing water (in sweat) and using up energy, you also lose electrolytes (salts) in sweat. To replace the electrolytes, you should definitely consider something with replacement salts in. You could add a small amount of table salt to your squash (a pinch per pint is the rough rule), or choose a sport’s drink – for example Lucozade Sport or Powerade ION4 – or, again, use electrolyte replacement tablets.
What are your goals?
If your goal is to lose weight, then you should not replace the energy that you use. Instead, you should choose a drink that does not contain much energy. Water could be good here. However, if you are sweating a lot and need to replace your salts, make some sugar-free squash and add some salt (you could add salt to water, but it doesn’t taste too good). Alternatively, there are some sports drinks formulated to contain electrolytes but not sugars – Powerade Zero, for example.
How much should I drink?
You can sweat quite a lot before dehydration starts to affect performance. A good rule is to drink just enough so that you don’t lose more than about 2-3% of your bodyweight. For a 70kg person, this means losing no more than about 1.5kg – three pint glasses! But how long does it take to lose 1.5kg (or 1.5 litres) of sweat? Of course, this depends on the weather conditions and the intensity you are training at. Also, everyone sweats at different rates, so it is a good idea to find out how much you sweat. To do this, weigh yourself before and after you exercise. For example, you weigh 70kg at the start, and 69kg at the end of a 1-hour ride. This is a loss of 1 litre of fluid per hour – typical for hard exercise in warm conditions.
Now let’s say you are doing a two-hour ride. You are okay with losing 1.5kg, but we know that in two hours you will lose more than that: 2kg, in fact. Therefore for this length of ride, you should drink about 500ml on-the-go. There are a number of hydration calculators available to help you with this, both online and as smartphone apps – see the Cyclo feature here.
The aim after training is to get you back to where you were before you started. If you haven’t lost any weight during your training, then you don’t need to drink more than your thirst dictates. But if you have lost some weight, you need to get back to where you were before. To do this, drink up to 500ml in the first 10-15 minutes after you finish training, and then take sips, or drink to thirst, for the next 3-4 hours. Don’t rush it. Weigh yourself again to check if you have made it.
Feature by Stephen Fritzdorf - Stephen is a Sport Physiologist, a lecturer at Lund University and creator of the Quench hydration app. He worked with the Danish Olympic Team 2008-2014, and before that with the English Institute of Sport. Details of the Quench hydration app here.
Once in a while a product comes along that really does things differently and 33Shake Chia Energy Gels certainly tick that box.
From the same company that produce the excellent All in One Shakes, see our review of those here, the Chia Energy Gels look to be a whole new way of fuelling your ride. For a start they are a dry mix, weighing in at just 21g of ingredients (under 30g all-in with the packaging) to which you add your own liquid. There are several clear advantages to this: firstly the slight weight-saving on a long ride if you opt to fill them with water from the bottom (marginal gain!) but more significantly it makes them versatile. Want more carbs? Add fruit juice. An electrolyte hit? Top up with coconut water. A caffeine boost? Stick in a shot of espresso…
To prepare for use you undo the resealable spout, blow to slightly inflate the pack, and then fill with your chosen liquid. Give it ten minutes and the gel is good to go and if you want to prep them in advance they can be kept for up to 24hours once opened and hydrated. Of course it’s a slightly tricky job to hydrate the 33Shake Chia Energy Gels from a bidon, but it’s more than manageable and no more inconvenient that getting covered in sticky ‘traditional’ gels when trying to open them (also there’s nothing sticky about these…)
So, what’s in the 33Shake Chia Energy Gels? Well there’s coconut palm sugar, Himalayan pink salt and organic Madagascan vanilla – which give them just the subtlest of flavour – but at their heart, in case the name hadn’t already given it away, are chia seeds that deliver an exceptionally smooth (no jags and crashes) source of energy, here helping serve up 90kcal, 11.2g of carbs (6g of which sugars), 4g of fat (0.4g saturates) and 5g of fibre. It’s a heady mix, perfectly judged for the bike.
The texture – not a strong point with any energy gel – is slightly gelatinous but easily swallowed and because you are the master of your own destiny when it comes to hydrating them they can be made thicker or thinner to taste. Okay, so you’ll spend a couple of miles picking chia seeds out of your teeth with your tongue, but it gives you something to do between gels. Perhaps 33Shake should use it as a selling point?
In addition to helping power the ride the gels also include 1.1mg iron and 17.6mg and 103mg of sodium and potassium respectively – helping to replace salts lost through sweating and adding to your hydration strategy – plus 1.1mg of calcium. Because the Chia Energy Gels are fresh, handmade and natural with no preservatives (basically ‘real’ food) their shelf life is shorter than more conventional gels, generally 10-12 weeks, but each gel is marked appropriately.
There’s no doubting that 33Shake do things differently, but not just for the sake of it. We’ve been hugely impressed by the ‘clean’ and sustained energy from these gels.
33Shake Chia Energy Gels retail at £1.99 each, dropping to £1.89 per gel when you buy them as an Event Pack (10 gels), or just £1.79 per gel when you buy an Endurance Pack of 30 gels.
Further details and online purchase of 33Shake Chia Energy Gels at 33shake.com and you can get social with them on Facebook and Twitter too.
Four-time World Ironman Champion Chrissie Wellington champions 33Shake and you can read on our sister-site TriGear what she has to say about training and racing here and nutritional and mental preparation here.
To call Elinor Barker an up and coming star would be to downplay her already impressive cycling CV. The 20-year old Welsh cyclist took silver in the junior women’s time-trial at the 2011 UCI Road World Championships, going on to take gold the following year in the same event making her a world champion.
In her debut elite UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk in 2013, she again won gold alongside Dani King and Laura Trott and in the same year at the UEC European Track Championships bagged another gold in team pursuit (with Laura Trott, Dani King and Katie Archibald) setting a new world record into the bargain.
She has gone on to break that record twice more, become world champion again in the team pursuit (2014 UCI Track Cycling World Championships), and take further podiums at the Commonwealth Games, European Track Championships and UCI Track World Championships… Did we mention she’s still only 20?
With a move for 2015 from Wiggle-Honda to Matrix Pro Cycling, Cyclo caught up with Elinor to talk about the new team and the year ahead…
Cyclo: A big move from Wiggle Honda – presumably never an easy decision but was there one deciding factor?
Elinor Barker: Not really, it was a combination of a lot of things but I really liked how professional and organised Matrix are.
Cyclo: Was the ‘British’ aspect of Matrix an appeal?
Elinor Barker: Definitely. I’ve always enjoyed racing for British Teams and I didn’t want to change that in 2015.
Cyclo: One of the key Matrix principles is the ‘Development of women’s racing at all levels.’ That has to be high on the agenda for you, yes?
Elinor Barker: Definitely! The work that has been done to develop women’s racing over the last few years has been incredible- resulting in huge races such as the Friends Life Women’s Tour and the Santos Tour Down Under that just weren’t on the calendar before. I’m really happy to be a part of that by joining Matrix.
Cyclo: There seems to be more of a gender balance in TV coverage for track. Do you see a shift now towards more women’s road coverage too?
Elinor Barker: Yes it’s going that way. UK coverage is getting better every year and again the interest in the new, bigger races such as the Women’s Tour has helped that massively.
Cyclo: How’s the balance between road and track? The team aspects of track must feed into the dynamic of a road team (and vice versa)…
Elinor Barker: Yes I think so. On the track it’s pretty rare that I’m training or racing as an individual and I think that’s a pretty good aspect to bring to the road.
Cyclo: I’m sure there’s an obvious answer (or two) here, but what was your highlight of 2014?
Elinor Barker: Track worlds in Columbia and Commonwealth games in Glasgow. It was a pretty good year!
Cyclo: And the big goals for 2015?
Elinor Barker: The Track World Championships in Paris and defend the Team Pursuit title and to ride the women’s Tour and have a good, fun year on the road.
Cyclo: Rio must seem suddenly very close… your thoughts?
Cyclo: What’s the training regime like and is there any such thing as ‘down time’ for you?
Elinor Barker: It’s pretty tough but recovery is just as important- lots of feet up time after training.
Cyclo: How’s your approach to nutrition? Do you allow yourself treats and indulgencies?
Elinor Barker: I think nutrition is really important and I eat right so that I can train and recover properly. But at the same time if I really want a treat I know I can burn it off in training!
Cyclo: The team has recently started working with USN – what products do you use and how are you finding it?
Elinor Barker: I really like the recovery shakes as they basically taste like milkshake, which is much easier to drink that most protein drinks.
Cyclo: What was your first bike? (Sorry we ask everyone this in the hope they say Raleigh Chopper – but you’re far too young…)
Elinor Barker: I can’t remember what bike it was but it was a little red one with flames on it that I called my rocket bike. It had been my older brother and sister’s first bikes, and my uncle’s first bike when he was a kid.
Cyclo: Finally, any key advice to those looking to make a career on two wheels?
Elinor Barker: Try out all the disciplines that you can – track, cyclo X, road etc. I never thought I would enjoy track before I tried it, never mind be a full time track rider as a career! It’s important to find out what you enjoy and what you’re good at, you might surprise yourself.
Anything you can do we can do… well, in a different but equally intriguing way. Eroica Britannia is inspired by the original L’Eroica (The Heroes) born in 1997 to celebrate Tuscany’s Strade Bianchi – White Roads – with the UK version blending a love of cycling, history and the environment into one jam-packed weekend event.
Like its Italian cousin Eroica Britannia adheres to strict rules of ‘vintage’. Bikes must be pre-1987, gear shifts on the down tube only, no quick release pedals, even the number of spokes is specified (32 or more please.) Vintage or ‘era-specific’ clothing, although mentioned generally in the rules, is so ubiquitous as to be practically compulsory. We assume it’s up for friendly debate whether your reproduction gear is convincing enough.
As it moves into its second year, the 2015 Eroica Britannia will feature three days of family focused festivities celebrating the ‘Best of Great Britain.’ The line up includes live music and entertainment, shopping at the ‘British Bazaar’, the ‘World’s Greatest Bike Jumble’, Food Festival and Sports Day. The main attraction is, of course, the rides of 30, 55 and 100miles over the white roads and gravel tracks of the beautiful Peak District. Villages on route will be holding their own mini festivals as well as providing much needed refreshments.
All routes start and finish in Bakewell on the banks of the River Wye and head on to the Monsal Trail, which for most of it’s length, follows the course of the Old Midland Railway line (complete with tunnels) through the heart of the Peak National Park. The route then takes all riders through Millers Dale where the fun really starts. You choose from:
The Short Route
A 30mile option with an ascent of 2528ft (771m) and an off-road element of 25%; refreshment stops are at 14 and 21miles. Described as: ‘a great choice for riders of all levels of fitness. It is fairly undulating but definitely enough of a stretch to give you a challenge’. Don’t miss out on Eyam the famous ‘plague village’…
The Medium Route
55 miles with an ascent of 6113ft (1864m) and an off-road element of 30%; refreshment stops are at miles 20, 37 and 52. Much more of a challenge, this route is billed as: ‘a bit more adventurous and does require you to be reasonably fit.’ You might consider a stop at Hartington Village a bustling market town and the home of Stilton Cheese; you may need it as the next stage is all uphill to the Tissington Trail.
The Long Route
At 100miles with ascents totaling 9252ft (2821m) and an off-road element of 25% (refreshment stops at 10, 37, 51, 63, 78miles, and finally Chatsworth House at the 94 mile mark.) Eroica Britannia say this is ‘…a real challenge which covers all the very best of the Peak District National Park’. The route features a number of climbs including a 2-miler over the dramatic Mam Nick rising to 15% at points.
So, to the details: Eroica Britannia is centred on The Bakewell Showground, Bakewell, Derbyshire, starting on Friday June 19 and running until Sunday, June 21. The inclusive ethos is underpinned by the ticketing policy that enables a family of four to park, camp and enjoy the three days and nights of the festival for under £100. Tickets for the rides cost an additional £60 and are going fast and are best booked in advance online.
Although marketing statements like bringing the ‘…Handsome back into British Summertime life’ and finding the ‘…romance of heritage, sustainability, environment and lifestyle’ might make it sound like hipster hell, don’t be put off. Any event that attracts 200 vendors, 2,000 riders and a crowd of 30,000 in its first year must be doing something very, very right.
Cyclo will be dusting off that 1970’s Peugeot, knitting some woolen shorts, and heading for the Peak District…
Without question, Britain is blessed with some of the most idyllic cycling routes in Europe of which so many are perfect for the whole family. But when that curious itch sets in and the call for adventure further afield must be answered, just what kinds of delights await across the Channel?
To explore Europe by bike is to enjoy a uniquely privileged vantage point from which to take in the sights, sounds and flavours of so many different cultures right on the UK’s doorstep. And, with such simple transport links available, a summer cycling holiday on the continent really has never been a more realistic or rewarding prospect for the family.
Take, for example, France – home to sumptuous food, arguably the world’s finest wine and the prettiest of villages basking in the warmth of summer sun. What France delivers is the perfect blend of relaxation and invigoration, as you and the family make your way around majestic chateaux, sprawling vineyards and beautiful beaches. What’s more, France is home to some of the safest, most enjoyable and most expansive cycle lane networks to be found anywhere in Europe. All of which set the scene for a glorious family trip.
One of the most popular cycling regions in France is Brittany which delivers everything from rolling hills to stunning golden sands all within a short ride of each another. France’s ‘summer playground’ can be reached with ease – regular UK to France ferry crossings from the likes of Brittany Ferries will get you, the kids, the car, your bikes and all your luggage there for next to nothing.
If however you’d like to take your journey into the continent in a different direction, take the same Channel ferry crossing and plan a relaxing drive to Belgium – another European family cycling haven and the continental and spiritual home of the bike.
For example, Bruges happens to be not only one of the most beautiful cities you could ever hope to see, it’s also a city best explored by bicycle. While so many of Bruges’ visitors never look further than the famed cobbled streets of the city centre, a gentle ride beyond the city limits will bring you and the family right into the heart of what could be considered the real Belgium.
With landscapes ranging from sandy beaches to beautiful nature reserves and an endless networks of riverside cycle paths to explore, you’ll get a taste for the stunning side of Belgium seen only by the privileged few. The whole experience has the feel of a fairy-tale, which is made all the more indulgent with the decadent local cuisine you’ll find yourself falling head over heels for. After all, there’s more to Belgium than moules-frites and beer…
Another option for those looking to take the family on a genuinely thrilling cycling holiday can be found just a little further in the tulip-laden splendor of Holland. It takes less than a day to ferry the whole family over to France and set out on an exciting adventure to the heart of the Netherlands; Amsterdam in particular having a well-earned reputation for sublime cycling.
Something of an unofficial cycling capital for Europe, the bike really is the only way to travel in and around the Dutch capital. After taking in the sights of the city itself, you’ll cruise a little further afield to pass the picturesque windmills and canals that make this wonderful corner of the world so unique. Take the car to the famed tulip fields in the springtime for a sight the whole family will never forget, before returning to the city’s iconic parks to soak up the best of the summer sun.
For family cycling at its finest this summer, Europe is hard to beat and so easy to reach.