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Riding the Pyrenees

Tim FriendAs a relative newcomer to cycling Tim Friend decided not to do things by halves and took on 400 miles from Perpignan to Lourdes for his first serious ride; through the foothills of the Pyrenees and taking in Andora, he tackled several summits of Tour de France fame, including Tormelet, Aspin, and Aubisque and did it all on a decidedly old-fashioned bike. Cyclo spoke to him on his return to talk through the highs and lows of a ride in the mountains…



Cyclo: By your own admission you were not much of a cyclist before this challenge. What made you take it up?


Tim Friend: That’s right, I’ve been playing amateur rugby and enjoy a bit of running. Once a week, I’d cycling to work (20 miles round trip). I often romanticised about a cycling adventure and on holiday in Majorca, surrounded by children and sand castles, I looked enviously at the cyclists returning each day from the mountains. Their bikes and kit looked so cool and the challenge of mountains felt enticing. From the outside, it appeared so exclusive. I wanted to break in.


Cyclo: And you were raising funds for charity too?


Tim Friend: Yes, we’d just had a guest staying with us from an African slum, which literally brought home the reality of poverty. I used the opportunity to raise funds for a Malaria appeal by Christian Aid to help provide community workers in Sierra Leone to educate people in protecting their children from the disease.


Cyclo: You were with a team of other cyclists – was it competitive?


Tim Friend: There was an element of competition. We were a group of 14 cyclists and two drivers. From the start, we were sizing each other up, working out who we might stick with for the first couple of rides, who we’d let steam off on their own etc. We agreed that we’d race up the Tormelet on the penultimate day. Most of the guys had done it the previous year so knew what to expect. I was nervous, even abstaining from a glass of wine the night before! I did it in 1 hour 40 minutes, coming 8th, pleased but feeling I had much more in the tank. The final four kilometre markers had been destroyed by melting snow (which also took out some of the road) and the summit is not visible until the final corner. I’d love to do it again setting a faster pace, aiming to take off at least 10 minutes…


Cyclo: How did you train for such mountainous terrain? 


Tim Friend: My main concern was to dramatically increase my weekly mileage. Over eight weeks, I averaged 125 miles-per-week, not knowing if that was sufficient but aware it was all I could fit in around work and family. Sometimes, I’d head out for a two-hour circuit of the local climbs, though there’s nothing more than 1.5 miles long nearby, but some are pretty steep. I joined a welcoming club and cycled occasionally with a very able cyclist who taught me a couple of techniques – primarily to do with riding on the horns (to open the chest for breathing) and peddling more efficiently uphill.


Cyclo: Any cross-training or all on the bike?


Tim Friend: All on the bike for the eight weeks leading up to the trip, including plenty of stretching and 10 days rest before I hit the Pyrenees. I was relatively fit from running and rugby before I began focusing on the bike.


Cyclo: Your choice of bike was fairly unconventional – what was it and why did you choose it for this ride?


Tim Friend: I’d been given an ‘old-school’ Dawes Galaxy steel-framed touring bike a number of years ago by a retired cyclist. With some modern components and a re-spray, this solid machine from the 1970’s became my closest ally for two months. I’d intended to buy something more flash (not to mention lighter) but as the trip neared, I realised I couldn’t leave the old boy behind. His reliability in training had earned him a place in the team. I wanted to see if I could complete this challenge on a shoe-string, especially as I was raising money for charity. Added to that, I didn’t know if this trip would make or break my interest in the sport!


Cyclo: Any specialist kit or gear with/on the bike?


Tim Friend: I’m glad I swapped the tyres I’d been training on for some slicks. That helped me to keep up with the faster carbon bikes.


Cyclo: What was the most essential thing you took?


Tim Friend: When I started training, I wore baggy shorts and a rugby shirt. By the time I’d landed in France, I had a quality, lightweight gilet plus some basic arm-warmers (both items fantastic for the chilly descents and packed into a pocket) and some mid-range bib-shorts, which were comfortable and didn’t fill up like sails.


Cyclo: Anything you wish you’d ditched or not taken?


Tim Friend: Not really – I’d done my research and packed fairly minimally. However, on the first couple of rides, I took too much clothing and too much food. As my confidence grew (and as the weather seemed to be consistently dry and warm), I was able pack lighter for each day.


Cyclo: How about fuel? What were you eating to power your ride?


Tim Friend: Each night, I’d fuel up on whatever was going in the local restaurant, ordering pasta and emptying several complimentary bread baskets. Porridge for breakfasts. The best tip I picked out of a book on nutrition for endurance cycling was to break up an energy bar into small pieces, stuff them into a pocket and set an alarm for 15 minute alerts indicating when to have a piece. This worked perfectly for me. I didn’t waste energy digesting large quantities at once and didn’t get low on sugar.


Cyclo: Which was the toughest day?


tim_friend02Tim Friend: The first day – it was terrible! We set off through the foothills for the Pyrenees having no idea what the 50 miles ahead of us entailed (our French maps didn’t have gradients). The first hill turned out to be the longest climb of the entire week – 30 miles! After each turn, I thought ‘This has got to be the last corner’, but it just kept going. I didn’t sleep well that night worried that the mountains would be far worse. It wasn’t the case – each mountain climb was relatively short and sweet with rewarding views.


Cyclo: And your favourite moment?


Tim Friend: An omelette on top of l’Aubisque outside a cafe above the clouds of the Pyrenees. We had just cycled around ‘the cauldron’ before the final section of the climb, which was stunning. The omelette tasted better than any I’d ever had. And with Lourdes almost in sight, we were in buoyant mood.


Cyclo: What top tip would you give anyone taking on their first big cycling challenge?


Tim Friend: As a friend from Sherwood CC said to me, ‘Put all the hard work into the training so you can enjoy the adventure when you’re out there.’ (And don’t be sucked into thinking you have to buy all the expensive kit – it’s the pedalling that counts!)


Cyclo: Are you planning anything else to follow this up?


Tim Friend: Yes, hoping to return to the mountains next summer to cycle from Nice to Lyon, to include Alp d’Huez, with the same motley crew… Same bike though? I’m weighing that up. I’d like to build a bike from scratch to learn more about it and like the sound of a titanium frame. But that’s another chapter.



Tour de France 2014 Route

CYCLING TOUR DE FRANCE 2007Details of the Tour de France 2014 route have been unveiled at the Palais des Congres in Paris. Starting in Leeds on Saturday July 5 – the fourth time the race has visited the UK and the first time since 2007 – it proceeds to run York to Sheffield then day three Cambridge to London before heading to France and the coastal town on Le Touquet.


Stage 5 will commemorate the First World War by taking the riders over the cobbles usually seen at the spring Classics, on a 156km leg from Ypres in Belgium to Arenberg, a prospect that defending champion Chris Froome has already confessed gives him cause for concern. However the 3,656km route certainly looks climber-friendly with the Alps featuring three summit finishes – La Planches des Belles Filles (Stage 10), Chamrousse (Stage 13) and Risoul (Stage 14) and the Pyrenees a further two at the ski stations of Plat d’Adet (Stage 17) and Hautacam (Stage 18).


Stage 20, Saturday, July 26, will see the Individual Time Trial run 54km from Bergerac to Perigueux.


The full Tour de France 20414 route is:


Stage 1: Saturday, July 5 – Leeds – Harrogate, 191km

Stage 2: Sunday, July 6 – York – Sheffield, 198km

Stage 3: Monday, July 7 – Cambridge – London, 159km

Stage 4: Tuesday, July 8 – Le Touquet Paris-Plage – Lille, 164km

Stage 5: Wednesday, July 9 – Ypres – Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, 156km

Stage 6: Thursday, July 10 – Arras – Reims, 194km

Stage 7: Friday, July 11 – Epernay – Nancy, 233km

Stage 8: Saturday, July 12 – Tomblaine – Gerardmer, 161km

Stage 9: Sunday, July 13 – Gerardmer – Mulhouse, 166km

Stage 10: Monday, July 14 – Mulhouse – La Planche des Belles Filles, 161km

Tuesday, July 15 – Rest Day

Stage 11: Wednesday, July 16 – Besancon – Oyonnax, 186km

Stage 12: Thursday, July 17 – Bourg-en-Bresse – Saint-Etienne, 183km

Stage 13: Friday, July 18 – Saint-Etienne – Chamrousse, 200km

Stage 14: Saturday, July 19 – Grenoble – Risoul, 177km

Stage 15: Sunday, July 20 – Tallard – Nimes, 222km

Monday, July 21 – Rest Day

Stage 16: Tuesday, July 22 – Carcassone – Bagneres-de-Luchon, 237km

Stage 17: Wednesday, July 23 – Saint-Gaudens – Saint-Lary-Soulan Plat d’Adet, 125km

Stage 18: Thursday, July 24 – Pau – Hautacam, 145km

Stage 19: Friday, July 25 -Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour – Bergerac, 208km

Stage 20: Saturday, July 26 – Bergerac – Perigueux,  54km ITT

Stage 21: Sunday, July 27 – Evry – Paris, 136km



Lance Armstrong Settles with Sunday Times

sunday_timesIt has been announced that Lance Armstrong, the seven-times-not-winner of the Tour de France, has agreed a financial settlement with the Sunday Times after the paper sued the disgraced Texan for £1m. The legal action came about after the Sunday Times were forced to pay Armstrong £300,000 to settle a libel case in 2004 when they accused him of cheating, something that even he now admits is entirely accurate. The paper’s chief sports writer, David Walsh, was one of the first journalists to (publically) raise the question of Armstrong’s credibly after his 1999 Tour de France win.


After Armstrong’s public – and highly staged-managed – confession on the Oprah Winfrey Show last year, the Sunday Times wrote to Armstrong’s lawyers, calling the original proceedings ‘baseless and fraudulent’ – The Sunday Times now say it has reached a ‘mutually acceptable final resolution’.


See the Cyclo feature Lance Armstrong: In Other Words here.




Women’s Tour de France a Step Closer

Women's Tour de FranceWhen Cyclo reported on the campaign for a reintroduction a women’s Tour de France just eight days ago the signatures set against the online petition stood at an already impressive 13,000. Now that number has swelled to almost 70,000 and, it would seem, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO, the organisation behind the TdF) are willing to consider the idea.


Thanks to support from a number of high profile sports personalities, including World Champion Emma Pooley, Dutch superstar Marianne Vos and World Ironman Triathlon Champion Chrissie Wellington, the reintroduction of the event is a step closer with Jean-Etienne Amaury, chairman of the family-owned ASO, saying that executives had debated the subject. It has further been reported that in a telephone interview an ASO representative said, ‘We need to work out the right economic model, get the media on board and discuss with public authorities about closing the roads… All these parameters need to be planned. It’s not likely to happen next year.’


The women’s Tour de France has had a checkered history; it began in 1984 (as the ‘Tour de France Feminin’), folding five years later and returning for a further stretch from 1992 during which it was rebranded ‘The Grande Boucle’ following trademark disputes; the 2004 event was cancelled due to problems with logistics and the last running of the race was in 2009.


You can follow Emma Pooley on Twitter at @PooleyEmma and the official campaign at @LeTourEntier – for further details and to sign the online petition (Cyclo would urge you still to do so) see



L’Alpe d’Huez: Twice

L’Alpe d’Huez is the most iconic climb of the Tour de France and today, for the first time in 100 editions of the race, the riders will climb it twice. This beautiful info-graphic from our friends at RoadCycling UK gives you all the ups and downs you need to know to follow the blistering action on this dramatic Stage 18.


L’Alpe d’Huez


Take a look at RoadCycling UK’s Anatomy of Chris Froome info-graphic here, a guide to the Mountains of the TdF here or take a look at our guide to the six British riders in this year’s Tour de France here.


Want more? The Origins of the Tour de France here and our review of the Tour de France 100th Race Anniversary Edition book here. And, of course, for more great content from RoadCycling UK visit their website.



Cycling Styles of the Tour de France

Today, thanks to our friends at RoadCycling UK, we’re pleased to bring you this beautifully illustrated guide to the various cycling styles you’ll find at the Tour de France (and, of course, beyond.)

cycling styles

Want more? The Origins of the Tour de France here and our review of the Tour de France 100th Race Anniversary Edition book here. And, of course, for more great content from RoadCycling UK visit their website.



Contador and Froome Near Miss

Contador and Froome Near MissYesterday’s Stage 16 (168km – Vaison-la-Romaine to Gap) near miss between Alberto Contador and Chris Froome on the final descent of Col de Manse seems to be attracting some tenuous comparisons to the drama between Lance Armstrong and Joseba Beloki ten years previously. Whilst the Texan/Spaniard encounter of 2003 left Beloki with multiple fractures and saw Armstrong going very much ‘off road’, yesterday’s action was more mundane (though certainly with potential for worse consequences) when Contador’s aggressive attack saw him slip wide on a bend, forcing Froome to take evasive action and momentarily unclip. Contador was certainly risking all in his hell-for-leather approach but as Sunday’s effort on Mont Ventoux proved it seems futile attaching Froome and his wingman Richie Porte on ascents.


Froome was certainly flustered by the interaction post-race but remained in trademark analytic mood, saying, ‘It was quite a dangerous descent and a bit careless of Alberto Contador to attack like that. He was really pushing the limits around the corners and pushed himself too far when he crashed in front of me. I went off the road a little bit and had to correct myself, unclip, and get back going again…’ Taking to social media later he tweeted: ‘Almost went over your head @albertocontador.. Little more care next time?’


As a reminder of just how much more dramatic the Armstrong/Beloki incident was, take a look at the video below…




Mountains of the Tour de France

The Tour de France is many things to many people, but to most the race is synonymous with the mountains – the Alps, the Pyrenees, even the surprisingly lumpy bits in Corsica… Thanks to our friends at RoadCycling UK, we’re delighted to bring you another of their gorgeous in-graphics, this one looking at more literal highs of the Tour de France

Tour de France Mountains

To see the Tour de France in Numbers click here, take a look at RoadCycling UK’s Anatomy of Chris Froome info-graphic here or take a look at our guide to the six British riders in this year’s Tour de France here.


Want more? The Origins of the Tour de France here and our review of the Tour de France 100th Race Anniversary Edition book here. And, of course, for more great content from RoadCycling UK visit their website.