Reflections of 2017

•December 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

You can’t have failed to notice that Christmas is less than a handful of advent chocolates away and another year end is just a few days away, and what a year 2017 has been for so many reasons, so time for some reflections.

JANUARY We announced our intention to ride all Three Grand Tours fFor the Charity CureLeukaemia.
The year didn’t start off the way I’d have hoped. An ACL deficient knee, a slippery astroturf pitch and a stubborn mind are not always the best of combinations. A pivot shift and a visit to the specialist threatened to derail the challenge before I’d done any real meaningful training. Conservative measures were the way forward, however I would never be able to run again properly, and as for football, well I wasn’t particularly good at that game, that’s why I started riding in my teens in the first place.
FEBRUARY A few days away in Majorca. Although I wasn’t ready for the physical work load it was also just what was needed, a few long steady rides, with a couple of mountains thrown in for good measure.
31st MARCH, I left my position to take up a charity sabbatical and handed over the reigns of the kitchen to my number two, an odd feeling and a step almost into the unknown.
APRIL 1st yep April Fools Day, maybe not the best day to start with a blank piece of paper and begin to write a book, but that was the day.
MAY  well ‘May The Fourth‘ to be exact, Star Wars day. The Giro d’Italia in its centenary year started in Sardinia, 3 weeks of riding through some of the toughest terrain, luckily the force was with us. As 3600km and over 50,000m of climbing was on the menu along with some awe inspiring scenery and delicious food that would feature in the book.
JUNE a very busy month of training, recipe writing, photography and some much needed family time.
JULY was mostly spent riding through the five mountain regions and terroir of France trying to keep in front of Chris Froome as the Tour was on the agenda. Riding the hexagon of France is always a special time, even more so when you factor in one day before the pros and the big mountain climbs are filled with expectant supporters.
AUGUST was a Family break driving down through some of the regions I had ridden in past few weeks, plus some days spent in San Sebastian with Spanish cuisine advance homework for the book.
Then on the 17th I left for the final chapter the tour of Spain
SEPTEMBER La Vuelta finished in Madrid on the 11th, and it was finished, 10,403km through seven countries and over 133,000m of climbing.
But there was the small matter of a book to be completed.
I also surpassed my personal fund-raising target of £50k, an unbelievable figure once again, and I have many to thank.
OCTOBER Photos were in place, recipes were finished and photographed, text was written, it was then down to Anthony Hodgson from Face to work his magic. An exhaustive amount of editing, re-editing and discussion took place and then it was time, the big red “Go to Print’  flashing button was pushed. Due to the short turn around to get the book out before Christmas it would be printed in Verona, Italy and costs aside it would be so  far more polished as this is like high fashion where the top printing took place.
NOVEMBER like days of yesteryear when you would be wishing the weeks away as a child until Christmas morning, well I was on a six week count down until a different kind of Santa would make a big delivery of 3500 books on the 21st November.
Priced at £30, this 280 page coffee table book with BaxterStorey’s generous support sees 100% of the sale go direct to the Charity MORE DETAILS HERE
DECEMBER Proud to say that Tracie has completed her goal for the year and graduated in Thai yoga Massage, if you are in or around the Broxbourne area, look her up, I can personally highly recommend her! Thai Yoga Massage
We are almost full circle; the shortest day of the year and I have many hours of GOPro footage from the time on the bike, therefore I’m trying to teach myself something new, and iMovie it is.
I’ve set up a Youtube channel and even created a trailer – please do check it out, all soooooo dramatic, it’s got music and everything!

I’ve also captured one of our 9 year old Elsie making a very simple tasty carrot soup-

Next year I’ll be looking at a series of simple cooking demos with the girls so please do subscribe to my Channel its free to do so.  I promise I won’t make you watch all the videos, but it would be great if you was there from the beginning to see how they improve (well hopefully).  I know as always I can count on your feedback, so do please leave a comment under each video.
2018 and beyond, who knows what the future holds but one thing is for sure, I very much doubt there will be another year that will compete with this one for so many reasons.
‘The Best food comes from the Heart…!’ ♥

‘Real’ Madrid

•September 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

We’ve made it, a 10,700km journey that we planned back in October 2016. Starting with a single pedal revolution on May 4th come to an end as we rolled into Madrid on Saturday 8th September.
Life changing for us all, but hopefully it is our efforts on the bike that have provoked interest in sponsorship that will be even more life changing to the cancer community.

For me as I type, I have a window of just over three weeks to finish the charity book. Life has slowed already from dare devil descents of over 100km an hour, gurning up steep mountain passes, long afternoons of furnace like temperatures, or worse the torrential rain that we had in Spain on at least two stages.

I’m going to miss it, not just the actual riding my bike, but always training for that goal something to focus on outside of the comfort zone, doing something meaningful with the strength in your legs and the air in your lungs.

There were huge emotional hugs from the girls as we were greeted at the finish not just by our own families but by some of the riders who had joined us in France for a couple of days.

Whats next? Well I don’t even know that myself, normality will be difficult to adjust to for sure. I’m preparing myself for the come down. I’ve got to detrain the body, after so many months of making demands on it, to suddenly stop isn’t just foolish it’s actually dangerous. The now willowy figure that felt strong and comfortable on two wheels feels almost strangely frail now. Even the simplest tasks of walking to the station to catch the train for meetings in London left me with a sore back. If there is a sleeping challenge then I’d like to sign up for the next week or so as I’ve got a bit of catching up to do after so many nights in different hotels.

To Geoff, Doug and James we have shared something incredible, through tiredness and sometimes frustration we didn’t always see eye to eye, but one thing is undeniable, we done good, I love you guys x

Finally, to my extended family on the road, ‘The crew’ Morts, Sarah, Zara, Bob, Jim, PJ, Doctor Dale and of course Digi who documented it in images. Also a special mention to Damian and Steve who joined us in France, and Katie in Spain. Those 63 days we spent on the roads of Europe together will be a lasting memory, I thank you all dearly for your time, patience and contribution to the cause. x

‘Angry Lu’

•September 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Stage 20; 117km;
Corvera De Asturias- Alto de L’Angliru

Two first category climbs through some beautiful scenic countryside to soften us up and then the killer blow – Angliru, one of the hardest in any of the three grand Tours. Thiswas the last climb of the challenge so I wanted to give it the respect it deserved and take it on full gas.

The first 6km were an ‘easy’ 7-10%, it seems almost flippant to say that but after riding 10,400km through Italy and France the body had been conditioned to just accept what was thrown at it.
I was able to get on top of my gear 34×28 comfortably (I’ve since learned that the pros would be far more sensible and chose a 32 sprocket).
When during the second half the gradients approached 13% the steep climbs that we had ridden in La Vuelta had prepared me for the worst and I continued on, super motivated to put a time on the board.

Then where the pros would have one more gear to choose as the final 3kms at the infamous Cueña les Cabres

The slopes were so steep reaching just under 24%,or in layman terms 1 in 4 for a long stretch, it was like wrestling a bear rather than riding a bike as I struggled with these steep ramps.

Lungs and legs were burning but the pain would disappear as I reached the top. The patients and yet to be diagnosed future cancer suffers don’t have the luxury of getting off the bike and recovering after a few minutes, I reflected on this very fact and the reason why we put ourselves through such torture every day to help find a cure.
I’m a bike rider; always was, but it’s still far from easy. After a climb like today I look at my team mates, Doug, Geoff and James not only how they have grown stronger but what they have put their bodies through over the last 3 Tours, it’s slight lunacy.

The road was closed to vehicles in preparation for tomorrow so I summited alone. At the top there was a mixture of relief and emotion that it was almost over. This was the last big test and I had it’s measure, with the fatigue of 20 stages, I’d still managed a more than acceptable 140th all time best on Strava, not too shabby!

I rolled down to support the team and rode up again the final 3 km for some extra punishment with the skipper to give him some moral support.

A random fellow struggler on one of the lesser steep 18% bits

This climb famously during stage 15 in 2002, riders climbed the Angliru in rain. Team cars stalled on the steepest part, some unable to restart because their tyres slipped on messages painted by fans. Riders were caught behind them and others had to ride with flat tyres because mechanics could not reach them. David Millar crashed three times and protested by handing in his race number a metre from the line.

We’ve got a 451km drive to the outskirts of Madrid.
Tracie and the girls have just landed and I can’t wait to see them at the finish tomorrow, these three weeks have gone on for so long.

Day 63 will be the one we dared not dream of when just over a year ago this crazy challenge was conceived.

We started in Sardinia on May Fourth, Star Wars day and like every good Jedi the force was with me (us all)

Photos by Digi Dave

If you would like to donate then here’s my page-
Thanks from all at Cureleukeamia

‘Day 61’

•September 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Stage 19; 149km
Parque Natural de Redes – Guón

It was the 61st day of our challenge, a medium mountain day with just 2085m of elevation over one first category Climb and three short yet fairly steep 3rd Category climbs.

Thankfully it was dry after yesterday’s deluge, but a chilly 11c awaited us. It warmed thankfully later in the day as my old friend the sun made a most welcome return.

Our good friend Andy Parker from the Tour de France has joined us for the last 3 days, we haven’t seen each other since Paris so was great to ride again with him.

Tomorrow promises to be a real brute with two First category climbs and the ascent of the L'Angliru show horned into a short explosive stage.
The climb is recognised as one of the hardest in any of the three grand Tours so a fitting finale awaits us on our penultimate day.

Photos by Digi Dave

If you would like to donate then here’s my page-
Thanks from all at Cureleukeamia

‘Rain again in Spain’

•September 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Stage 18; 169km Saunces – Santo Toribio

Peaking out of the curtains at 6.30am in the dark was enough to make me want to go back to bed. Wet roads and low cloud meant only one thing, it was going to add another dimension to an already tough day out. This area of Spain is beautiful but makes challenging riding for a group with tired legs.

It took all of six minutes riding to be soaking wet through and that feeling was one that I had to endure for the majority of the day. 14°C and I was longing for the warmth of the south. Being quite lean my body doesn't function well when I get cold, especially when all my wet weather kit is still missing!
It wasn't until we descended from the 2nd Category climb into a different valley and was finally blessed with blue sky and sun for the final 30km. The finish was a steep 2.5km ramp arriving at the foot of the Santo Toribio de Liébana Monastery, a building where Franciscans keep the Lignum Crucis, the largest piece of Christ's cross still in existence according to the Catholic Church.

We have a two hour drive to tonight’s hotel and I’ve finally began to warm up. Two more big climbing stages and the final roll into Madrid to go.

Photos by Digi Dave

If you would like to donate then here’s my page-
Thanks from all at Cureleukeamia

Muchos Steepos

•September 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Stage 17; 180km Villadiego – Los Machucos

In atmospheric thick fog we rolled on a plateau 900m above sea level for 60 km in Castil Leon, the second category climb saw the sun temporarily break through on the beautiful heather lined climb.

Back into the fog as we crested the summit at 1350m
The descent was really rough and like holding onto a jack hammer, not sure what the pros will make of it tomorrow. There were more obstacles in the form of steaming Goat dung which garnished every 50m or so and on one bend 20 or so of the offenders were in the middle of the road.

Another 10km 1st category climb to soften up the legs before the much talked of steep finish to Los Machucos with its signature steep slopes of up to 28% these corners were scored to help the cars maintain grip.

It was like riding up a cliff, back into the fog at the top, as no vehicles were allowed on the 7km climb, we had to descend back down, and it wasn’t until this point that you really got to appreciate how sinuous and steep this climb was.
Another tough day for the team which saw us tick off another 3300m of climbing elevation.

Photos by Digi Dave

If you would like to donate then here’s my page-
Thanks from all at Cureleukeamia

Week 2 – Done ✅

•September 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Stage 15; 130km Alcalá la Real – Sierra Nevada

A short but climbing stage around Granada and finishing on the Sierra Nevada at altitude of 2550m. The first climb was deceptive on paper with average gradients being shallow, however it came in two parts with a big descent halfway through and a sinuous descent over a narrow bridge sharp right. Then the pain came; 7 km with the first 3km with pitches of 17 – 22%.

The climb to the finish was a draggy affair on main roads.
Today is a rest day. We drove we the 800km transfer post stage yesterday and have 300km still to go as I type.
A 40km time trial tomorrow then four tough stages in the mountains of Northern Spain remain. Wish us luck!

Photos by Digi Dave

If you would like to donate then here’s my page-
Thanks from all at Cureleukeamia