Monday, September 9, 2013

My birthday cycle challenge

A week today and I will hopefully be celebrating my 42nd birthday. I say hopefully because on Sunday, or my birthday eve, I will taking a bit of a personal challenge and all I can say is that I hope to be around to celebrate on the 16th.

This summer can be described as a summer of cycling for us. We have been out and about on the bikes, sometimes 20km pre-apero runs, sometimes full days out cycling 70 or 80km circuits and other times we have travelled all day on the bikes before crashing in a hotel and returning the following day. We must be quite close to 2000 peddled kilometres this summer, which for a pair of forty-somethings with a 12 year old in tow isn’t too bad. For more cycle posts see here.

french village diaries cycling France Charente 2e Tour des Flandres CharentaisesHowever all these bike rides have been as a family (or a couple) at a pace that is comfortable for all of us, with plenty of stops for food and drink, and yes many refreshment stops have been in bars. This is about to change as we are planning to take part in an organised cycle event on Sunday, where there will be ‘real’ cyclists with real bikes and real leg muscles. The 2nd Tour des Flandres Charentaises is inspired by the Tour of Flandres, a Belgium event famous for it’s hill climbs on narrow cobbled streets. Now while the Charente department is a little short on cobbled streets (thankfully) they have managed to find plenty of hilly, narrow lanes to cause pain and suffering to cyclists mad enough to give it a go. There is a choice of routes from 30km, 55km, 80km and 110km and by consensus of opinion we have decided to tackle the 55km route that will include eight of the seventeen hill climbs.

I am not too worried about the distance involved, but I’m not really the greatest hill climber in terms of stamina or speed. We took a sneaky ride out last weekend to Nanteuil en Vallée where some of the climbs are located and although I made it to the top of the two nasty ones I was wheezing like an old steam train most of the way up and Ade and Ed were just specks on my horizon. My main worries for the weekend are that I will an obstruction to the real cyclists behind me, especially on the narrow sections and that I will hold our group up, especially if I need to get off for a breather at the top. To make it a little bit more social and fun, we are joining up with some cycling friends, but  they are likely to be faster than I am. Food is probably going to be 'grazing on the peddle' with energy packed nibbles from our pockets as we won’t be taking the panniers – every bit of weight counts when climbing, gulp!

french village diaries cycling France Charente 2e Tour des Flandres Charentaises
The 55km route

More information on the planned route can be found here. If you happen to be a local reader and are around the St Gourson, Champagne-Mouton, Vieux-Ruffec, St Gervais, Nanteuil, Pougné or St Sulpice areas on Sunday morning, please feel free to throw some encouragement toward Blue Belle (my old bike) and me, thank you.

french village diaries cycling France Charente 2e Tour des Flandres Charentaises
With Blue Belle in the Cognac vineyards