Guest Post – Gravel Cycling in Denmark by Peter Ebro

Guest Post – Gravel Cycling in Denmark by Peter Ebro

In some countries the bike is only for those who don’t have a car. In Denmark, the bike is a symbol of freedom, health and effectiveness. The Danes loves to cycle and embraces all that it implies. Now the Danes have fallen in love with Gravel Cycling.

By Peter Ebro, GripGrab

Denmark, a Cycling Nation

Denmark is renowned worldwide for its biking culture. The Norwegians are raised with cross-country skies on their feet, while Danes are raised with bikes. Everybody in Denmark knows how to ride a bike, and almost 50% of all Danes jump on to their bike several times a week.

Our infrastructure is designed with cyclist’s in mind, and only very few roads don’t having a cycling path running parallel with it. An infrastructure that cities around the world are copying – in New York they even call the cycle paths for Copenhagen Lanes!

Denmark really is biking heaven for cyclists.

What is Gravel Cycling?

Gravel cycling is booming at the moment all over the world. But what is gravel cycling actually? And why?

Photo by Martin Paldan | GripGrab Media Crew

Photo by Martin Paldan | GripGrab Media Crew

Gravel cycling is, as the name suggests, cycling on gravel or dirt roads. You can ride whatever bike you want to, but the experience is optimised on a gravel bike. Gravel bikes look very similar to a road bike, just with a few, but important differences, that makes the bike more suitable for riding on rough surfaces for long distances; wider tires with more grip, to make the ride more comfortable, disc brakes for optimal braking power, and longer wheel base and a taller head tube for a more stable and comfortable ride.

Gravel Cycling in Denmark

Actually, we Danes have always practised gravel cycling – just without calling it by its trending name.  We have for decades cycled in our many forest, not on a gravel bike, as we know it today, but on mountain bikes or for a minority of people on cyclocross bikes.

We don’t have endless forests like they have in Sweden. We don’t have any high mountains like in the Alps. But we do have a lot of diverse natural areas spread out around our little country; flat and windblown moors in Jutland, hilly beech forests, spruce plantations and a countless number of fields – all embraced by a beautiful shoreline all the way around our little kingdom.

The majority of the Danish forests are owned by the state, which means, that they are being maintained by the state, so that they are always passable with good and well paved gravel roads. The forests are always open to the public -­‐ even at night as long as you show consideration to the animals. Furthermore, big areas are preserved as national parks that work like huge natural museums, that you can experience on your bike.

For gravel riders, it is a sport in itself to plan the optimal gravel routes, where as many of the natural areas are linked together with gravel roads and a minimum of paved tarmac. These routes are frequently shared on online forums and basis for many social rides, where locals are guiding foreigners around.

We Danes envy the Alpine countries, but appreciate what we have. And I love what we have.

What’s in it for me?

Adventures are the key for me. I have been running for many years. I started out participating in a bit of adventure racing, mountain biking, marathon running and then I got the trail running bug. I fell totally in love with the feeling of being alone with nature, running by myself through forests and fields. If I got a little lost – it made me feel like, I was on an adventure. So, I searched the unknown, both in distance and in new places.

My small everyday adventures got fuelled by dreams of bigger adventures and longer runs in the Alps and Pyrenees, where I participated in several ultra runs and stage races. The racing itself was not a motivation for me, it’s the adventure of the race that drives me. And that is exactly what I get every time I clip into my pedals, and head into the forest towards uncharted lands, where new adventures are waiting to be discovered.

For me, a long ride for a couple of hours on the gravel bike is now my go to two-wheeled machine. Not because I don’t like the fast feeling of a road bike, or the rush from a nice flow trail, but it can’t match the feeling of freedom I’m exposed to, when I swing away from the asphalt and into the forest. Here there is no traffic, that disrupts my ride, it’s just me and the natural environment alone all year round.

A gravel bike is so versatile, that I can use it for my weekend adventures in northern Zealand, but also for my daily commutes to work. I can go anywhere (almost) on my gravel bike, and I can go there fast and feeling comfortable.

My gravel bike is my two-­‐wheeled adventure vehicle. And Denmark is still packed with undiscovered territories, that I have to explore. I’m off – see you on the gravel roads!

Denmark North + South f&b + cycling paths (+r)

Guest Post – Adventurous Parenting by Somerset ‘Dave’

Guest Post – Adventurous Parenting by Somerset ‘Dave’

I met Dave on one of my first adventures, to Switzerland with Dogtag when I was just getting my outdoorsy ‘wings’ and taste of getting out and living life to the full. Since then he has been on one big adventure himself, getting married and having a beautiful baby girl, Agnes. this is their story.

“Becoming a parent was the single most awesome adventure of my life. Those first moments, nights, days and weeks can’t be matched.

Myself and Alice, both have a keen love of the outdoors, we knew from the offset Agnes was in for an adventurous start to life. We wanted to work out the magic mix of getting outside, doing the things we love, whilst keeping family fun at the centre. Step one. We left the house within the first three days… At three weeks old we packed up Agnes and headed for canal life, staying on a boat for a week cruising our way along the Kennet and Avon Canal. Despite the limited use she had at the lock gates, we made it 10km along the canal. That might not seem far, but canal boats go very slowly especially when interrupted with frequent milk and poo stops. However we tested the formula of baby + outdoors = a lot of fun, despite the added challenge!

We tested this formula more and more, going away at weekends to see different friends and family, although these trips were all slightly easier than the canal boat trip, they built our confidence for the next big challenge!  This came in the form of camping… Agnes was 7 months old, the trip was to Guernsey and involved a medium length drive, with a baby who hates car seats and a trip on a ferry!

Camping was easy and made much simpler with co sleeping, which we had done from the start. We didn’t need to worry about a travel cot, she just snuggled down with us at night, (please look into the risks of doing this yourself, do so at your own discretion). She loved being that close to Nature and to us! The weekend away was a success!

The next big challenge, A 21 hour drive with an 8-month-old who still hated the car seat.

A few of us die hard adventurers decided we wanted to spend a week in the Alps together. Bring the mountain bikes, bring the hiking boots and definitely bring the kayaks, just like the good ol’days, but this time we were also taking the babies… What could possibly go wrong?! Really, we wanted to test and strike a balance of family fun and the gnarr of old.

Agnes still hates her car seat, despite sleeping in it all the way to the Alps and all the way back, with no problems. Check out how the trip went here!

Our next adventure involved a relatively short 12 hour drive to Islay. Islay is a truly beautiful island. An inner Hebridean gem, just off the coast of West Scotland with Jura a stone’s throw away. It’s really hard to put my thumb on exactly where Islay reminded me of. In fact, the scenery changes so quickly in such a small space, you could be on a white sandy beach one minute and a bog the next. One road I ran along looked like Dartmoor on one side and the lake district on the other!

The tone of the trip was a little different to the one in the summer sun. It was crisp and cold, filled with hikes, swims, runs and family fun. I did manage to get out in some 9 ft surf though in my kayak…

Take a look at my video to get a real feel of the beauty of this place!

A Dram of Islay from Somerset Productions on Vimeo.

So, does it actually make much difference travelling and adventuring with a baby? Not really, it just needs more planning, nappy changes and stops. Adventuring this year helped us understand that having a baby actually enhances experiences in so many ways, you see things you wouldn’t stop to notice before, pretty little flowers, wood ant nests, little warbling streams! Now I’m not saying go out and proliferate… adventures are still fun without babies, but what I am saying is that the pre-determined belief that your life as you know its ends in all forms when you have a baby, just isn’t true. In fact, you can do everything you did before, just with more planning and sleep deprivation. Who knows what else we will do with the poor gal. All I know is that plenty more adventures await!

Guest Post – Cycling the Carretera Austral by Tara Papworth

Guest Post – Cycling the Carretera Austral by Tara Papworth

Happy January! Below is my first guest blog of the New year! I hope you enjoy it, here is an introduce from Tara a.k.a Paps.

I’m Paps, thirty-something and loving life. After a life crisis at 30 where I ditched ‘normal life’ and ran off around the world to see what was out there, I now mix a bit of running, a bit of cycling, a bit of travel, a bit of routine, a bit of community, a bit of volunteering, a bit of work, a bit of this, a bit of that, and lots of fun.

It’s Christmas 2016 and I’m running full pelt through Madrid airport to catch a connecting flight that’s about to leave (I’d already missed my original one due to delays) to take me to Santiago, Chile. I eventually arrive to find my luggage didn’t make it. I’m not surprised; delays and me catching a different flight meant it was unlikely to be on the same airplane. But I didn’t expect 4 days later to still not have my bag, and no one able to tell me where it was.

I’d come to Chile to cycle the Carretera Austral, Chile’s Route 7, a road that runs 1,240 kilometers (770 mi) from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins through rural Patagonia. In that bag was all my gear. And I mean all. All my cycling kit, my camping kit, clothes, first aid kit, cooking equipment, toiletries, toothbrush etc. All I had was the one set of clothes I travelled in and my electronics. Luckily I hadn’t lost my bike, as we were hiring those in Chile. After many fruitless, head-banging phone calls to the airline, I resigned myself to the fact my bag wasn’t going to turn up because no-one knew where it was, seemingly lost forever.

Not doing the trip was never an option, and luckily my cycling buddy extraordinaire Helen had some kit we could both use (cooking, first aid kit, toolkit). So, armed with my credit card, I bought the very basic kit I could get away with having (tent, sleeping bag, cycling shorts etc.) and tried not to think about the carefully selected kit as a result of weeks of research sat in my bag somewhere between Spain and Chile and the many extra ££ now spent. “Just think of the stories that might come out of this” messaged one of my friends. I laughed, but she wasn’t the one sat in a hotel in Chile wearing 99p pants.

So on January 1st, after broken sleep with being woken up by what sounded like gunshots and explosions (but were really New Years Eve fireworks), and horrific sunburn from a day’s exploring without regard to quite how strong the sun was, Helen and I wobbled out of Puerto Montt on our loaded bikes without much food as we hadn’t realised all shops shut on New Year’s Eve as well as the 1st. Luckily, we passed a small bakery on the way out that didn’t care about public holidays and filled our bags up with ham, cheese and bread, a meal that didn’t last long as a staple lunch item due to the bread being drier and more powdery than a mouthful of talcum powder (this was later replaced with frankfurter sausages in tortilla wraps, which were, quite frankly, lunch of the gods).

At the first [slight] hill we had to push the bikes, and it was at this point we realised it might be more challenging than we first thought. 70% of the route is unpaved ripio (gravel) and here we were, pushing bikes up a smooth tarmac gradient.

Negotiating ferries is essential in the first part of the ride as there are a few bodies of water to cross. There’s not much to it really – buy the ticket, walk your bike on, tie it to something secure on the side of the boat, have a sit down and then do all that in reverse when reaching the other side. Until it came to the two-ferry trip where you have to get two boats and get across a 10km bit of land in between. Somehow, in a heavy-rain-and-lots-of-people melee where all bike and foot passengers have to hitch a ride with vehicle passengers, we managed to lose our bikes in the back of a lorry which ended up on a different ferry and then subsequently drove off with our bike and all our gear. Yes, that’s right, all. Again. For the second time in the space of a few days, I had lost everything I owned, bar the cycling gear I was wearing and my mobile phone.

What else to do but laugh, right? Hysterically. Using the power of mime and one ferry worker who spoke a few words of English, the Carabineros de Chile (Police) were called and the situation explained. Put back on the ferry for many hours, we were generously given hot food and something to drink in the crew room, then, after having to jump across to another ferry in the middle of the ocean, we ended up in the back of a Chilean couple’s car with instructions to take us to the Police Station in the next town, 60km away. At least it was dry and warm in the car, with the weather having taken a turn, raining non-stop for the last two days. I knew I shouldn’t have skipped the ‘Chilean weather’ research in favour of deciding what colour socks to take.

When you think that everything is gone, the moment your eyes set sight on it again is nothing short of miraculous. So when we saw both our bikes with the now-familiar red and blue Ortlieb panniers shining like beacons outside the police station in the dark, we both actually gasped, screeched and jumped up and down like we’d just won the lottery. We had no idea what the police officer, or two random men were saying, or why they were shaking our hands, or what had happened with the bikes, but we were too excited to care and jumped on the bikes and rode off into the sunset (well, a nearby hostel).

Eager to get going, we had a fabulous day with renewed enthusiasm (despite the still-constant rain and my chain which kept coming off) and spent that night bedding down in a Blair Witch-style abandoned house, happy to be warm and dry but unsure as to whether we’d wake up in the morning. Luckily we did. This area of Chile is actually one of the safest (and remote) places you can be. We’d finally started to hit the ripio and get away from civilisation. We’d also started to hit hills, lush rainforests and could see snow-capped mountains in the distance.

A couple of days later and we hit the Hill of Horror. A hill that seemed to go on and on and on. And it was pelting it down with rain, hard. The downhill was so cold and wet my hands froze and cramped and my brakes were down to the metal; I honestly thought I’d end up a mangled mess at the side of the road after falling off and would have celebrated not doing so had I not been so cold and wet at the bottom I couldn’t stop shivering and my teeth chattering.

 

A night of heavy rain later I woke up to things being a bit damp and claustrophobic in my tent and realised my brand new tent had a broken pole and effectively collapsed in on me. My mobile phone had broken the day before, I was still cold, wet and hungry, and it was still raining. This was the final straw. I just couldn’t face cycling that day, and neither could Helen, so we hitch-hiked with the bikes the 150km we still had to go to the city of Coyhaique for a couple of days off the bike and to buy more [warm] clothes, fix my tent and do a bit of bike maintenance.

Two days of new kit, being warm and dry, meeting Pirate Mike, organising ourselves better with food, and the best egg and chips I’ve ever had, we were itching to rock and roll again, in the bloody rain if we had to (we had bought snazzy ponchos, so screw you rain). Ironically, it was to be the last we saw of cycling in rain for a couple of weeks, much to our satisfaction.

The next couple of weeks brought the kind of joy cycle touring is all about; amazing views, an abundance of sounds and smells, the kind of tiredness at the end of the day which can only be attributed to a days hard cycling and constant eating. Waking up to the sound of a woodpecker, wild camping in a spot tucked away from the road and still miles away from anyone. Applying chamois cream half naked by the road in the sunshine. Scenery so beautiful in layers of colours it looks like a painting. Whizzing down a hill, the world spread out in front of you as far as you can see and knowing it’s your own legs that got you there with every pedal, every hill, every bend. Stripping everything back to the basics; food, water, shelter (and chocolate).

Cans of coke become the most precious thing, and even the most basic food becomes the best thing on earth. Legs burn with white-hot pains with the effort of going uphill, giving me goosebumps in the sun. Laughter and chatter while cycling alongside stunningly blue lakes which afront the jagged, snow-capped mountain ranges.

Day after day of cycling on the corrugated gravel with heavy panniers took its toll on the pannier racks. Both racks snapped in multiple places, held together right until the end by duct tape. Each day when finding a wild camp spot, we’d look at each other in amazement that we’d made another day with our luggage staying on the back of the bikes, and add another layer of duct tape, like some kind of reverse pass-the parcel, the prize being to carry our belongings another day.

With each kilometre that passed, we became acutely aware that the adventure was drawing to an end and we were getting closer to Villa O’Higgins, the end of the road (literally). The last few days were a mix of feelings; increasing excitement that we’d actually make it and an incredible sadness that soon, it would all be over. I think my bike felt the same, and on the last day decided to throw me off onto the ripio, where I left a big layer of my arm skin on the rocks as a souvenir.  Undeterred and dripping with blood, we cycled on with one of the best day’s cycling to finally reach Villa O’Higgins in a haze of excitement, cravings for a cold can of coke and slight disbelief that yes, we’d actually done it. We’d actually bloody gone and done it!

Things I learned:

  • You don’t need all the kit you might think (but some of it might just make life that little bit nicer, easier, or more luxurious).
  • I’m not keen on cycling in rain, continuously.
  • You don’t need more than 3 pairs of knickers for a bike trip – half the time you don’t wear any at all.
  • Buffs are one of life’s staple items and should always be carried in hand luggage.
  • People are kind, helpful and generous.
  • Always take duct tape on adventures.

Follow Tara’s blog here.

 

2018 a year of possibilities

2018 a year of possibilities

Back in January 2017 I sat down and worked out what my goals for the year would be. I set myself seven goals:

  • Whistler heli-ski for the first time – Went ski-touring instead
  • 24 hour mountain bike pairs race – Didn’t come off
  • Complete the South Downs Way – not quite!
  • 24 hour solo mountain bike race – completed and came 2nd whoop!
  • Walk up Snowden with Martyn – in the diary for 2018
  • Bike Snowden and film it – Swapped to cairngorms bike pack in 2018
  • Bike packing adventure with Mum in the UK – not quite!

What I learnt in 2017 is that goal need to be movable and sometimes things just don’t happen and that is okay. I think the trouble was I set too many ‘fitness’ goals for one year considering I also had the goal of growing my cycle coaching business Pedal 2 Pedal.

There is only so many hours in the day and in 2018 I plan to make the most of them to create change in my own life and make the most of the opportunities I have. To help me I have started using a Best Self diary which helps you set goals and weekly milestones in order to keep focused and on track. So far I’m on week 2 and it seems to be very helpful and I would certainly recommend it.

For 2018 I have set myself three goals which cover three areas of my life and follow my ethos for living these are:

  1. Never stop learning – in 2018 I will complete my L3 Pilates instructor course which will allow me to educate others in Pilates.
  2. Healthy body, healthy mind – in 2018 I am focusing on building my fitness level to improve my power to weight ratio and also increase my endurance ability on the bike and also running. I want to try new adventures on two feet and two wheels so plan to bike pack around the Cairngorms in May and find a running challenge as well. Leave me a comment with your ideas!
  3. Be creative – for 2018 Pedal 2 Pedal (my cycle coaching business) is taking a side step into adults coaching, I have already done several one to ones but now also offer tailored coaching for adults on improving their mountain biking skills. I have already sold out my first women’s weekender and cannot wait to develop more ways to help others get outside and explore the countryside.
  4. Challenge my comfort zone – Mont Blanc, Martyn and I are preparing to climb one of the 7 summits in August.

Good luck for 2018 I hope it is an adventurous one with plenty of possibilities to get out and explore the countryside. Thank you to Grip Grab and Dogtag for supporting my journey into 2018.

Share your goals for 2018 with me on Facebook.

Soggy footpaths, frosty mornings, wellies and bobble hats!

Soggy footpaths, frosty mornings, wellies and bobble hats!

Last weekend Martyn, Luna and I layered up and headed out to explore the countryside. We started our adventure in a car park on the west side of the A286 on the South Downs Way near the village of Cocking.

From the car park, we turned west along the South Downs Way (SDW), on a wide surfaced track. As we climbed steadily pass Hill Top Farm, another 400m further and we were nearly at the top of the slope with sheep fields surrounding us, we turned left, leaving the SDW, passing a large chalk ball (one of several in this area made by the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy).

We couldn’t see much because of the drizzle, but on a good day you can clearly see Goodwood racecourse over to your left. Turning back around to survey where we came from the view over varied farmland was stunning, even in the drizzle. Walking into magical woodland we followed our directions “turning left at the next the three finger post turn left onto a wide chalky path.”

We walked further into the wood staying on the main track. The wood was alive with nature from various bird species, squirrels and deer. Luna was quite disgruntled not being allowed to pursue the deer.

Gradually the forest enclosed with tall spruce trees, after about 800m we reached an open area with hunter’s hideouts, not so hidden in the tree canopies.

Heading down a steep bank the path was covered in leaves and we were not sure we were on track, Luna seemed to know where she was going and soon enough there was a blue sign which indicated we were on track, well done Luna!

With our bellies rumbling we were now near our half way stop at Singleton and the Partridge Inn.

With beautiful beech trees to our left, spruce on our right it felt like something out of the Faraway Tree Books I read as a child. We kept wandering through the trees until our path popped out into vast views of farmers’ fields as far as our eyes could see. We took the path to the left down the farmers track towards a lonely isolated house.

Our path ran through Colworth Farm and then took a left back up through varied fields full of crops. We could see Singleton below and were excited about our lunch stop at The Partridge Inn. We followed the path down the right-hand side of a meadow, the path was steep and at the next stile Luna had to be carried by Martyn, as she was too big to go under the stile and too much of a wimp to go over it!

A steady march through the mud over the disused railway bridge, through cow fields until our last gate brought us out in Singleton. Finally the pub stop!

This dog friendly pub was a great find. With a big roaring fire and delicious sandwiches in front of us the idea of going outside to finish our walk was not

appealing…

We left the pub around 3.15pm with only 45 minutes of light left we would probably be finishing in the dark… little did we know the adventure that was about to unfold.

 

Walking down the little lane to the side of the pub, just after a river crossing and before the school, we turned left at a signpost on a wide track, passing a cemetery it was very muddy!

The path steeply climbed an open grassy field until we reached another wooden gate. This new open field had a wood to the right so we headed towards it and through another stile where sheep were grazing, with a Levin Down information panel on our left we were sure we were in the right place…

Our path descended down through black thorn bushes, as we reached the bottom we had a niggling feeling we had gone wrong, but where? Our instructions had stopped making sense and so we back tracked up the hill and took a different path, this turned out to be the off-piste route through scrub land and prickly bushes, a dead end.

 

 

 

Time ticking on we continued into a field with ponies grazing through a new gate and over a large grassy pasture the light was dusky and we couldn’t find a way out. Reaching the far side, google maps was needed to get us back on track! Martyn’s excellent map reading skills we found our path,  a sign post showed the direction to each neighboring village which helped get us back on track. As a double check, the path had a wire fence on the left and a hedge on the right, which was mentioned in our instructions. Heading towards the dark and mysterious forest with only 30% battery left we waited until in the pitch black before turning on the torch to light our way.

Counting my steps Martyn and I walked silently through the trees aware of the silence and stillness around us apart from the odd cracking tree branch, what was lurking in the pitch black? After 700m we entered a clearing and the eerie light from the moon cast shadows and made the trees look very spooky indeed. Looking back from where we had come was like looking into a well. Crossing the chalky path and on into the dark woodlands Luna was on high alert watching the darkness, ears pricked and aware of every sound and smell around her, she stuck close to my leg as if she could sense my nerves.

We kept going until we reached the South Downs Way; from here we could not go wrong. Knowing this section well from biking the views are incredible in every direction. In the dark we just enjoyed the peacefulness of walking through the countryside just the three of us, our road lit by torch.

This mini adventure right on our door step, was a cheap and fun day out spending time with the people I love in the fresh air and stunning South Downs. I would highly recommend a trip to the South Downs.

Guest Post – Lee Johnson Alps Epic Adventure

Guest Post – Lee Johnson Alps Epic Adventure

In 2016 a couple of friends had completed the first ever Alps Epic, having followed their progress I decided this was the event for me in 2017, so when I noticed the early bird offer of €500 I entered straight away.

The Alps Epic is a pairs event but I hadn’t even thought that far ahead yet and just entered with a plan to sort the partner bit out later.

After posting on Facebook that I had entered I got a message from a friend who I had been riding with a while with a local club and within an hour he had entered as well and that was the partner issue sorted.

The next few months didn’t really go to plan with training and I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t anywhere near as well prepared as I could have been.

Jump forward to June and after a full day at work the car was packed up and off we headed to Dover to get a 10pm ferry to France, I then drove through the night until we reached a town called La Plange which was around a 4-hour drive from the race start, we had 2 nights here before then driving down to the start town of Montgenvre.

One of the first things we noticed was how cold it was at 1800m plus above sea level where we were staying which got me concerned as I didn’t really have any warm clothing with me except a Gillet and a waterproof top, so on route to Montgenvre we stopped off in Val D’isere and I managed to get myself a warm top.

The sights on route driving through the Alps were amazing and the #cantcopythealps is very fitting, for anyone that has never been it should be a must on your list of places to visit.

We arrived in Montgenvre and found our accommodation for the night, this night was €50 for the night and included food as well which was perfect so no hassle as this would be where we would stay for the next 3 nights.

We completed our registration and collected our packs and numbers.

Stage 1 was a short Prologue stage and didn’t start till the afternoon, I found this really tough, a combination of the altitude and heat, yes after all my concern a couple of days earlier of it being cold, it wasn’t it was really warm, mid to high 30’s every day.

After finishing stage one I noticed my chest felt tight, I thought nothing of it as it had happened before and I had been told by the doctor that it was probably just a cramp and nothing to worry about, it settled within mins so I thought nothing of it.

The next day was the first proper stage, loop back to Montgenerve of 61 Km and 2750m of climbing starting with a 7km climb.

All started off well and we got into a good rhythm on the climb until James chain snapped, after quickly fitting a power link we carried on and soon reached the first feed station, we didn’t take much as both still had a fair amount in our camel backs and there was another feed station in 20Km, so off we went onto the next climb before our first taste of the proper descents, tight switch back after tight switch back.

We passed through the time cut off point and started the climb to the next feed station, this is where I really began struggle and noticed I had the route sweeper and medic for company on an Ebike.

I pushed on to the feed station and by the time I made it there I was not in a good way, I sat down in the shade and took on some fluids and food as the medic checked me over before telling me I needed a drip as I was very dehydrated.

 

They called down to race HQ and another medic arrived and took over, allowing him to carry on following the route, James also carried on and finished the stage.

Meanwhile I had a drip put in at the feed station and was taken back down to the race finish in a 4×4.

At Race HQ I was given a once over by the event doctor and ate his salted crisps before being given the okay to carry on the next day.

The next day the plan was a different one and I took 3 litres of Torq Energy in my camel back and 2 x 750ml of Hypotonic drink in a bottle, by the first feed station a lot of this was gone, we filled everything back up and carried on. Unfortunately, we missed the cut off by a matter of minutes at the next feed station and couldn’t carry on the stage.

Day 4 was a much better day and we started well, apart from forgetting my gloves which led to some sunburn on the backs of my hands. We settled into a long climb at the start and the descents again were incredible and like nothing I have ridden before, this included a full on bucking bronco moment at 30mph that I somehow managed to keep hold of. The 29er carbon Hardtail was defiantly not the bike of choice for this event.  We completed stage 4 in 7 hours 40 minutes.

Unfortunately, I was still struggling with getting my breath and even walking upstairs or a slight slope was hard work let alone riding a bike for 7-8 hours, I was also bringing up all kinds of funky stuff when I coughed! So, after a chat with James and the event doctor I decided to miss stage 5 and see how I felt after that.

So, I spent day 5 helping the organisers with laundry and whatever else I could do to help, unfortunately I was still not feeling any better for stage 6 so I sat it out and let James ride with a couple of guys from Oxfordshire with a team name of the Gnarly Nutters.

I was gutted to have missed the finish of the event but sometimes you just know something isn’t right.

The after party was great with lots of free beer and a huge BBQ.  The food and hospitality throughout the event was incredible and everything was taken care of from your laundry to your bike.

At the end of every stage you racked your bike, it was then taken and washed before getting a once over from the team of mechanics before being taken to the over night secure storage area, all you had to do was check your tyre pressures and lube the chain and away you go again.

There was also massages at the end of the stage all included in the price and a huge buffet of food to refuel you along with an evening meal and huge and varied breakfast every day.

Everything was thought of and done for you, all you had to do was ride your bike, eat, sleep and repeat.

On returning from the event I visited my GP and was given an Inhaler and have since been diagnosed with exercise induced Asthma.

This is defiantly an event that I will be coming back to again maybe as a mixed pair with an eye on a podium.

I have learnt so much from this event and hopefully it will all help me in my next challenge.

Next year I am taking on the Transpyr solo, but I’m not making the same mistakes again.  I was nowhere near well enough prepared physically and the work on that has already started with the help of my new coach and Mountain Bike Stage Race and Marathon Racing legend, Sally Bigham, who is really starting to put me through my paces and will have me in the best shape I can be in come June 2018.

I have also changed bikes and I’m now on a Santa Cruz Tallboy 2 full Suss with dropperpost as opposed to a Cube carbon hardtail 29er.

Camping and Mountaineering