The weekend was a training washout

Panic sets in

Miles cycled over the weekend – zero

An entire weekend went by and the closest I got to cycling was looking at cycle cameras.

If you go to Google Earth and then get directions from Marrakech to Oukaimeden, you will get some perspective on the journey.  I have a sore neck looking at the climb.

Next week – I am determined to  cycle more (Today is Weds and I have managed 30 miles on the flat)








Plan B

There is indeed a Plan B!

The absence of a stoker for the tandem has made it as impractical to cycle as it is to air-freight it.

So, allowing for my long emotional attachment to this particular marvel of engineering, the amount of miles I have ridden them – Dunwich Dynamos and all – it gives me great pleasure to announce Plan B(rompton).

Yup, the Brompton is the new steed for this challenge. I may not ruin my Oratory jacket (yes, I do own one) to be too on brand, however, I think my nearly 380g of 6 speed, P-type tourer will be more than up for the job.

And, thinking about it, could be a good bit of marketing for this West London outfit – makes a change for the commuter convenience, suits and boots image that they tend to be stereotyped by.

Imagine all the big boy teams with their pre-training trip and a week’s localisation in the Atlas (yes, it’s true) been juxtaposed to the Brompton rocking up on the plane the previous evening, being unfolded and doing the do… Gotta be worth a small consideration sponsorship-wise?

Anyone know who heads up their marketing team?

Week 3 and 4

Hmm, the last fortnight has flown by. There has been a lot of work and some bad behavior against all New Year’s good intentions.

Somewhere among this there has been some cycling, Mr Gurney came to the party in style by immediately breaking a bike, my usual Brompton with child seat and passenger was accompanied by the less usual squeaks from said passenger at the snow. A few runs up Highgate Hill West and Swains Lane which, as usual, hurt (I anyone finds my lungs…). And some small amount of time on the trainer. Despite all this, the majority of cycling related activity has been regretting all the broken good intentions…

On the bright side a weekend of sledging counts as exercise that involves climbing. Then again, the weekend off to celebrate a birthday with old friends – although the birthday girl is not as old as the rest of us – involved no more that climbing out of a cab while under the influence…


  • Strava miles – maths gave out, but in the region of 90
  • Off Strava – 3.9
  • Turbo trainer – 1.75 hours (looks weird in decimals, but could not be bothered to write three-quarters out in long hand and can not do 3/4 so that it looks right)
  • Diet / Drink – Generally good with the odd bursts of spectacular excess by way of a counter-balance
  • Weight – I think I need to invest in some new scales – my current new set seem to have a variance of +/-1 (stone that is). This may well explain the initial dramatic results
  • General fitness – hmmm, moving onwards and, I hope upwards…

Week 4 for Mr G

Week 4

I read the second volume of  “100 Greatest Cycling Climbs” which is aptly titled “Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs” and the best advice it offers is “to climb hills effectively, you need to be light – Fat people find it very hard to climb hills”.  This is followed by “oh and make sure you have a light bike  – shed unnecessary weight, like brakes etc etc”.

After last week’s flurry of exericse, I was convinced that I must have shed at least 10kg .  I hopped on the scales and to my utter disgust discovered that not one of Europe’s finest grammes had left the temple which is now my body.

FACT – Drinking beer and red wine patently does not make you fat.

FACT – Exercise as a method of losing weight does not work

Here is the week

21st Jan

Cycyled to work on trusty steed

No opportunity to skive off during lunch

Last week’s posting has generated considerable interest from the Linked in commuity so hopefully the money will start coming in  – THERE IS A PLEASE DONATE BUTTON AT THE |TOP OF |BLOG..

Thought about the turbo trainer but was encouraged to partake in DIY

22nd Jan

Miles cycled 0 but did investigate hotels in Morocco

Hotels booked 0

Today was an all day offsite with the promise of copious amount of alcohol afterwards.

Diet coke and a lemonade for me!!!!!

Turbo miles NONE

23rd  Jan

Usual jaunt into work

Cycled up and down Annerley Hill (Crystal Palace) twice – it was very slow and painful  – No need to get a cadence computer as I could count the RPM per minute.

24th Jan

Decided it was time to launch an ascent on Swains Lane (Highgate).  This is the nearest to the etape you can get in London.

It is about 1.2kmn long and has a max gradient of 18% – perfect Etape training

James Tuffs arrived on trusty Brompton and we set off to conquer   mount Swain.

Swains Lane truly is formidable. – OK Northerners, it’s just a road and yes it’s not cobbled and yes you don’t generally need oxygen or sherpas to carry your bike but to us London folk it’s scary.  It’s average gradient is 12% and there is a nasty 18% at the end.

Mr Gurney(me)  on his trusty cyclocross bike was struggling and half way up heard a worrying twang.  Oh no, he thought, my ligament, tendon, etc had snapped under the pressure.

Fear not, it was simply two spokes breaking.   That fantastic chain of cycle shops, it transpired had fitted the wrong sized spokes.

Meanwhile the Ouka Beast (Mr. Tuffs) was ascending Mt Swain like he was riding on the flat.

NOTE to all you mockers of the small wheels, the gearing on a Brompton is simply fantastic.  If anyone from Bronpton is reading this blog, I’d seriously consider sponsoring the Tuffcall cycling team on this epic journey.  Think of the publicity opportunities – TuffCall team take the Touring Brompton across the Atlas Mountains.  More than happy to take photos at top of ascent in return for a small consideration.

Anyway reached the top, suprised I could still breathe and we set off down again.  Technically this is against the law as it’s a one way street but everyone seems to do it.  Noticed a person on a mountain bike climbing up with little evidence of pain.  Perhaps a mountain bike (the clue is in the name) should be considered for this ride.  I will investigate further.

Upon reaching level ground, what does the Ouka Beast suggest – yup round two.  I immediately pretended that I had an urgent phone call to make and declined.  Phew close one there.

Quicker than expected, he returned.  How does an unfit 17st man riding what is essentially a fold up commuter bike do it.  BROMPTON you need to sponsor us – the opportunities are endless. – Tour de France 2014 – Cav and Wiggo riding for team Brompton.

Returned to work and recovered with a large bowl of pasta.

25th Jan

Shock horror – The scales have spoken. I have lost weight.  2lbs have gone.  I am in the zone.

Cycled to work on bike 2.   This is actually the better bike but it’s always broken.

Today however, it too is in the zone.  No clangs, grinds or mechanical glitches.

The Ouka Beast cannot make Swains Lane so I seriously think about giving it a miss.  But No, I am in the zone.

I “depart for a meeting at Bankside” and head off to Highgate.

Ascent one went surprisingly well and being a law abiding citizen, I cycle down Highgate West Hill.

What to do?

If the next car to go past is maroon colour, I’ll try a second lap.  Guess what, the last surviving Hillman Avenger which only came in maroon goes up Swains Lane.

Ascent two – I am in uncharted territory. Extremely difficult but I made it.  A carbon fibre bike is defintiely easier but I need more gears.


26th Jan

Unlikely to be any cycling as mum and brother is visiting.


Starting to look forward to the Ouka but somewhat worried that it’s exactly three months away..




I’ve signed up

As you will have read,  encouraged by James’ plan to cycle the Marrakech Etape on a tandem and fortified by copious amounts of red wine, I paid my 60 euros to ride with the best.  It coincides with my birthday so I thought combine the two.    He has also rather foolishly allowed me to contribute to the blog so I feel it only right and proper that I get blogging.  My 1st ever blog contribution. This will be a long one and then I’ll try to give a training summary on a weekly basis

1st off, I googled Etape.


n. 1. A public storehouse.
2. (Mil.) Supplies issued to troops on the march;
3. In Russia, a prison or stockade for the confinement of prisoners in transit.

Not quite sure where cycling fits in but I have been reliably assured that it more commonly refers to an event where the masses are allowed to ride a stage of the Tour de France.

Ah Ha, it now starts to make sense – the tour is going to Africa and not Corsica.

The Marrakech Etape’s website, says the following:

“This is an inclusive event (no aggressive broom wagon) with 2 routes to choose from: 140km and 60km. The full ascent will challenge the serious amateur or even professional rider, as well as passionate and determined cyclists who just wants to do this monster of a climb with the exhilaration of the descent”. Apparently, the broom wagon is a truck that scoops up “slow riders” so I’m not sure about the wisdom of its omission.  Might have a word with the organiser.

Being someone who likes to be prepared, I’ve done a spot of digging, – The 2013 Tour de France will climb Mt. Ventoux and I will be climbing Mt. Oukaïmeden.  Ventoux has approximately 1600m of altitude  gain and Mt. Oukaïmeden has an altitude  gain of over 2000m.  What does that mean?  No idea, but it sounds like I’m climbing to a ski resort.

I’ve consulted with a couple of friends of mine at the Dulwich Paragon and there was much merriment.  To be accurate, it ranged from full on guffaws to serious concerns about my mental state.    I,  apparently, do not fall into any of the categories suggested by the promotional advertising. It would appear that a cyclist who has developed a liking for track cycling – Herne Hill Velodrome and a hatred of hill climbing is not their target audience.

Given the level of training that Mr. Tuffs seems to have signed up to, I confess to being more than a little worried, especially considering his prowess on a Brompton.

So, down to preparation and training.

Week 1


Went on the wagon on Jan 1st and much to my surprise am still on said wagon.  Absolutely no effect on weight (beer has been replaced by chocolate biscuits).

Dusted off turbo trainer and remembered it was broken – now fixed

Bought a book – Another 100 great hill climbs

Very scary reading

Fitted bike to turbo trainer and promptly fell off – need a special skewer

Skewer fitted

Miles cycled this week – 17

Week 2

Back to work so actually cycled over 80 miles during the course of the week.

Printed out the route of the Etape and discovered it comprises of  40km of climbing with an average gradient of 7%  – That is like spending all day cycling up Highgate West Hill without the down part and certainly without the option of stoping at the Flask PH for  a rest.

Discovered that Mr. Tuffs has made two ascents of Swains Lane in Highgate – This is a formidable achievement.  For any Northerners out there, this is a mere pimple compared  to the hills ooop North but to a London person, this is the highest and steepest mountain in all London – Chapeau I say.

There was a plan to cycle up Swains Lane on Friday but this was curtailed due to work.

However, did cycle past home and up to Crystal Palace.

Saturday – took oldest son to the velodrome and then spent a couple of hours pedalling up and down the hills around Crystal Palace. – It’s a start!!!!

Week 3

14th Jan

Still on the wagon although very very tempted and zero weight loss although confirmed chocolate biscuits are the cause so they are off the menu.

Cycled 15 miles (work and pretty flat)

Had a spell on the turbo but too cold in the cellar.

15th Jan

No cycling – had to do school run

16th Jan

Cycled 15 miles (work and pretty flat)

Convinced myself that more expensive wheels are needed if I am to summit the Ouka

Spent large chunk of evening looking at wheels. – didn’t buy any

Time on turbo -0

17th Jan

Cycled 15 miles (work and pretty flat)

Discovered that it is quite problematic taking a bike on a plane  – you need a large box.

Spent large chunk of evening looking at bike boxes

Time on turbo -0

18th Jan

Fitted new pedals to bike so I could wear my Christmas present super warm cycle boots – They are brilliant but new pedals are taking some getting used to.

Cycled like a mad thing to work and hurt knee – oh dear

Booked flights to Marrakech – due to a number of contributing factors – I’m flying out on a Saturday, cycling on Sunday and flying back Monday.  So much for birthday excitement. Still, given that Marrakech is officially “dry”, probably not  a bad thing.

Rented bike box

Started snowing  so ride home was interesting to say least.

Time on turbo -0

19th Jan

Spent an hour on turbo – Hooray whilst watching a video of someone cycling up La Marmotte.  I have quite a way to go….

20th Jan.

My training has peaked.  As well as this cycling lunacy, I’m supposed to be learning to ice skate.  All of the family except me are reasonably good and Sunday is skating day.  Well not today.  Today, with snow on the ground, my plans to go to Box Hill are scuppered (hooray).  Instead, there are two hours of 70s Dub Reggae on Spotify and I’m planning a turbo trip to Ventoux.  Can’t find the video so it’s La Marmotte again.  Managed a very steady 1.5 hours, which is polite for slow.

My plans for a second evening session turned into 2 hours of snowballing and sledging at Crystal Palace.


While on the subject…

Henry Peacock’s article on the ‘Ouka Monster’ is featured today on Cyclo Sport.—uk-interest-is-rising.html

UK interest in the event is apparently on the up and he currently mentions this team at the end of the first paragraph – straight after reference to the Dulwich Paragon CC and Kingston Wheelers.

After them is pretty much how it will be on the day as well, it has to be said.

Thanks for the mention!