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 www.hernehillvelodrome.com/ 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.



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