London to Brighton

After a somewhat hectic couple of weeks, one half of team Tuffcall, decided it was time for the annual pilgrimage to Brighton. Traditionally, this is done in either a snowstorm or a typhoon – good training for Marrakech; but this year the weather gods were on our side.  Judging by our condition caused by the night before and indeed on the morning itself, they obviously decided we needed a little help.

The usual 7:30am start tuned into the usual 09:30 start and armed with one of Chris’ usual useless set of directions we headed off into West Sussex.

Navigating by pubs, we turned left at the Three Kings, right at the Plough, until finally we left hectic London and entered the tranquil English countryside.  Yep, we were lost.  The Shovel and bucket had been tuned into a nail bar and we had missed a turning.

Tuffs was in dire need of food and fortune was indeed on our side.  A small store come off licence came into view and we duly entered.  Two MAMILs in your shop is probably enough of a shock for any shopkeeper but to hear them discussing the merits of jelly babies over wine gums was probably too much.  I’m sure they thought we were ranting in some strange language and probably plotting some foul deed which needed copious amounts of sugar based products, The police were of course summoned, but we explained out way out of the police car.

Fuelled by Rowntrees  finest and a large selection of chocolate confectionary we headed of in search of hills, well actually by now, beer was most definitely on the agenda. Energy bars, energy drinks etc.  are all very good in their own right but when you are in the zone, only jelly babies or at a push fruit pastilles will do.

The route developed a theme, climb  a hill, curse, go down the other side and proclaim that it wasn’t too bad.

Eventually, the Dyke entered the line of vision.  Only Devils Dyke stood in the way of the beach, the traditional burger on the beach and most importantly of all, Red Stripe on the beach.

For those who have ever cycled or contemplated cycling to Brighton, the mere mention of Devils Dyke can instil fear into the rider. Well, it’s not actually too bad. The bit that is really annoying, is a house called HighPoint.  You could be forgiven for thinking that you had ascended the notorious Dyke and could then roll into Brighton. Well, it’s not.  It’s not even half way! Every year I take his / her sign and throw it in the bin and every year they mount another one.  This year I am writing to Brighton and Hove Council demanding the house is renamed.

Soon afterwards, we arrived in Brighton and were created to lovely sunshine.

Thank you weather gods for not throwing at us rain, hail and the usual snow.

Being creatures of habit, we found our usual watering hole, had our usual burgers and beer and promptly   fell asleep on the train back into London.



For those who enjoy stats, I cycled 125km at an average speed of 23km/h, ate two packs of jelly babies, a mars bar, a bottle of lucozade, a rather mediocre burger and two pints of red stripe.

I believe, we climbed a max gradient of 16.5% and effectively cycled 1/4 of the Ouka.

Arrived tired, but relieved the training had finally started


Segment Stats

4.2 km
Elev Gain:
124 m
Elev Change:
70 m
Avg Grade:
1.7 %
Max Grade:
16.7 %
Climb cat:
Min Elevation:
114 m
Max Elevation:
184 m

Training has commenced



In true style, the training for this year’s Marrakech etape has started later than last year and strangely later than the year before.

Flights are booked I think and I recall booking a hotel – can’t recall which one though.

Beer consumption has resumed to  normal levels and the restorative powers of Alc O hol. have cured the cold that plagued me in January – begone foul germs.

The broken toes have set although not straight but the shoulder injury means I can’t raise my left arm above my head for any length of time.   I also dislocated my thumb kayaking but that popped back in.  So, usual high level of fitness. The good news is that my bike has been fixed

We have also expanded the team – welcome Tim and hello once again to Henry, no longer stoking  but riding solo.

I actually went on the 1st ride of the year last week and may have suffered minor frostbite.  A very slow and painful 3 hours of cycling on frosty roads with a wind chill that had only the hardiest venturing outside.



However, I’m reminded of the 1st Etape when we experienced blizzard like conditions, so winter training is to be recommended.

Well,  That’s the excuses out of the way now its  time to raise some money.

Middle aged men cycle up a mountain to a ski resort, which is higher than Ventoux ( a famous mountain in France, much loved by cyclists) and you get to laugh at the training antics / disasters along the way.  In return, all we ask for is some sponsorship.

Why, I hear you ask.

Well the Marrakech Atlas Etape  is organised for the benefit of Education For All, a Moroccan NGO. At present, few girls from rural communities in Morocco continue their education after primary school. College is not accessible to them for several reasons. To help tackle some of the issues, EFA are running boarding houses near secondary colleges, allowing some girls from rural families to continue their education

All donations are welcome and it’s very easy:

In return, we will post updates on a regular basis


mmmmm it’s getting closer


Tuffcall devotees,

After a week in the spa soaking up the healthy properties of Guinness, whiskey and potatoes, I feel rejuvenated and full of vim and vigour.

I took my bike over to Eire in an effort to catch up with my tandem riding fellow tuffcall team mates and planned to ride  a few of the Irish mountains.  The 1916 Easter uprising celebrations put paid to that and I think it would be accurate to say that the bike never got out of the bag.

However, it gets better.  In an effort to be efficient and progressive, I bought a cycle pump powered by soda stream cartridges – can pump a tyre up in seconds.  No waiting by the roadside for me. –

So, bike, and cartridges get to Eire OK, bike and cartridges should get to England back OK.

It transpires that what is OK to enter Eire  is covered by one rule, but what can leave Eire is covered by another rule.

Confused, I was…

Gas cartridges cannot be carried on flights from Eire to London, even if the bag they were packed in hasn’t been opened / emptied.

Suffice to say swearing at the baggage handler and calling him all manner of profanities does not assist your cause.

“fine, I’ll open the bag and chuck out the potential lethal offending items”had zero effect. You can’t open the bag because it’s air side and the bag can’t go on the plane because it’s full of gas canisters.

Net result, I flew home but bike didn’t.

Today, well  a few hours ago, I have driven to a god forsaken place called Holyhead which is 200 miles from LOndon to catch a ferry and then drive 200 miles from Dublin to an airport called Knock to collect my bike – without soda stream cartridges so I can then drive back to Dublin to catch a ferry to Hoylhead so I can then drive back to London so I can climb a load of hills in LOndon so I have a fighting chance of being able to ascend the Ouka without expiring.

You may sense frustration

So, if you haven’t sponsored us, please consider doing so.  It’s for a great cause and if nothing else youv’e got to admire our determination.


High Intensity Interval Training – Tuffcall update


It’s February 1st and approx 13 weeks before the Monster.

At least one of us is still on the wagon, although for how much longer

lech index


is very hard to say – A trip to Poznan in Poland followed by a trip to Eire will probably kill that virtuous attitude to training.

The tandem twins are struggling to master dual controls and the intrepid Silver Fox has lost his favourite wooly hat so training is on hold – outdoors anyway, which brings me to the main purpose of the post.

In the dim and distant past, spin classes were all the range in gyms up and down the country.  Pedal like crazy for a minute, have a rest and then repeat, over and over again. Did it work, no idea, haven’t set foot in a gym since I broke my ankle playing squash many years ago.  Anyway, unless you cycle for at least a day, it’s not real training. How can cycling indoors for 30 minutes be any use at all when you have to cycle up hill to a ski resort.

Fast forwards 20 years.  Spin is now HIIT and for the very serious there is Tabata – you do it in the comfort of your own shed or in some cases, the bilges of your boat.

Strap your self on, warm up, pedal like you are going to explode for 30s, have  60s rest and repeat. Today was day 1, I managed 4 reps (a technical term) before blacking out and hitting my head on the handlebars.

Tomorrow is theoretically a rest day, but I’ve set myself a target of 10 reps.

Does is work, apparently so. Professional cyclists, when not taking epo having been doing it for years.  Will it work for Team Tuffcall? Somehow I doubt I will feel confident enough to swap 4 hours grinding up and down Kent hills for 30m in a shed, listening to the radio but I’m going to give it a red hot go.


And for Henry, here is a link to the etape



IT’s that time again

Team Tuffcall are back.

Training has started

and in style.

A few gins, at breakfast, a tour of the Beefeater Gin factory and then a few beers followed by dinner at the Hawksmoor and a few more gins.

You may detect a theme, well I have been told by a leading cyclist that gin is the drink of the gods and as I’ll quite possibly be seeing a few gods after cycling up the Ouka again, I best be familiar with their tipple.

Beer and pies are off the menu (not including Stella), gin and tonic is on the menu.

Bring me my bike and tie me to the turbo trainer.



Time to pack up the bike

So, as some of you might be aware Team Tuffcall has taken training to a new level this year.

Team captain – James Tuffs has cycled 2,110km and elevated 12,275m – all this was completed in 121h

Commander Gurney has cycled 1,474km and elevated 15,362 m – in 77h

What does this tell us? – No idea, a good friend of mine has climbed 45,000m this year so I guess she has climbed more.


Anyway, as part of the training regime, we hooked up with a few fellow cyclists in the Alps.  Very convenient that we were all wearing the same shirts.



However, the real news is that new bikes have been purchased for this years etape.


Captain Tuffs has a Pacific, still folds naturally


Pacific 'IF' Reach

and Commander Gurney has gone for something slightly different this year


More importantly, body fat is now at an all time high – this is apparently a good thing which climbing at high altitudes in temperatures upwards of 34 degrees.

And finally, a montage of last year

No time for any more excuses, no time for any more training, it’s time to take on the Ouka again..

Goodbye Poland, hello Morocco, but the beer on ice – we are on our way.