Showing all posts tagged tour-du-nord:

Tour du Nord - Stage 4

And so in the end we reached the finish line of the Tour du Nord. 404 miles in 4 days with 31,386 feet of elevation gained, well past the summit of Everest. Maybe this could be renamed the "Everest Bicycle Challenge".

This has been a tough event ridden in excellent company and so very kindly supported by my lovely wife Lorena without whom none of this would be possible. A more loyal and unswerving partner in life's challenges I could not wish to have met, I have no real idea how she puts up with it all but I am so pleased that she does.

I have learned things on this journey particularly concerning personal hydration and nutrition but also about optimal pacing of multi-day endurance events. With hindsight we rode stages 1 and 2 too hard and paid a price for that on stage 3 but I've learned from this and will not make the same mistake again. On events like this when you can set your own pace it's very easy to treat each day like a sportive and to ride too hard instead of pacing more with future days, and weeks, in mind.

The ride has given me a lot of confidence for the "Leading The Tour" ride as if I am careful with my pacing, nutrition, and recovery strategy I can recover well enough to keep on riding. There is no doubt in my mind however that as the years go by recovery does become a greater challenge than the riding itself and there is no escaping this. I've been very pleased with my recovery arrangements, plenty of good food, lots of sleep, Skins compression clothing to sleep in and to ride in, and adequate hydration have all played important parts and will do so it the future.

Another very important thing I have learned is what a huge difference good company makes to one's enjoyment of events like this and with Lorena, Michelle, and Scott I have been fortunate indeed. These experiences are never forgotten and I'll never forget what I did this Bank Holiday weekend, great memories to look back on when I just can't do these things any more, which I hope will be a good while yet.

The plan now is to keep training and to enjoy my riding but to allow by TSB to recover from it's current extremely low level. My CTL will fall but I'm not worried about that as it will rise soon enough during the first week of the "Leading The Tour" ride. I believe that I now have the required fitness, what I now want is freshness ready for the big blast off.

It's been a terrific weekend, the sun even shone on us on the last day :-)

Photographs of today's ride:

Departure from Selkirk
Lanes in The Borders
England – Scotland border – Carter Bar
Invasion of The Gnomes
The finish – Scott & Michelle
The finish – Scott & Yours Truly

Ride Time: 06:18 hh:mm
Work Done: 3705kJ
Training Stress Score: 300.7
Intensity Factor: 0.691
Normalised Power: 211W
Variability Index: 1.29
Ride Distance: 97.7 miles
Cumulative Tour Distance: 404 miles
Elevation Gain: 6753 feet
Cumulative Tour Elevation Gain: 31,386 feet
Maximum Power: 776W
Average Power: 163W
Average Heart Rate: 125bpm
Average Speed: 15.5mph
Acute Training Load: 183.3
Chronic Training Load: 114.6
Training Stress Balance: -58.6

Tour du Nord - Stage 4

Stage Start: 09:00: The Glen Hotel, Selkirk, TD7 5AS. BNG NT 463 284

The final stage is another long day covering 97 miles and includes 5331' of ascent. Leaving Selkirk we head initially South-Eastwards to climb to the Scotland-England border at the summit of Carter Bar. From here we retrace our steps very briefy before turning East into the heart of the Cheviot Hills through some truly beautiful countryside on quiet almost traffic free roads. Skirting the Cheviot Hills we pass through Wooler and head towards the coast at Bamburgh before turning South for the final run towards the finish at Alnmouth completing our second coast to coast crossing, and our 400 mile journey.

Tour du Nord - Stage 3

Stage 3 completed and 306 miles under our belts, a total of 24633' of cumulative ascent over the tour so far so tomorrow is comfortably going to take us past the height of Mount Everest barrier that I strongly suspected that we would reach on this four day tour.

Once again today has been very tough going with relentless sequential elevation gain and loss, often on poor roads, and always into a headwind with intermittent rain throughout, very testing indeed.

At about the half way point, as you can see in the second photo above, we completed our rendezvous with Scott's wife Michelle which was great and we rode to the stage end together through some truly spectacular moorland scenery which, on a good day, would have been some of the finest riding countryside I have seen. Unfortunately on this occasion the weather was unkind.

Delighted to report that having switched the auto-pause off on the Garmin 705 the data extraction went without a hitch so that's certainly a lesson learned for the future. The data itself is interesting and illustrates well how repeated very hard days of riding have an impact on your ability to sustain normal power outputs and how this inability results in lower average heart rate values as the legs are simply unable to do the work to make the usual demands on the cardiovascular system. A common mistake people make on multi-day event is to see a falling average HR and to interpret this as an improvement in fitness, it is no such thing, it represents rising fatigue. This distinction becomes very obvious when a power meter is in use.

Based on the above I'll certainly be keeping my wattages down on the first few days of the "Leading The Tour" ride and hopefully this will prevent any really drastic fall off in my available power output as the ride progresses. No doubt at all that this has been a tougher outing that the Tour of Ireland ride last year as there was such a huge advantage to be gained on that ride from draughting in a large group, also been a heck of a lot cheaper and the scenery has been better!

My first experience of the Skins cycling specific clothing today was extremely positive. The initial impression is one of the clothes feeling "different" from the usual clothing simply because they are closer fitting. I quickly got used to this and I very much liked the lack of flapping of clothing and I found them very comfortable indeed. Of particular note, on the long sleeved jersey I was wearing, was how incredibly quickly it dried after a rain shower, almost within a few minutes. Temperatures permitting I think I shall soon be dispensing with carrying a rain jacket in all but the worst of conditions and safe in the knowledge that if it does rain I'll dry extremely quickly and just use the very lightweight and close fitting gillet to keep warm. Remember, close fitting clothing also saves precious watts :-)

Forecast for tomorrow, unbelievably, looks like another headwind, we simply couldn't have scripted this but no matter what this has been and still is an extremely worthwhile and memorable experience, a super ride.

Ride Time: 06:15 hh:mm
Work Done: 4115kJ
Training Stress Score: 313.7
Intensity Factor: 0.708
Normalised Power: 216W
Variability Index: 1.18
Ride Distance: 97.25 miles
Cumulative Tour Distance: 306.35 miles
Elevation Gain: 6682 feet
Cumulative Tour Elevation Gain: 24633 feet
Maximum Power: 620W
Average Power: 183W
Average Heart Rate: 132bpm
Average Speed: 15.6mph
Acute Training Load: 173.6
Chronic Training Load: 111.2
Training Stress Balance: -49.8

Tour du Nord - Stage 3

Stage Start: 09:00 Wheyrigg Hall Hotel, Wigton, Cumbria, CA7 0DH. BNG NY 193 488

Stage 3 is something of a relief after the challenges of the previous days, it covers 96.5 miles and includes somewhat less climbing at 4315'. Initially we head inland toward Carlisle before turning Northwards towards the Scottish Border which we cross at a little below the half way distance of the stage. Heading towards Hawick we hit the major climb of the day towards Lime Kiln Edge in Wauchope Forest. After our descent into Hawick we climb again passing Alemoor Reservoir before looping North-East to the stage finish in Selkirk.

Tour du Nord - Stage 2

Stage 2 of the Tour du Nord safely over and done. It's been a tough day in the Lake District but it's all gone very well in spite of it raining for the majority of the day at various intensities, as it always does when I go to Cumbria! I expected to end up walking on Kirkstone and Honister as I am currently running a standard 39/53 chainset when I normally ride a 34/50 compact when riding in this sort of terrain. I'll be fitting the compact before the Tour de France ride as I know I climb comfortably on that gearing in the Alps and Pyrenees.

Anyway, it went better than I expected even on this chainset and I rolled up Kirkstone without any major problems which was good. I thought Honister would stop me but even then I was surprised as I got to just a few yards from the top of the final 25% pitch before deciding it would be better to step off rather than fall off :-) Just walked about 20 yards to the top of that pitch, hopped back on and then trundled up to the top. There are no climbs of anywhere near 25% on the Tour route and I'd have happily got up Honister today on my compact so I'm very encouraged by that, particularly after yesterday's epic. As I mentioned before I much prefer long steady climbs where you can pace yourself, 25% gradients are unusual, thank goodness.

Very pleased with the results of using the Skins recovery compression gear last night. Legs felt better this morning than they would have done without using them. Even towards the end of the ride, which is generally when the fatigue really starts to tell, I was still going pretty well.

Met up with 2 guys, Nicolas and Chris near Windermere, arranged via Twitter, and it was smashing to ride along with them for a few hours. They are both going really well and are in serious training for some long distance events during the Summer, their training is definitely paying off which is excellent. The only photo of the day, above, is of Scott (L), Nicolas (C), and Chris (R), unfortunately it was just too wet to be stopping taking pictures, this one was taken when we paused to refill bottles in Keswick.

So, the second of 2 hard days completed most satisfactorily and a somewhat easier, but not easy, day for tomorrow's stage 3. Tomorrow our destination is Selkirk in Bonnie Scotland, always exciting to make the border crossing. At about the half way point of the ride we will be meeting up with Michelle, Scott's wife, who will be joining us for the remainder of the stage and for Stage 4.

You will see below that the data set is currently incomplete, this is the result of a Garmin system problem I have identified. I tried turning on the Auto Pause function on the Garmin 705 GPS and this has done something to the recorded data which is preventing it being read by WKO+. My mate Mark Liversedge reckons he can extract the data with Golden Cheetah so I'll get onto that when I get home. In an odd way I'm pleased this has happened, this trip is all about trying to shake systems down before the Tour de France ride and I'd much rather this happened now. The data estimates won't be far off at all and I'll update them in due course.

All going according to plan so far, onwards and upwards, on with the Skins before bed :-)

Ride Time: 06:50 hh:mm
Work Done: n/a kJ
Training Stress Score: 400 (Est)
Intensity Factor: n/a
Normalised Power: n/aW
Variability Index: n/aW
Ride Distance: 107.9 miles
Cumulative Tour Distance: 209.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 8500 feet (Est)
Cumulative Tour Elevation Gain: 17951 feet
Maximum Power: n/aW
Average Power: 173W
Average Heart Rate: 134bpm
Average Speed: 15.8mph
Acute Training Load: 156.1
Chronic Training Load: 106.3
Training Stress Balance: -26.5

Tour du Nord - Stage 2

Stage Start: 09:00 The Castle Hotel, Brough, CA17 4AX. BNG NY 794 146

Stage 2 is the real mountain stage of the tour and represents a serious challenge even as a one day ride, passing directly through the Lake District. The stage covers 107.5 miles and includes 7489' of ascent, some of which is very steep. Leaving Brough we head South-West towards Kendall and then enter the Lake District passing through Windermere before turning North to climb the highest road of the day, the well known and much feared Kirkstone Pass. After crossing the pass we continue Northwards through Patterdale and passing Ullswater then climbing Matterdale End before reaching the A66. Turning East we pass through Keswick before heading South past Derwent Water finally turning North-West to make the very difficult ascent of Honister Pass. Descending very carefully with the hard work behind us we continue and pass Buttermere and Crummock Water before we reach Cockermouth. Leaving Cockermouth we continue to complete the first C2C crossing reaching the West coast at just South of Allonby before turning inland to the stage end near Wigton.

Tour du Nord - Stage 1

Well, Stage 1 of the Tour du Nord is done and quite a stage it has been. A crossing of The Pennines is a challenge at the best of times but Scott and I were today not only faced with all the hills but a very strong gusting headwind for the majority of the 100 miles of the stage, this was tough indeed. The constant ups and downs of the ride are very different to the long climbs in Europe which I find suit me far better as one can get into a far better rhythm.

As you can see from the data below we racked up a huge TSS score today, this was only about 30 points short of the total I recorded in La Marmotte last year and approaching 10,000 feet of ascent is never going to be fun, even without the wind.

Anyway, we ploughed on and I was grateful to Scott for breaking wind on the front, keeping the wind off me that is! ;-) We finally arrived in Brough mid afternoon tired but very pleased. The hotel we are staying in provided a simple but excellent 3 course meal for the amazing sum of £7:50 which it would be very hard to beat. The rooms are very clean and comfortable, I'm not quite sure why Scott has a room with a four poster bed and I'm not about to start asking ;-)

Tomorrow is another very challenging day and I reckon I'm going to end up walking up part of a couple of the climbs in the Lake District as I haven't had my compact chainset re-fitted yet but I'm not worried about that, I just want to do my best and that's good enough for me. We are meeting up with a guy called Nicholas who is riding part of the stage with us so Scott and Nic can have a chat at the top of the climbs whilst I make my way up :-)

It's all about recovery now and I'm going to be wearing my Skins recovery clothing overnight which I find enormously helpful. More on this later but to cut a long story short I am delighted to say that I am being generously supported by Skins for my Tour de France ride which came as a bolt out of the blue for me a little while back. I was approached by some great guys at a company called 1000Heads who are working with Skins and a working relationship developed from there. The plan is that I am being provided with Skins cycling and recovery clothing which I am going to be using in the run up to the Tour de France ride and for the ride itself.

I will be testing the gear out and writing up my impression which will, you can be assured, be completely transparent and honest, that's how both I and Skins work. Basically if the gear is no good I'll be saying so, at the request of both Skins themselves and 1000Heads. This link-up came about as a result of my having already selected and started using Skins recovery gear a while back as readers of this blog will already know. I'm looking forward to the trial of the gear.

Stage photos above, from top to bottom:

The start on the coast at Alnmouth.
The stone heads at Wallington Hall.
The bottom of the climb from Edmondbyers.

Ride Data:
Ride Time: 06:39 hh:mm
Work Done: 4790kJ
Training Stress Score: 425
Intensity Factor: 0.8
Normalised Power: 244W
Variability Index: 1.22
Ride Distance: 101.2 miles
Cumulative Tour Distance: 101.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 9451 feet
Cumulative Tour Elevation Gain: 9451 feet
Maximum Power: 654W
Average Power: 200W
Average Heart Rate: 138bpm
Average Speed: 15.2mph
Acute Training Load: 125.6
Chronic Training Load: 99.1
Training Stress Balance: 2.9

Tour du Nord - Stage 1

Stage Start: 09:00 Alnmouth Seafront: BNG NU 247 103

Starting on the seafront at Alnmouth in Northumberland this hilly first stage covers 100.6 miles and includes 7785' of ascent. The route heads South to the market town of Morpeth before turning West then South again to descend into Corbridge where the main climbing of the day commences. A series of challenging climbs follow as the route crosses The Pennines descending first into Middleton-in-Teesdale before climbing again before the final descent into Brough.