The pros are the gods of cycling, representing the pinnacle of our sport through their never-ending quest for higher performance and glorious victory…
‘The Etape was an amazing experience. I will never forgot the crowds cheering at the top of each climb, the kids running alongside and giving you a high five, and the ladies in the villages you cycle though passing you fresh bread to keep you going. It was truly memorable. I can however say with absolute sincerity that a great event was made even better by La Fuga. The support you receive is second to none’.
Andrew Steel, 2012 Etape du Tour Competition Winner
I entered the Garmin–Sigmasport–La Fuga competition on a whim one lunch-time, and, to my surprise, won! It was not that surprising, given the prize, that lots of friends were able to clear their diaries and be available for the weekend. My friend, Barry Crichton, had just completed the Maratoma in the Dolomites and was happy to accompany me to France.
I will happily admit at first to feeling nervous; my preparation had been limited due to time restrictions, and although I had ridden many sportives in the UK, this was my first in Europe. La Fuga guide Phil met us at the airport in Toulouse and transferred us to our hotel. On our way we learned that he had been a pro-rider for a number of years on a French team and gave us advice on nutrition, tactics and how to get through the stage. He clearly knew what he was talking about and any nerves dissipated as I instantly felt like we were going to be well looked after.
We arrived at the Hotel Continental at Pau, the best located hotel for the start of the race, and over a delicious dinner, got to know our other guide, Jared, and the other group members. Our introductory meeting let us know exactly what was in store for us over the next few days, including our 40k warm-up ride the next day, and we were given welcome extras like La Fuga jerseys and bags.
That evening Jared and Phil unpacked and built our bikes, one bike needed some serious work to it’s internal cabling, and the other had a very dodgy sounding bottom bracket – neither of which posed a problem for the La Fuga staff.
After a restless night, due to nerves, we had an early breakfast before the start of the 2nd Etape of 2012, from Pau to Luchon. A mere 201 km with 4 major climbs including the Col du Tormalet. Jared led us down to the start, had some final words of advice and then we were away. The weather wasn’t on our side this time and at the top of the Tourmalet, we could hardly see each other! We certainly felt the chill on the high-speed long descent on wet roads. Despite this, every second of it was both thrilling and amazing; we were cycling over roads where previous tour winners launched devastating attacks. I could faintly make out the names of cyclists written on the road, and reading “Allez Wiggo” when descending the Tourmalet put a very big smile on my face.
Unfortunately, my smile wasn’t enough to keep me feeling cold at the bottom of the Tourmalet. After battling against two mountains, and with two still to go, I was over the moon to see La Fuga’s first feeding station. We had been advised to pack two bags the previous night; one to keep us going at the half way mark, and the other for the when we passed the finishing line. I had fortunately had the foresight to pack a gillet and some leg warmers into my half way bag – heaven sent at this point! After taking on fresh water and a plethora of food, we were ready to set off again.
The second half of the stage was, to be frank, a bit of a grind. My legs began to get sore and the two final ascents, whilst not as long as the first two, were steep and unforgiving. Barry and I, kept each other motivated by cycling the whole way together. There was one memorable climb where we talked about anything and everything other than cycling to take our minds off the gradient. Our strategy worked and before we knew it (after 9 hours and 57 minutes) we’d crossed the line. We covered 201 km and almost 5000 meters of vertical ascent over 60 km. Of the 5000 starters we finished inside the top 1750. It was emotional to say the least.
Once again, the La Fuga support came into its own, while other riders were obviously in some discomfort trying to get warm, we had our guides waiting for us with chairs, blankets, dry clothes, baguettes and beers. Amazing. Two glasses of red wine at our celebratory dinner and I was ready for bed!
The next day Jared packed our bikes and dropped us at the airport. Our guides had given us support when we needed it, loads of useful hints and tips – they were key to us getting through this race. I definitely have picked up the bug to cycle more and more famous mountains and I would encourage anyone who is interested in cycling in Europe to give La Fuga a try.
On the back of this experience, I have got the bug to cycle more and more famous mountains and have already secured my place on the 2013 Etape du Tour.
After going through a long list of rides by our La Fuga Strava Club members, we chose a select few epic rides and invited the riders to write us a short story about the experience. Now we’re bringing you their stories to read, review and decide which was THE most epic ride. The winner will receive a La Fuga casquette in recognition of their momentous effort as well as plenty of Strava ‘Kudos’.
Her Name: Gretchen Miller, London, UK (Originally Kiwi) – http://app.strava.com/athletes/124664
Her ride: http://app.strava.com/rides/8449792
It was 4 degrees and I was standing at the bottom of Swains Lane in the middle of the April when I was offered the chance of a long weekend in the south of France. A quick calculation showed Mount Ventoux was only 27 times Swains in terms of elevation, so there was an huge economy of scale there. How hard could it be?
A few weeks later I knew exactly how hard. We set off to Bedoin via the ‘scenic’ route which involved a completely unnecessary ‘lump’ that woke everyone up and raised the heart rate straight to ‘tempo’ within minutes. After a short stop in Bedoin to refuel and we were off, making the most of the gentle gradient and stunning vista from the base of the mountain. Ten minutes later the smile was wiped off my face when we turned left into the forest and began on the climb proper. Nine km of relentless slogging, on a road that seemed to go straight up. I put my head down and tried to keep my heart rate below my ‘are you kidding me?’ level. A local father photographing his son on a mountain bike from the side of the road expressed some concern when I approached him ‘ Pas si vite, pas si vite!!’ I will never be sure whether it was the dripping sweat, the laboured breathing, or the chewing of my handlebars which made him think I might not make it, but I politely thanked him for his concern and continued on my way.
There was finally a break at Chalet Reynard, the relief of the wide sweeping corner tempered only by the fact that I was now out in a strong swirling head wind. Again, giving up all hope of style points I got down on my drops and continued to dig in, making the most of the alternating head/tail wind as I zigzagged to the summit. Passing the Tommy Simpson memorial was a brief distraction, although by this stage the roadside barriers were making so much of a creaking noise in the wind I was more worried they would be blown over. The sign for 1km to go was a huge relief to see, as was the random crowd cheering everyone as we rolled in. Nothing like standing on the rooftop of the world (or at least Provence) with just your bike.
Only two of us set off down towards Malaucene while the rest of the group bizarrely chose the ‘lounge beside the hotel pool’ option. Its difficult to enjoy a 12% descent when you know an hour later you will be coming straight back up. A quick espresso at the bottom and we turned around, wind starting off at our backs, and enjoying the far more civilised 7-8% initial gradient. Obviously that wasn’t to last and the ‘12% next km’ sign coincided with a return of the headwind. Back down on my drops and all I could see was distance counter on my Garmin, as it ticked off every 100m. And at 8km/hr it doesn’t tick very often. My mate John was suffering as well and offering all sorts in exchange for my 28 ring on the back. Eventually with much relief we made it back to the top, at which point the hotel pool was calling. Needless to say the descent was relatively quick!
His Name: Kenneth Trueman, Quebec, Canada http://app.strava.com/athletes/8259
His Ride: http://app.strava.com/rides/8399429
I and 3 of my buddies in the Macadam Cycling Club (www.clubmacadam.com) on the South Shore of Montreal are signed up for the 2nd edition of GranFondo New York to be held on May 20th.
While I had previously ridden a 160km and a 180km outing in the previous weeks to prepare for the event, none of my colleagues had. So 2 of them, plus 2 other clubmates, decided to tack on some extra miles to the club ride this past Saturday (May 12).
Instead of 110km, we would ride 170km, which we did all the way out to the St-Lawrence Seaway on a sunny day with little wind at all. With 30km remaining, I had pretty much worn through all of my chamois creme and was starting to get a seriously irritated backside. Nonetheless, I tacked on another 30km solo following the group ride in order to break through the 200km marker, ending at 208 and change. Upon removing my bibshorts, I saw a solid line of rash that followed the round back of my saddle. I swiftly and generously poured Johnson’s Baby Powder to take away the pain and dry it out. 48 hours and many applications of my wife’s hand creme later, there is still a very noticeable rash/tattoo/halo on my hind quarters.
My training for this epic ride was running the Toronto Marathon just 6 days before on May 6th with a bad ankle (in 3 hours 23 minutes; 8 minutes off of Boston Marathon qualification for my age group). I then followed with a 114km outing in the cold rain on May 10th and another 102km on May 11th. (A total of 424km in 3 days!) I rode those two days because it was still actually easier than walking; I still have not regained all of my usual form from the marathon, particularly for hills, so please think of my Strava suffer score (203) for that epic ride as just getting warmed up. 🙂
His Name: Jitesh Sodha, London, UK http://app.strava.com/athletes/115913
His Ride: http://app.strava.com/rides/8455852
A novice rider training for the Etape du Tour under the expert guidance of La Fuga coach Huw Williams (‘I coach every ability – from you up to national champions’–which puts my ability in context – at the low end). Travelling to the Etape with La Fuga.
One previous Century (with a shocking tale of bonking and near hypothermia) and one Etape du Tour (2011) just dodging the Broom wagon with a 1 hr 45 min slog up Alpe d’Huez in 37C heat.
Surrey Audax route with ride to and from start. Combined approx. 175km and 2700m of climbing. Last attempted 12 months ago in pouring rain that resulted in one significant fall, 2 punctures, giving up and taking the train back from Dorking and having to peel bib shorts off from the congealed blood.
Jitesh – The Novice. Attempting the ride with trepidation and author of this piece
Julian – ‘Lance’ The Veteran. Been there, seen it and ridden it. Cancer survivor like Lance, truly nice guy but prone to accidents
Alex – The Super Novice. Started riding with Jitesh. The only difference – he is a good rider.
The Veteran and The Novice set off from Clapham on a fresh early morning. ‘First dry day in weeks’, said I ‘Hope my eyelashes don’t freeze like they did on our last ride together’ replied The Veteran (this is true)
The aim was to reach Shere at a very easy pace in 2 hrs and meet up with Super Novice Alex. I kept pulling the Veteran back as he tried to race ahead. The voice of my coach was shouting in my head ‘Pace yourself. Hold back. Hold back. Hold back. It will pay back later’. Other than a short controlled burst up Olympic Route climb Staple Lane, there was little drama in the first section.
The Veteran threw up in the public toilets at Shere (he blames it on the chemo) where right on cue Super Novice Alex turned up with stories of wrong turnings and a monster climb just to get to the starting point. A short break to eat an energy bar and we headed off on the 32 km ‘Shere loop’. Every time there was a choice of two roads between a ‘Lane’ and a ‘Hill’ the GPS navigation pointed to the ‘Hill’. Minor drama after about 20km on a fast descent down a narrow single track lane as we turned a corner to see the typical pot holed tarmac surface replaced with gravel. Gingerly riding along this section we came across a couple of horse riders who had to dismount because their horses did not like the surface. A quick check of the tyres and we were off again. At this point The Veteran was gasping for a detour coffee break into Cranleigh. I dismissed the suggestion with complete disdain, offending The Veteran, then feeling guilty, promised him a sausage roll on the top of Box Hill.
Best part of this section was as we approached ‘Winterfold’. The Veteran saw the 21% Gradient sign and nearly threw up again. Super Novice Alex saw the sign and the opportunity to notch another PB Strava segment and rode off into the distance. I played it safe and pushed through each false summit.
Back through Shere and up Combe Bottom, if you pardon the phrase, and onto the ‘Dorking Loop’. A quick check for text messages to see if anyone was missing us (not), then another climb at Crocknorth, riding under the arched bridge onto Cycle Superhighway Ranmore Common. By this stage we had already climbed 1500m and the legs were starting to twinge and belly asking for lunch. Plan was to head down Ranmore Common Road and up Box Hill for a well earned break. However, Ranmore Common Road was closed due to a motorbike accident, so we headed straight down into Dorking. The Veteran nearly crashed at 50km/h into a line of cars queuing for the tip and had to break suddenly. At this point he decided to quit whilst he was ahead, still fed up at not having had his coffee break and now realising that I will not fulfil my promise of a sausage roll, whilst the two Novices soldiered on.
Coldhabour Lane was a slog, then down and back up Leith Hill avoiding Tanhurst Lane, not because of the 14% gradient, but because of the debris, poor road condition and stream flowing down it. At this point I was starting to feel a little light headed and v. v. hungry. Was my fuelling strategy of one energy bar or gel an hour enough? I had already polished off two large bottles of electrolyte and still had at least 60km to go. The pain had begun. Leith Hill was a slow grind, and the additional climbing at Holmbury St Mary was taking its toll. I was no longer noticing the bluebells and scenery. The sun had disappeared, the wind had picked up and life was grey again. The descent on Radnor Road down into Peaslake was welcome relief.
At Peaslake we parked our bikes at the bus shelter amongst the throng of mountainbikers. The coffee shop knew its market – I have never seen so many varieties of isotonic drinks in a general store. Lucozade and sausage roll replenished the parts energy bars cannot reach (ie. the taste buds) and we were ready to face Whitedown, 18% monster of Surrey and the Queen climb of many a sportive. Super Novice Alex saw the opportunity to hit another PB Strava segment, while I was in survival mode. After Whitedown, Alex headed back to Sussex while I still had another 2 hours riding to head home, alone. I was unsure whether it was mental tiredness or physical tiredness. Maybe it was both.
My choice was either to take the easy route home, through Effingham Junction and back via Cobham, a downhill run which would improve my average speed, or check to see if Ranmore Common Road was open and one more climb up Box Hill. Would my legs take another climb? I understand that cycling is about suffering, so decided to go for the climb.
The newly re-surfaced Box Hill track was like a carpet, making my steady progress easier. No Strava beating time today. It was clearly lunchtime and I hardly saw another cyclist on the climb, which is very unusual for the ‘Alpe d’Huez of South England’. I started imaging the Olympic road race making their 9 circuits on route to a Cav gold medal. I promised myself a cup of tea at the top, but one look at the queue and I decided I would rather reach home half an hour earlier. I had left home at 7am.
I know the route home from here well and have pushed back at pace to Kingston in the past, so despite the light headedness I targeted a low tempo pace and move things a little quicker. My legs were having non of it. The best I could manage was aerobic endurance pace. The wattage was low, but I had given up on the numbers. I just wanted to be home in one piece and avoid bonking or cramping.
This is the time when I wanted a Star Trek Transporter with Scotty to ‘beam me up’. I was fantasising so tried to come up with a mantra. ‘I can do it. I will do it’. Pathetic I know. Then, embarrassingly John Denver, ‘Take me Home, Country Roads’. No! get out of my head. That is soooo uncool. I listen to XFM not John Denver. Your mind plays odd tricks on you when you are tired.
The Sunday morning riders were gone and the roads were light on traffic too. I trudged past the BP garage at Epsom where I bonked last year on another ride and downed Lucozade and Snickers. Through the Horton roundabouts. No Kingston Wheelers sprint today. Onto Chessington and then Kingston and Richmond Park.
One more climb in Richmond Park. Step down onto my 29 cog and whirl away. I felt my left leg starting to cramp. It always happens on this climb on my way home. No, I will not allow it to cramp. I’m imaging it, I said to myself. ‘I can will it not to cramp’. Thankfully, the climb is short and sharp. I was soon through it and then able to coast on the flat. A look at the ‘fresh’ riders as the overtake me at pace. ‘Do they know I have already completed 160km?’.
I stumbled in through the front door to be greeted by my son. ‘It’s half-time, QPR are losing, Bolton are winning, we are going to be relegated. Lets play ping pong to take your mind off it!’.
La Fuga Strava Competition – Epic Ride Challenge
We’re running a fun new competition for our La Fuga Strava Club members online to get our fugisti sharing stories about their riding.
For one week each month we will review our Strava Club member’s rides and choose a short-list of the most impressive rides during the 7 previous days based on comments, kudos and our own general impression of how tough the ride was.
We will then invite these members to write a short story about what they remember from that particular ride, epic stories are encouraged, photos score extra points.
We will post these stories for all to see, with the Strava stats from the day and based on the general opinion and our own thoughts, we will award the prize to the most epic ride of the week. La Fuga decision is final!
Not a member of our Strava club yet? It’s easy and simple to join and will connect you with many of our current, previous and future guests.
‘What is the prize?’ I hear you ask. Well for the forthcoming week we’ll be giving away a stylish La Fuga casquette to wear on your upcoming epic rides. Special prizes may be considered for particular efforts of epic-ness and prizes will evolve as the week’s progress.
Not on Strava yet and want your ride to be considered? Well if you can send us enough proof that your ride was particularly epic along with a great story, we’ll automatically put your ride into the shortlist!
Want to start sharing your rides with friends and competitors? Garmins new Edge 200 GPS cycle computer offers the easiest most affordable way of entering this new exciting world of online ride tracking and sharing.
The past year has seen the rapid expansion of cyclists using Garmins to record their riding. The top of the range Edge 800 is perhaps the most intuitive and useful bike computer on the market right now. The Edge 200 and 500 offer a great alternative for a lower price way to accurately measure your cycling to the nth degree.
The units come with heart rate monitor belts and are compatible with all power meters, allowing you to keep you cockpit clean with one computer that does everything you need it to. La Fuga are offering the use of an Edge 800 free of charge with each Rental Bike.
But now there’s a way of utilising the data recorded by the GPS units, not only to analyse your training, but to compare it to others. This is called Strava.
Strava started small last year and since then has become a huge social media engine for the world of bicycles, becoming something of a facebook for cycling. It takes the data recorded by your GPS computer and downloads it to its database; from here it lays your ride details on a map which allows you to view your elevation, speed, heart rate, power etc on a graph concurrently. Perhaps not so revolutionary you might think, and you’d be right. CyclingPeaks offers a much stronger analysis tool of your ride details and Garmin’s own connect tool also has strong analysis software.
But where Strava really comes into its own is through what is has christened as ‘segments’. On each of your rides you will find a number of green patches on your graph under the elevation line. Each of these signifies a segment and with each segment comes a ranking. Strava takes your GPS data and calculates your time, average speed, power and heart rate for the segment distance. It then compares your data with everyone else who has uploaded their ride data to Strava. From here it creates a ranking with 1st man overall given the title KOM (King of the mountain) and woman QOM (Queen of the mountain).
The titles are occasionally somewhat misleading as the segments aren’t always uphill. Strava will create segments on its own based on the elevation change and gradients of the road. Basically if it goes uphill for long enough and at a certain gradient then it will become a segment. But because Strava allows you to create your own segments on your favourite bits of road, segments are often flat and occasionally even downhill! The La Fuga guides are proud holders of the KOM and QOM titles on many popular segments and we’ve been taking the time to create our own segments with our own ‘La Fuga Strava Club’ which any fugisti are welcome to join. But if it’s not all about being the best, Strava will alert you to every time you record a personal best on each segment and where your most recent effort ranks against past attempts.
Strava offers the perfect opportunity for our guests to share their rides with each other, track each other’s progress, view their cycling getaways and plan their next big cycling challenge. You can ‘follow’ any rider on the website giving you daily or weekly updates on the riding everyone has been doing all over the world. A good example is this Strava ride of one of our guests on our Paris-Roubaix Challenge weekend. Unfortunately he punctured 4 times but his riding time would have put him in the top 20! There are a number of professional cyclists on the site giving you an insight into the kind of training a pro-riders need to do and even detailed information on the races they’re doing. A certain Taylor Phinney became KOM on several cobbled sections of the Paris-Roubaix route last week!
We encourage all of our guests to join our Strava community, connecting and sharing your riding to attack exciting new cycling challenges with La Fuga.
Follow the La Fuga Guides:
Alastair Carr: http://app.strava.com/athletes/alastair_carr
Ian Holt: http://app.strava.com/athletes/8603
Jared Spier: http://app.strava.com/athletes/jspier