Tackling Le Tour: You don’t need to be an elite cyclist to ride a Tour stage, or do you? Jonathan Brown intends to find out by undergoing training and cycling 190km from Leeds to Harrogate this June
You don’t have to be Sir Bradley Wiggins to take on Le Tour, or do you?
That’s the question Tour de France reporter Jonathan Brown is trying to answer, by taking to two wheels and tackling Le Tour head on.
Having been a non-cyclist since his teenage years, and having never ridden a road bike, he has elected to get back in the saddle for a brutal marathon ride as our Let’s Get Cycling push encourages others in Yorkshire to embrace the cycling spirit.
The 24-year-old will take on the mammoth 190km Leeds to Harrogate stage one of the Tour de France in a single day, while bidding to raise as much money for the charities behind two established West Yorkshire hospices – Wheatfields and St Gemma’s in Leeds – which have been backed by the YEP’s Half and Half Appeal since 1982.
With the help of pro cyclist and training-pro.co.uk coach Tom Barras, the UK’s largest cycling outlet Wheelbase and Tadcaster cycling firm Cyclesense, he has committed to a tailored three-month programme of gruelling training to build up the fitness to face challenges including the infamous Buttertubs Pass climb.
He said: “As much as I follow cycling, as far as road racing is concerned I’m admittedly a total novice so this is going to be a huge personal challenge.
“Hopefully by raising money for two fantastic charities and putting in the hard miles, training for and cycling stage one can inspire others to get on their bikes.”
You can follow Jonathan’s progress through a weekly Le Tour Trial column to be published online and in the YEP’s Tour de France pages every Saturday, before he gears up to ride stage one in its entirety on Sunday June 15.
A series of articles will follow the ups and downs of his charity challenge, as he gets advice from top athletes, takes part in his first timed rides and learns more about the good causes his fundraising will support.
Jonathan began his training in earnest this week by undergoing a fitness test at Leeds Metropolitan University’s Carnegie Sports Centre, in Headingley, to work out what needs to be done to get him ready for a bike ride that is likely to involve a full day in the saddle.
Researchers measured the point at which his body began to fatigue by taking blood samples measuring the amount of lactic acid being produced during an increasingly difficult static bike ride.
Dr Barney Wainwright, sports science research fellow at the university, said: “If you are in reasonable condition with time leading into it, it’s achievable.
“It’s absolutely doable but as a non-cyclist there is a way to go in improving that specific fitness - it takes a lot of preparation.”
By analysing the results, coach Tom Barras is currently compiling an eight to 10-hour per week training programme mixing both indoor static bike and outdoor riding.
He said: “It’s a realistic challenge but it’s not something you’d just be able to wing.
“From the results we’ve got useful data to plan a specific training programme that will make the most of the available time.”
All proceeds of the challenge will support St Gemma’s Hospice and Sue Ryder, which runs Wheatfields Hospice. They support people with life-limiting illnesses.
Visit www.justgiving.com/teams/letourtrial to donate or www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/tdf for information.
WEEK ONE: ‘I REALISE THERE’S A LOT OF HARD WORK AHEAD’
I’m finding myself asking the question ‘what have I got myself in for?’ quite a lot at the minute, and I’ve barely got started.
The prospect of cycling more than 118miles up mountainous climbs and along busy roads potentially in the pouring Yorkshire rain is not something that I would normally relish and given the early sneers from doubting friends and colleagues I realise there is a lot of hard work ahead.
But saddling up in aid of charity is something else.
With the help of my two brothers, I raised around £1,500 for hospices and Macmillan Cancer Support two years ago after two close members of my family were diagnosed with terminal cancer.
I’m well aware that the leg wax and bungee jump we did was nothing compared to this however.
Given the results of my fitness test at Leeds Metropolitan University, a strenuous eight to 10 hour weekly exercise training plan is being drawn up that will hopefully weave into my working week, and in the meantime I’ve to get on two wheels and get used to the sensation of spending hours on the bike.
The fitness test itself took place on Monday and saw me sweat buckets while trying to prove I’m relatively physically fit, but after 20 minutes in the saddle I can’t say I felt fantastic.
I waddled away from the test bike like Bambi on ice thanks to my exhausted legs and asked my coach Tom Barras for some reassuring praise. I got told: “The test shows you’re a fit young lad... but you’re not a cyclist”.
I’ll take that.
But according to the bods at Leeds Met, I should see a sharp improvement in my aerobic fitness by regularly cycling despite the fact that it appears that naturally, and somewhat unsurprisingly, I might not be destined for cycling stardom.
I’ve rounded up top cycling gear from outlet Wheelbase and will have a bike on loan from Cyclesense, in Tadcaster, which will hopefully do the trick.
Now it’s up to me to get cycling indoors and out before my training plan arrives.