The dreaded cobbles…

Stage 5 –  Ypres to Arenberg

We had a taste of the Paris-Roubaix experience today with the stage travelling over more than 15 km of cobble-stoned roads.  When Ali and I cycled the London to Moscow ride back in 1992 we cycled on long stretches of cobbles on our way into Berlin so I thought I knew what to expect.  These were something else entirely – imagine the worst, deeply rutted farm track you’ve ever seen.  I have absolutely no idea how the professional riders ride at speed over these roads – even at slow speeds you get shaken to pieces.  My bicycle chain was bouncing up and down so much that my water bottle ended up covered in chain oil.

Today’s stage took us several hours longer than we expected because we just couldn’t get any sort of speed up over these roads.  I was just saying to Martin that it was a good job it wasn’t raining for the cobbles and as we went round the next roundabout my bike slid from under me and I had my first fall of the trip.  A smear of Germoline and I was ready to go again – not sure what happened.  I think there must have been some oil on the road, (perhaps it dripped off my water bottle?).

My knee seems to be holding up well, but I think it only seems like that because it’s competing with a lot of other aches and pains….


Tour de France now in France!

Stage 4  Le Tourquet to Lille

After the atmosphere and excitement of the UK stages it was a complete contrast today to cycle on quiet French roads with nobody much about.  Also, the first day without any rain – hooray for that!

Best part of today was when a tractor with a trailer full of cauliflowers pulled out in front of me and I was able to follow in it’s slipstream for more than 5 miles.  The farmer was driving slowly to ensure none of the vegetables fell off the back and it was the perfect speed for a following cyclist.  I had to pedal a bit going uphill, but on the flat it was effortless riding.  Best to make the most of those moments when we’ve got mountains to climb in the coming days.

Horrible finish for the back-up team, navigating their way through Lille and out into the suburbs the other side but great to find that the hotel we booked was open (!) with a friendly welcome. Very traditional Logis with Madame doing the cooking, the waitressing, the front of house and everything in between.




Final Stage in the UK

Stage 3  Sunday 6th July – Cambridge to London

Oh no – woke early to pissing down rain again and this time it didn’t stop

by the time we headed out to Parker’s Piece for the start.  Great to have a

send-off from Catherine, our friend from Norwich, and her two girls, Tia and Erfina,

(hope the rain didn’t ruin your straw sunhat Fi…).  Gareth kindly cycled out to

Trumpington with us to get us on the right route – then it was follow the arrows

to central London!  A much flatter and more straightforward Stage today which was

a relief.  A lot less razzmatazz about the Tour in Cambridge but by the time we got

to Essex we were joined by lots of other riders, (including two gentlemen on Penny

Farthings!).  Very big thanks to Rod for joining Ali at Chelmsford to help her navigate through

London and to the Mall for the finish.  We were ahead of schedule for the first time and

whizzed through Epping while our back-up team were there having a picnic, after which

they couldn’t catch us up due to the heavy traffic.  The route took us through the Olympic

park and round in another random loop before we were able to ride triumphantly down the

Mall.  No chance to rest though, as we then had to get going in the van for the Clacket Lane

Services to pick up Andy and Rachel, our back-up team for week 1 in France, and then on to

catch the ferry to Calais.  Left Ali at the M25 services, (Eastbound), to find her way back to

Dorset!  Met first big hitch on our arrival at our hotel in France, (at about midnight), to find

it was closed…. Visions of all kipping in the van had us on a keen hunt for alternative

accommodation and by 1pm we had found a hotel with self check-in.  Great relief all round

until we paid our money, and waited for the reciept to spew out of the machine with the

entry codes on it and discovered that it had run out of paper….. Rang the emergency number

but got no reply.  Now what??  We were making enough noise that the hotel manager woke

up and opened the window to ask what we were doing, and he was able to get us access to our

rooms – finally to bed at 1.45am.


Stage 2 – A day of hill climbs

Saturday 5th July – York to Sheffield

Heard heavy rain on waking this morning which wasn’t encouraging but

by the time we got up it was easing off and Dave’s early morning weather

check looked optimistic.  We had to take a roundabout route to the start in

York due to roads being shut around Leeds for todays official Stage 1, but

found the Racecourse and had a photoshoot outside the disused Terry’s chocolate

factory. Have spent the last couple of weeks reading articles about the severity of

Stage 2, (‘as much climbing as in the Alps…’), so with day 2 muscle stiffness/aches

we were bracing ourselves for a very challenging day.   It was bloomin’ tough, but

the drier and warmer weather made a huge difference to our morale, (and that of

Ali, our back-up van driver!).  She spotted a poster outside the Baptist Church in

Hebdon Bridge which read ‘The End is NOT nigh – 108 km to go’!.  Ali is doing this

weekend’s support on her own which she is finding quite nerve-wracking,

(especially the lack of a rear-view mirror for backing out of tight spaces…).  No mishaps

so far…. We played cat and mouse all day with a large group of riders in polka dot jerseys

– riding the ‘Tour of Yorkshire’. We ended up together at the end of the

day, all lost in the middle of Sheffield.  The city finishes involve a random circuit to add a few

extra miles before the home straight. ‘We’re just coming into Sheffield’ message to Ali actually

meant ‘ Don’t expect us for another 45 minutes..’  Didn’t finish until 8.30pm and then had

to get the bikes in the van quickly and head off to Cambridge.  We haven’t yet been able to

follow our trainer’s advice to have a short stroll after finishing…  Looking forward to a flatter

and slightly shorter stage tomorrow.



Le Grand Depart at last!

Friday 4th July  Stage 1 Leeds to Harrogate

Fantastic to be up in Yorkshire finally for the start of our Tour de France experience.

A huge thank you to Dave and Jenny Robertson in Bradford who are providing

us with accommodation, food and support for the Yorkshire part of the Tour.  They

could not have made us more welcome – it has made the trip special already.

Looks like there’ll be no problem following the route each day as it seems that the Tour officials

put up bright yellow arrow markers round the whole stage the day before – perfect

for us.  Martin was a bit cheesed off when he realised that the 10 miles from Leeds Town

Hall to Harewood House did not count towards the day’s total distance… it’s quite a lot

extra when you’re covering 100 miles plus every day.  Real sense of occasion and joy

with all the bunting, yellow bicycles, posters, road slogans etc – Yorkshire has gone

Tour mad.  Seemed like everyone who owned a racing bike was out today following

Stage 1.  The celebratory atmosphere waned somewhat after lunch when the rain and wind

closed in (and the hills got steeper).  The Cote de Buttertubs was as tough as

advertised – the descents were particularly nightmarish with narrow bridges and

right-angled bends added in for fun.  Martin had left his waterproof top behind… (cock-up or

over-optimism?), sogot especially soaked.  It rained solidly from 1pm until we finished around

7.30pm by which time we were pretty wet and knackered.  First Stage completed though –

and it’s forecast to be a lot drier tomorrow…



Tour de France update


5th June 2014

Four weeks today we will be driving up to Leeds for the ‘Grand Depart’ on the 4th July…

Since my last entry I have clocked up another 800 training miles and am beginning to feel

at least half way fit! 335 of those miles were completed in the Tour of Wessex over the late May Bank Holiday weekend. Each day’s ride started in Somerton, heading through the Mendips on Saturday, down to the south coast, (Lulworth), on Sunday and finishing with a brutal ride over the Quantocks and Exmoor on the Monday, (including the famous hill at Porlock).

I’ve never seen so many expensive bikes all together in one place, and I couldn’t believe how many of them I passed, broken down at the side of the road. It felt a bit like the tortoise and the hare with me on my trusty old 853 Reynolds frame.

Whilst the ride was very tough, it was just the training we needed, and Martin and I were pleased that we felt just as good on day three as on day one.

Last weekend I cycled the whole way to Wantage to see Ali’s parents – another 100 mile trip – which I completed in 6 hours 12 minutes, almost non-stop. My knee is now rather sore, mainly due I think to the numerous potholes I’ve cycled over in recent weeks. Probably best to rest it for a week and hope for the best.

Have fine-tuned the flap-jack consumption to 60g/hour for optimum fuel efficiency. Ali’s now making double batches each week! I am drinking a pint of milk at the end of each long ride – a practice which is backed up by recent research. More of that next time.


Tour de France Blog

Pete donning his shades in the hope of some sunshine between the showers



May 11th 2014

Welcome to my Tour de France Blog.  This summer my brother-in-law, Martin Bate, and I have set ourselves the challenge of riding the complete route of the this year’s Tour de France.  We start in Leeds on Friday 4th July and, if everything goes to plan, will ride into Paris on Saturday 26th July, ( a mere 2185 miles later).  Having talked about doing this for a number of years, I can’t quite believe it’s actually happening – both really exciting and somewhat daunting.

So – how is the training going so far??  Since the New Year I have been slowly increasing the distances of my training rides, (including cycling more of the route between home and Ali’s parents in Wantage on each of our monthly visits).  Last month I cycled from Wantage to Stourhead in 4 hours, non-stop, fuelled by Ali’s homemade flapjacks.  My nutrional advisor, (the horse specialist vet down the road), says that the best source of energy for endurance is oats!! The flapjack recipe has recently been adapted to include liquidised bananas and raisins for extra stamina, (a tip from Hazel, recent new staff member at Phoenix Books, whose husband runs a cycling team).

My plan is to add to this blog every week up until the Tour starts, and then to hand over the blog baton to my back-up team, (members of The Fox Inn Cricket Team, Corscombe), who will keep you up-to-date with our progress each day.

Liberty Fields Dorset

We have 1,500small_bottles_crop heritage apple trees, on 12 acres, in Halstock, Dorset. We are converting some derelict farm buildings so that we can produce our unique Apple Balsamic Vinegar (aged in oak barrels for 6 years), Apple Aperitif and Apple Syrup.