Day 5 – No riding this weekend

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Weight 11st 8lbs (73.5kg)

Breakfast – smoothie

My usual smoothie recipe. Disaster struck as I have run out of Nutella. I love Nutella on everything now, and that’s a problem because it isn’t cheap and it probably isn’t that great for me especially when I’m not cycling.

Lunch – GIANT salad

Sometimes I think the salads that I make are actually too big to be good for me.

  • Mixed leaf salad
  • Vine tomatoes (from the grocers down the road)
  • Red onion
  • Pepper
  • Chicken covered in Nandos sauce
  • Uncle Ben’s Spicy Mexican whole grain rice
Dinner – straight out of the Co-op
  • Roasted Mediterranean vegetables (a lot of roasted red onion and 1 piece of courgette)
  • Stuffed mushroom
  • Crispy potato slices.

 

All in all this seemed like quite a good day with a lack of snacking but I did end up eating a peanut butter sandwich late in the evening. I’m also aware that I should have done some stretching yesterday or got out of the flat for a bit longer with me being unable to cycle this weekend.

I know that from Monday I’m going to have to start organising my food a bit more in advance to stop me from just picking at things when I get hungry. Ideally I want to start losing some weight before the end of October for the last Sportive I plan on riding this year – hopefully on  new bike.

Day 2 – Feeling sorry for myself and having to do some work

An early start after a late night, not helped by the amount of beer I drank last night after a reunion with some of the teachers of from my PGCE. I’d meant to get up and train this morning but then went out the window when I didn’t get home until 1 a.m.

Weight – 11st 6lbs (72.8kg) I don’t know how this happened after yesterday

Breakfast – the same as Tuesday’s breakfast
  • 1 sachet of porridge oats (Tesco)
  • 1/2 scoop of MyProtein Impact Diet Whey
  • 300ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 tablespoon Nutella

Approx. 400 calories (Thanks MyFitnessPal)

Snacks – I couldn’t help myself with the hangover controlling me
  • Medium Costa latte – apparently only 109 cal.
  • Tesco Southern Fried Chicken wrap 455 cal.
Lunch – Left over veggie chilli

I edited the original recipe (http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1755638/vegetable-and-bean-chilli) and added in some Quorn mince for a bit of extra protein.

According to the recipe on the website each portion comes in around 360 calories, so let’s call it 400 with the recipe edits I made.

Dinner – Veggie stir fry

Tesco’s own meat free chicken style pieces, satay stir fry sauce, Singapore noodles and stir-fry vegetables.

 

I did manage to drag myself into work this morning via Costa and Tesco for a bit of a snack. I think that going in a day early will help me feel more organised. My room certainly doesn’t look like a bomb site but I haven’t done any work on wall displays at this point. I’m going to let me form group design one of the display boards and keep the rest for different year group activities we do.

The Prudential Ride London 100

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By far the best sportive I’ve ridden so far.

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Admittedly the number of sportives I’ve ridden isn’t particularly high, but having ridden some of the bigger sportives available I feel as though I can make that claim. Two years ago I would have said that the Tour of the South East was the best I’d ridden, and I was disappointed to see that the 2016 edition had been postponed. I don’t want to take away from anything else I’ve ridden previously, and the ToSE was one of the most enjoyable rides I’ve done and the only organised over two days, but the Ride London is on a different scale to the rest.

Ride London is a different beast altogether. With 26,000 participants it needs to be big, and we got a great send off from the Olympic Park (first time I’ve been to West Ham’s new ground). Standing in the holding zones is a very relaxed atmosphere. Any pre-ride nerves I had were quickly dissipated by the friendly people all around. Organisation was smooth and we were set off exactly at our start time of 7.07.

The first thing I noticed leaving the Olympic Park was the speed. Not necessarily the speed of the cyclists, as a lot of people seemed to be taking things easy , but the speed of the roads. Not being limited to the gutter of every major road we cycled on through London gave you the pick of the surface. It’s clear now why the peleton in a pro race snakes its way across the road, looking for the best line to take.

Of course as the route made its way through London there were some pace lines forming which made things a bit quicker, and also more sociable at times. As we left  London I checked my Garmin to see that I had been averaging close to 40 kmh. My training rides this year, building up to the Ride London had been averaging anywhere between 23-28 kmh so this came as some surprise.

The majority of the ride, until the hills, passed without incident. I spent some of my time jumping after other people’s wheels and getting towed along but for the vast majority I was the one doing the towing – although I was completely unaware of this until I decided to sit up and have something to eat or turn around – or I was on my own. The route out to Surrey is very well planned, and it was a great opportunity to pass through Richmond Park surrounded by other cyclists.

After leaving London and getting to the countryside, but before the hills, was where the real test began to set in for me. I found this period relatively dull, and with over 30 miles in my legs, and not even close to half way finished, the pace still continuing to be higher than I had thought possible, I began to question why I was even still on my bike. Taking part in this event on your own, with the purpose of pushing yourself for a good finish time can be a world of pain. It becomes quite difficult to find someone riding a similar pace to you to share the work with and the terrain, whilst not exactly “rolling” isn’t flat either.

I was well aware of the fact that I had the hills in sight though, and this motivated me. In my training rides I’d been covering over 1000m of climbing in most of my longer rides and in much shorter distances than I’d be covering for the Ride London. The hills was where I felt like I was going to be strong and this was the case.

Newlands Corner is the first real test of the day and it was passed with ease. Moving myself to the right hand side of the road to quickly pass those I was leaving behind. Keeping an eye on my heart rate, making sure I wasn’t digging too deep I was up and over relatively quickly, but I knew the worst was yet to come.

People make a big deal out of Box Hill. People who don’t know much about riding a bike make a big deal out of Box Hill actually. The reason it was covered so many times in the Olympic Road Race, in my opinion, was to make it into something of a challenge. Getting over Box Hill is relatively easy. Getting over it 7 times and at pace probably isn’t. Leith Hill on the other hand is somewhat of a bitch, for want of a better term.

Leith Hill also appears before Box Hill. Coming just after the half way point it slows everything down. People who seemed to have been comfortable on the flat for half the ride were now falling backwards. It actually took me some time to realise we were on Leith Hill. It wasn’t until we got to the small group of buildings that I realised where I was. That was when I switched on my GoPro to record the Bitch. Similar to many mass participation cycling events, these obstacles can cause somewhat of a bottle neck, so again I moved to the right, stayed in the saddle and span my way up. I didn’t allow the reputation of the hill to get into my head at all and kept a nice pace, keeping an eye on my heart rate and letting some of the even more accomplished climbers pass on my right.

Towards the top of the climb the percentage really jumps, which presents a problem, because for some of those on the road it was the breaking point. Some people abandoned their steads and chose (or were forced) to walk. I was out of the saddle by now and breathing hard.

I managed to crest the climb at a good pace and set a new PB, as I realised when I later checked Strava, but I was to pay with a bout of cramp above my knees at the bottom of the decent. As much as my legs felt good, I dug far too deep and pushed too far on the steeper sections. This left me without much in the tank on what should have been quite a quick section joining Leith Hill to Box Hill. I struggled in a big way here though, and again the doubts about finishing were creeping in. I knew I could finish a 100 mile bike ride, but now I was going so well, and my average pace was still above 30 kmh I wanted to finish quick.

Box Hill, came and went in another record time for me. I’ll admit, it wasn’t easy, but nor was it hard in the same way that some of my training hills had been. It’s a lovely road to cycle up and you really are rewarded with some stunning views, but I didn’t have enough time to take them in. It was here that I realised I might be able to break 5 hours for 100 miles so things began to get quite serious. Originally I’d said I’d be happy with 5 hours 45 minutes, but now it was in sight, I wanted 5 hours.

The last 30 miles is definitely considerably more “rolling” than the first 30 miles of flat road and with the worst of the climbing complete it was going to be a struggle to maintain my pace and have enough for a quick finish. I also knew I was going to have to stop, something I’d hoped to avoid, for a call of nature and some more water. I decided to stop around 80 miles in, not at one of the bigger hub stops to avoid the crowds and make it quick. This helped hugely and the next 10 miles passed in somewhat of a blur.

This last section of the ride was by far my favourite. By now the crowds had begun to line the streets and there was a real carnival atmosphere through each of the towns and villages we passed. It was great to see people cheering and smiling, even if isn’t for you personally, its just a great boost and it definitely put a smile on my face.

The last big test was Wimbledon Hill. I was out of the saddle quickly here, having been warned that it’s short and punchy. I wasn’t going to spin my way up I was going to attack it. Nearly every charity that had a rider entered had a big group of support here, and I imagine, if you were riding for a charity it would have been an incredible experience. The road was filled with colour on each side and the noise was actually quite loud.

Over Wimbledon Hill and things began to get serious. There were a number of chain gangs passing me by here and I picked one to get dragged along by. I’d noticed a cyclist with the same start time as me from her jersey number and decided to follow her wheel through to the finish. It seemed like an easy idea at the time but it most certainly wasn’t.

She was sat on the wheel of a guy who seemed a fair bit older than me, but a fair bit fitter and wiser as well. He was happy to do the pulling and as we began the approach into central London he really put the hammer down. The pace was unbearable at times and I didn’t think I was going to make it to the finish with this group. I fully understand that this isn’t a race, but had you tried to tell me that as I got dropped off the wheels coming past Parliament, you might not have liked my response.

I emptied myself to try and get back and managed to get on, a few wheels further back now than I had been with about 1.5 km to go. As we turned left to come under Admiralty Arch the woman who I had originally followed jumped out to the right and tried to sprint past. I quickly closed the gap and decided to wait.

It is quite a strange feeling coming into the finishing straight. Something you have watched so many times on TV as you watch the sprinters fight it out for position, the crowd cheering everyone on. The commentators counting down the meters now rather than kilometers.

The older guy in red had opened up now; down on the drops, head down, out the saddle. I still waited just pushing slightly before I moved out to the right, dropped the chain onto a higher gear and go out of the saddle. After 100 miles I was going to make this as close to a professional finish as I could. I managed to pull ahead with about 100 m left. It wasn’t him that I was happy about beating though, it was me.

Over the course of 5 hours and 3 seconds I’d pushed myself harder than I ever had before on a bike. I’d smashed what I thought I was capable of, set new PBs on most of the Strava segments I’d previously ridden and finished in what I think is a rather respectable time. The feeling of elation and relief at having finished the course was quite overwhelming and I had to fight off some tears as I passed Buckingham Palace to collect my finishers medal.

The Prudential Ride London 100 was one of my greatest cycling achievements and one which I hope I can replicate next year.IMG-20160903-WA0007

Day 1 – Watching my weight and not thinking about work

I woke up relatively late this morning (in work terms of waking up at 6.15am) but that has helped in some ways by eating breakfast a bit later.

Weight – 11st 7lbs (73kg)

Breakfast – Using my new BlendActive smoothie maker
  • 1 sachet of porridge oats (Tesco)
  • 1/2 scoop of MyProtein Impact Diet Whey
  • 300ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 tablespoon Nutella

Approx. 400 calories (Thanks MyFitnessPal)

Lunch – Managed to fall off the wagon already
  • Harvester half rotisserie chicken – 1300 cal.
  • Chocolate fudge cake – 1200 cal.

Approx. 2500 cal. (That’s more than 600 over my recommended calorific intake for the day)

Dinner – Will not be eaten today

 

 

Back to school blues and watching my weight

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Going back to work is now looming over me like a heavy storm cloud (much the opposite to the current weather situation). As I write this post, the sky outside is bright blue, not a cloud to be seen and a gentle breeze is moving the rapidly browning leaves of the tree outside. I’m struggling to focus on the weather though.

Officially I’m back to work on Thursday for two days of inset, but I will also be in on Thursday. I’m meeting a colleague for coffee before trying to organise our rooms for the return of children.

What I’m also conscious of is maintaining my weight. At the start of the summer holiday my body was a well oiled machine, ready to complete the Prudential Ride London 100. I had lost almost 1st (6kg) before the ride and completed 100 miles in 5 hours, averaging 20mph (32kmh). Over the course of the summer I have somehow managed to not put much of that weight back on and currently weigh 11st 7lbs (73kg) but I am aware of the impact going back to work can have.

What I therefore plan on doing is keeping a record, via this blog, of my eating, exercise and the stresses of going back to work. I know I’m not going to have as much time to cycle, or time to prepare meals but I am hoping that by keeping this record it will maintain my motivation to keep working on my body and keeping up with the demands of the new school year.

I know at the start of the post that going back to work is looming over like a large storm cloud, and it is, but I am also really excited to go back to work. I’m excited to see students and staff, and to hit the ground running this year. Last year I hated teaching, I hated the school I had been at and I was going to work to collect my cheque on a weekly basis. Now I know I’m in a supportive school with students who (not all) want to work hard I know that I can work hard for them to help them achieve.

I also realised I should probably add a note about my plans and goals for this year, just for my own personal record. In terms of work I want to be looking at establishing myself in a role of responsibility within my department, hopefully taking charge of a key stage or at least a year group.

In terms of cycling, I am currently planning on taking part in a sportive on my birthday at the end of October, I am really hoping to get a place on the Prudential Ride London 100 again, but may take a charity place and I am also planning a trip to the south of Spain to ride the Sierra Nevada mountain range – my dream of riding the Haute Route in 2017 has been put on hold due to finances.

This year (so far) in numbers

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At the start of the year I decided that I didn’t want to set some kind of unattainable New Years Resolutions. I didn’t want to stop doing anything or cut anything out only to set myself up for failure. Instead what I decided was that by the end of this year, 2016, I wanted to be in a position to sign up for the Haute Route in 2017.

It is now the end of the 3rd month of this year and I currently feel like shit.

That whole thing about not setting myself up for failure seems to have come true, probably some time around the start of this month.

January for me went well, I posted bigger numbers than I had previously. I was training at least 3 times/week. Two turbo sessions and at least once out on the road with a club run. At the time of writing this post, Strava is telling me that my last activity (yes I’ve been running too) was 25 days ago.

Here are my goals for this year:

  • 225 hrs (including turbo sessions)
  • 4,750 km (including turbo sessions)
  • 3,500 m/month climbing on average
  • Complete the London Surrey 100 in under 6 hours

So far at the end of month 3 I have completed the following:

  • 45 hrs – below target
  • 1,149 km – just below target
  • 2,930 m/month average – below target

My longest ride so far this year has been just over 100 km. I’ve completed 2 100 km+ rides which is pretty good for this time of year in my opinion. However, I have not trained anywhere near the volume I wanted to be training.

I have been facing a heavy workload as well as taking on tutoring after work during the week which has severely limited my time. Not only that but the last two weeks I’ve been struck down by the most horrendous illness. I don’t know if it is flu as a I refuse to go to the doctor and I don’t like to exaggerate my illness (Yes, I’m a man and am sometimes prone to bouts of “man-flu” but this is something far worse).

I know that I need to get back on track with my evening turbo sessions and also getting out at the weekends but it is increasingly difficult with being a teacher.

I hope that the two week Easter break will give me enough time to rest and fully recover and go back into April with a new found energy to smash my goals for the last 9 months of this year.

One thing I can be pleased with is my weight loss. I started off the year, following quite an enjoyable Christmas period weighing in at 12.5 st (79 kg) and now weigh 12 st (76 kg). Not a huge loss but I am aiming to get down to 11.5 st (73 kg) so I don’t have far to go.

I would love to hear from any other teachers who count cycling as their main hobby outside of the classroom and hear how they cope with the challenge of balancing working, training and a life.

 

The History Teacher

On staying in teaching

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This time last year I was adamant I was leaving the teaching profession. I was sending out applications to all manner of different jobs in different sectors completely unrelated to the profession which I decided to pay £9000 for the privilege of joining.

I got in touch a teacher specific recruitment company who shall remain unnamed with a view to getting into the more evil side of world of teaching. I was soon persuaded to interview at a school not far from where I live for a maternity cover position.

Whilst I was adamant I was leaving, I was also desperate to secure some form of income as well. A temporary teaching post suited me.

To cut this long and boring story short I was offered the job, accepted after some negotiation of pay and contract (still a contentious issue) and started work in September. I was once again back in a world I hated. At least that is what I thought.

What I have realised in the past year is that I don’t hate EVERYTHING about teaching. I certainly can’t say I love every aspect of the job and there is still a lot I would love to change. However, what I can say is that I enjoy teaching, in the right environment. My current teaching post has taught me a lot, but the biggest thing I’ve learnt is that not every school is as bad as I’d been led to believe by my previous experiences.

My NQT year was spent in what I can now look back on and view as a toxic environment. The friends I have who still teach there have managed to deal with it, and fair play to them because they are forced to become some of the most hard working individuals for the sake of their students. That was not the right environment for me to work in though. To be honest, I don’t think it was particularly healthy for anyone to work there, but I guess some people learnt to cope better and quicker than I was able to.

My health suffered as a result of that school and so did my relationship. As I said, my current school is no heaven, but it is certainly a much healthier and more supportive place to work than my first school.

For this reason, I have decided to keep at it. I have grown as an individual and as a teacher under a much less draconian system which allows a greater level of freedom and which also makes you feel a lot more able as a professional. I have a lot of flaws as a teacher, and as teachers we are forced to consistently face, evaluate and overcome these flaws in order to do better for our students. I realise that I need to change a lot in order to become the teacher I want to be one day and I feel like I can do that in my current environment.

As a profession we are regularly being put down by the press, by the government, by parents and most worryingly sometimes by fellow professionals. It is not an easy job we do as teachers and we all feel completely undervalued and unappreciated by everyone we help. What I have managed to find in my current school is a small amount of hope.

It isn’t in any way perfect, the students are not angels and yes there are still too many middle managers. What is different here is that you are given the opportunity to teach without being forced to follow arbitrary guidelines sent down by the almighty SLT.

I have been given the chance to stay until the end of the academic year and also to apply for the full time position I currently occupy. All I hope is that I can get past my inability to interview well and secure a job which will allow me to become a better teacher.

 

The History Teacher (for now)

A huge shout to Westerham Cyclery

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The other day I found myself almost stuck, in almost the middle of nowhere.

My front derailleur had seized up and I was really struggling to change between the big and little ring. Not a major issue on any other ride but I’d planned an undulating route that should have seen me covering somewhere closer to 1000m of climbing in around 80km riding. I needed both chain rings.

I’ve met the guys in Westerham Cyclery a couple of times on club runs. They have a great little cafe, enough space for everyone from the club to fit and they offer great service. Its a cafe which is run by cyclists for cyclists. The coffee is good and the cake is good, they know exactly what we want, and we know to pre-warn them if we are heading in their direction. It can get quite busy on a weekend morning but luckily I was alone on this particular Saturday morning spin.

I knew I couldn’t complete my ride with the bike in the state it was (yes, it was my fault the derailleur had seized. No, I don’t take good enough care of my bike) so I decided to pull in to the cafe. My problem was soon explained and the bike soon in the workshop. This whole situation sounds pretty normal for now, but they were also swamped with having one club just leave and Sidcup Cycles turn up at around the same time as me. Luckily my bike was in getting serviced, and I was free to enjoy an espresso whilst I waited. The whole thing took no more than 15 minutes from me stopping to being back out on the road.

For me, Westerham is a long way to go for a bike service, but if I ever have a mechanical in the area again, I know exactly where I will be heading.

Top service.

Top coffee.

Top mechanics.

Rules #5 and #9 followed on Sunday’s club ride

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Its a strange sport that sees you relish the chance to be out for two or three hours soaked through to the bone, face covered in mud, legs covered in road crap, feet wrinkled and bike needing a wash.

As I left the bike in the garage and saw the sun begin to appear from behind the clouds I was happy that I’d chosen the morning to ride rather than the sunny afternoon. Cycling in poor weather for me is what cycling is all about. I personally think that cyclists also look better with a waterproof jacket on, and we all know that half of cycling is looking good.

I was really struggling to motivate myself to carry on cycling following on from finishing the Tour of the South East. Waking up on Sunday morning and knowing I had to put my waterproof on before I’d even left the house wasn’t really filling me with joy but I hadn’t seen my club mates for a few weeks and knew I had to go for it.

During the week I had happened upon the new video from Strava “Ride with Us.” It made me realise why I ride. I ride because I love riding my bike, simple.

I keep on telling myself that I need something to aim for. I need a goal to motivate myself to keep riding my bike. What this video helped me to realise was that actually I don’t need an event to aim for. What I need to do is remember why I ride my bike, why I spend so much money on bikes and clothes and food.

Sunday morning riding in the rain, being hit by road spray, and finishing the ride looking somewhere close to but not quite like I’d been riding the wet cobbles of Belgium, made me realise just how much I love to ride my bike.

Being a teacher I get quite some time off in the summer (yes, I do deserve it before you start shouting) and I plan to use it productively. Last summer when I was a trainee teacher I had quite good form going into the summer months. My average speeds over the same routes were up last year and I also weighed a couple of pounds less. I am determined to make the most of the break not only on shedding some more weight and getting a bit faster but also on cultivating my tan lines (rule #7). I am even considering taking my club kit on holiday to wear in the sun for the first few days just to keep those lines on my arms and legs as sharp as possible.

What other sport sees you push yourself to the limit in climbing a hill, which you have gone out of your way to ride over, to then go down that hill as fast as you can before looking for another hill?

What other sport has your legs screaming (there are times when I think my legs have actually emitted a sound in defiance of continued riding) before then riding some more, possibly over another hill?

When else is it acceptable to wear sunglasses when it is pouring with rain?

What other sport forces you on to a saddle which clearly wasn’t designed for the human posterior for hours at a time?

Cycling doesn’t need an aim. Yes, it helps to have something to push yourself for, but what is most important is to not forget why most people start cycling in the first place – because we love to be outdoors, on the road, climbing hills, making your lungs burst and racing your friends.

Getting the pro experience on a bike for only £39

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I recently took part in the Tour of the South East, which forms part of the Tour of England series. These rides are organised by Ride2Raise and all in aid of the NSPCC. I chose this particular event after completing the London Duathlon last year in aid of the NSPCC. For me it is important to have something to aim for when it comes to my cycling. I struggle with heading out on the Sunday club run with no specific aim in mind.

This was something I could really get my teeth into in terms of something to aim for. The ride consisted of two days cycling through some of the South East’s greatest countryside. I was going to cover 168 miles (270km for the more European minded) and almost 9000ft (2800m) of climbing.

I knew this was going to be a challenge. I have previously cycled to Berlin from the Hook of Holland, which was 10 days worth of cycling, but on a much more relaxed scale to what I was expecting from this event. I was nervous in the week leading up to the departure since I’d only once this year managed a ride over 100km, previously giving up at about 95km and getting a train home.

My training was not as intense as I had hoped for, I didn’t think I had it in my legs to complete the two days and I certainly did not feel I had conquered enough hills during my Sunday club runs.

I took a train to Guildford on Friday evening after work and checked in to a local Premier Inn. Dinner was provided by the wonderful chef at my school. Massive thanks to him actually since he cooked me my own lunch on Friday (carbo loading pasta) and gave me enough to have dinner that night and a post stage snack on Saturday.

I arrived to the start venue earlier than most. I had signed up to what was apparently the slowest group and therefore had the earliest start time. My training had told me this was the sensible decision, according to Strava my average speeds were down significantly on last years form. Being in the slowest group did not faze me though, I was happy to ride comfortably and within myself. After all, this was about raising money for charity not about me.

Once I’d got myself changed, wearing my club colours for the opening stage, I made my way to the start line. I checked over the bike one last time and began to mingle amongst the other riders. I also said hello to one of the girls who works for the NSPCC who I had met the previous year at the Duathlon – she was excellent again as well as the other members of her team.

We would be accompanied over the two stages by 6 domestiques, a support car with soigneur  a motorcycle outrider and a dedicated mechanic. The entire team were connected via radios to keep us, the riders, as informed as possible. This was the first realisation of what a professional set up we were in for over the two days.

On rolling out of Guildford we were soon separated into two smaller groups. We had a great domestique leading our group and we were soon all chatting away, moving up and down the order talking to one another.

The ride was perfect; the roads well picked, the scenery enough but not quite distracting, and enough tough climbs thrown in to make it a challenge. I must admit I rode a lot of the first day on the front of the group. I was probably trying to show off a bit, but it was also a bit about positioning on the climbs – I did not want to get caught behind people as they started to move backwards on any gradient. I don’t mean any offence by this but simply that I like to climb at my own pace and that happened to be quicker than other members of the group. This became especially noticeable on the stages first real climb which was Devil’s Dyke, the turning point on the stage. Things became quite spread out, but everyone soon came back together and we descended quickly as a group.

Feed stations on the stage were placed very well. My only issue would be that we often stopped for periods which I felt were too long. Maybe I should have been pushing myself more in terms of my group selection, but by the time I had finished lunch I was itching to get back on the bike.

Our last challenge of Stage 1 came in the form of the timed hill climb on Leith Hill. This was an ascent from the Broomehall Road, something I wasn’t familiar with. Having been at the front of the group on all the climbs throughout the day, I felt it my duty to push myself for the King of the Mountains jersey I knew was up for grabs. The climb was a deceptive one and I was never quite sure if I was in the right gear. I did quickly pass some of the slower climbers though and was soon alone on the road – that was until I came across the guys from the NSPCC. Their cheering really pushed me on to the end of the climb at a time when I was beginning to suffer. Although we didn’t see them very much during the stage, when we did see them their cheering was very welcome and it also makes you remember why you are out there riding.

My aim was to raise £350 for the NSPCC. As a teacher working with vulnerable children every day, it is a cause which I fully support and think is excellent in the work it does and the support it provides.

Stage 1 finished by rolling back in to the hotel that we departed from around 7 hours earlier. We were tired, smelly and almost broken but we were all extremely proud of our achievement.

That evening we were invited to the Yellow Jersey Dinner, which took place in the hotel. Another well organised part of the tour with a speech from Mark Colbourne MBE. It was an inspiring and funny speech about his battle back from a disastrous paragliding accident which took him all the way to a gold medal in the London 2012 Paralympics. It was an excellent end to a fitting first day and also something which we could all keep in mind for the next day’s cycling.

Not only did Mark Colbourne give an excellent talk to everyone but he also presented the jerseys to the winners of the hill climb. I was lucky enough to receive one and it’s something that I will always wear with pride. I have to admit at this point that had I been in any of the other groups I wouldn’t have got close to jersey but you can only beat what is put in front of you.

The morning of Stage 2 was slightly harder in terms of getting up and out of bed, but I was soon excited to get back out on the road with some friends I had made from the day before. We set off and were soon laughing about one of the guys in our group falling asleep in his hotel with a box of chicken from the KFC across the road. The perfect recovery food.

The highlight for me of Stage 2 was the climb through Denbies vineyards. The climb began covered by the shade of the trees, this soon turned to a much more dappled light and I was soon pulling down the zipper on my freshly presented polka dot jersey. The sun was making the day’s cycling that bit harder for everyone but the riders were soon rewarded with the view over the Surrey countryside as the trees fell away to the left as we continued the ascent. The view directly below us was of the vineyard and as you looked further out you could see the ridge which forms Leith Hill and a view of the county which seemed to stretch on forever. We were given this reward relatively early on in the stage and it was a view which I won’t quickly forget.

The rest of the stage passed off without incident. The flat TT section was a great break and a chance for some of the faster guys on the flat to show what they could do and it was another good 6 hours in the saddle, moving up and down the group and talking to as many people as I could.

Everyone I met was clearly passionate about their cycling and about the cause which the event was supporting. The guys supporting us on the ride were excellent and clearly very experienced group riders and the experience of riding with a support car and a motorcycle out in front is something which I doubt I will get again. I couldn’t have possibly asked for a better group of people to have ridden with and I am hoping it won’t be the last I see of some of them.

I want to say a massive thanks again to everyone who helped to organise such a great event which has given me as an amateur a real taste of what it might be like to ride as a pro, even with a massively reduced peleton, and without the racing, and minus the alpine climbs (which I’m grateful for), and the jostling for position coming into the sprint finish.

I am definitely considering returning next year and hopefully being in a position to push myself up a group in terms of the speed.