Bald bloke on a bike: Andy Oakes' gruelling lycra-clad journey from London to Paris
Call it a midlife crisis, call it misguided, call it a long drawn out suicide attempt if you want. In July this year, I’ve decided to attempt the London to Paris bike ride. And yes, I’m fully aware you can get a train..
A sight for sore eyes: The Drum's own Andy Oakes in lycra
Why is this here? Well, The Drum have been kind enough to be a major sponsor of my efforts and in return, I'm to keep you updated with tales of ill-advised lycra, unfortunate rashes, undignified crashing and mile upon mile of arse numbing tedium. Sold yet?
The ride takes four days to cover the 300 miles between Tower Bridge and the Arc De Triomphe and I’m riding on behalf of Action Medical Research whose colours are baby blue, white and pink. And thus, that will be the colours of the kit I’m riding in, so that’s 300 miles of Southern England and Northern France that get to see me dressed like a newborn with indecisive parents. Lycra is also pretty unforgiving on the inevitable results of a career spent in media so I’ve embarked on a strict dietary regime ( except when I’m on visits to our Glasgow office. Telling people you’d like a salad is not a good idea..) and I’m off the red wine and beer. White wine and vodka obviously don’t count and are practically sports drinks I believe.
Some background is required. I’m the wrong side of 40 and an ex-rugby player. Thus my physique is not naturally given to churning up big hills on a frighteningly delicate piece of aluminium and carbon. I am reasonably fit, but I’m finding out that ‘Bike fit’ and ‘gym fit’ are totally different. And you can be out of a nice warm gym in an hour. I’m out training for four hours at a time in what has been some pretty crappy weather. Aiming slick road tyres between ice patches on potholed roads loses it’s fun fairly rapidly.
So, in an effort to get some decent miles under my belt, I’ve just spent a week in Spain getting a decent block of training done and the contrast couldn’t be starker. Smooth well surfaced roads, drivers who don’t see it as their duty to knock you into a ditch and a huge orange thing in the sky that seems to have vacated the UK. The locals love their cycling but this only threw up another contrast. Them – whippet thin, expensive coordinated kit, bronzed (and shaved legs). Me – not really any of those. Ok, I’m losing the weight, I’ve just bought some eye wateringly expensive kit but the legs.. I have an uneasy relationship with hair at the best of times so this could be a problem. I’ll update in later posts on the shaving issue.
Lastly, I’ve completed my first Sportive. For those unfamiliar with the concept , a Sportive is an organised event whereby riders are ranked on time , not on finishing position, it being very difficult to stage a race on the roads legally. So no racing, no racing at all. Except, EVERYBODY is racing. From the middle aged blokes in full Team Sky kit (a real no-no amongst the cycling cognoscenti it seems ) to the odd shaped blokes in football shorts on mountain bikes, everybody was channelling pure Wiggins as we hurtled around East Anglia. I’m afraid to say I was no exception and even decided to raise a finishing sprint as I came towards to last few hundred metres. I probably should have remembered the speed bumps from the start of the event but flushed with adrenaline and the applause of the huge crowds ( might just have been my wife and kids, difficult to tell at high speed) I completely forgot they were there. Until I hit one..
It’s not the first pain I’ve suffered on this undertaking and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last but the impact and subsequent squeals were heard for miles around.
PS: Huge thanks to my sponsors so far including The Drum, Iprospect and RedGecko
Andy is raising money for Action Medical Research. More details can be found at http://www.action.org.uk/sponsor/andyoakes. It should be noted that some of the images of Andy in lycra may be upsetting.