Sunday, 14 September 2008


This will be the final and closing post for this, my Etape Blog.

It started last year as an effort to keep me focused, and has proved invaluable as an aid in the darker moments to remind me where I've come from and what it is possible to achieve.

I'm still a bloke who is fatter than he wishes, though I'm a shadow of my former self, and I'm significantly fitter. I have finished the Etape du Tour in front of the broom wagon (my original target) and without walking a single step of either mountain (an achievement beyond my wildest imaginings at the outset). I have cycled some 9,500 miles in the last 2 years, a number I can still scarcely comprehend.

So, was it worth it?

Even had I failed in France, the answer would still be a resounding YES. I have rediscovered the joys of fresh air and countryside, despite the downside of traffic, and my wife and I now spend a deal of enjoyable time on our bikes. My health has improved, and my energy levels are incomparable, stress is much reduced. And lest I forget, the four first time Etappers raised almost £3,500 for the Stroke Association.

As for the Etape itself, I'm afraid I still find the finish a bit of an anticlimax, maybe because of the weather and the isolated finish. That said, I'm beginning to feel pride in an achievement that most who knew me felt was beyond me. Part of the driver on the high mountains was the voice of a hospital consultant when he was treating me for IBS late in 2006. The conversation went something like:

Do you exercise? Yes.
What do you do? I cycle.
Often? I try, and I will be cycling a stage of the Tour de France in the Pyrenees next July
Good God man! You're far too big for that. Do something more sensible.

With the best will in the world, and with the greatest of respect. Up yours! No-one tells me what I am, and am not, capable of. My wife has remarked, when I have arrived back with bronze medal after bronze medal from every Sportive I've done (bar one) "If they gave out medals for being bloody-minded, you'd get a Gold every time". Tenaciousness, and application are everything. Never give up.

To anyone thinking of doing the
Etape, go for it. But train first. And when you have trained, train some more. It is so worth it, to say "I did that" when the professionals follow. Finally some words of semi-wisdom:

The biggest weight you carry is between your ears.

Thinking about it is harder than doing it.
If there is an ideal Etape bike for a beginner, I has a triple.
Ignore all 'minimum' amounts of required training, only at least twice as much will do.
You are stronger than you think you are, and you CAN do it.

That's it for me and the Etape (until 2012 when I'm in the 50+ age category) but it cannot, and will not, end here. Next year will be London-Edinburgh-London, 1400 kilometers of Audax in under 5 days, and beyond that the Marmotte, Paris-Brest-Paris and too many other good Sportives to mention by name.

Thanks for reading and commenting, you have kept me honest, and helped to get me up the mountains and over the line. The link to next years Blog is on the top right of this page, I look forward to seeing you there.



Michael said...

Inspirational stuff, Clive. I too did the Etape this year, started training at the start of the year at 16st 10lbs.. lost 2st and found a new hobby. Am off next week to Tibet to cycle Lhasa to Kathmandu to prove you can combine road cycling with mountain biking. Have a look at not as extensive by any means as yours and only meant for a small number of readers but you might enjoy some of it.

Good luck next year, I shall be following your blog.


Mark R said...

I realise I'm reading history here but thank you for the pleasant reading. I stumbled across your blog and once started couldn't stop. It took me well over 3 hours to read it all but your well written often funny account of your run up to the Etape was a joy and an inspiration to read.... Looking forward to reading your further adventures now .

Thank You
Mark R

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