You’re a cyclist aren’t you Mark?

I think being clad in lycra head to toe pushing my bike through the hotel lobby at 7.30am in the morning getting back from a morning ride gave the game away.   “Yes “ I answered, “good” said my colleague, “make sure you keep the 21st -25th September clear, we are sponsoring our clients annual charity bike ride and we need to put a team together.  I need you to be in that team. “

That brief conversation back in February in a hotel lobby in Barcelona was how I landed the opportunity to ride for Ciena as principal sponsors for the annual Colt Technology Charity bike ride.   The event in 2017 was to be their 6th edition as they rode from regional office to regional office to raise funds for charities linked to their various regions.   Previous years they had ridden from London to Paris. Paris to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Munich and Marselle to Barcelona.   The route for 2017 was from Barcelona to Valencia over 4 days.

And so fast forward 7 months and having completed the Haute Route Alps a couple of weeks ago, once again my bike was in the back of a van and making it’s way to the Mediterranean coast line for another multi-day event to join 4 other Ciena colleagues and 120 other riders from Colt and their partners.

We gathered on Thursday afternoon to check-in, register, get our ride numbers, attend the pre ride briefing and get to know each other a little bit more.  Each rider taking part was split into groups based upon rider ability and experience.  I had previously elected to go in the group that would average 25kph on the road.  Turned out later that I had been Strava-stalked but the ride organizers  and pushed up into the fastest group, which turned out to the best decision as they were a great group to ride with.

On Friday morning the 12 groups gathered outside the Barcelona offices of Colt and one by one groups headed out to split the peloton up and not cause disruption on the road.

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The ride each day consisted of a base route that would get the riders between the “host” venues for each day with an excursion route attached into the ride for those who wanted to add a little more challenge to their riding.  This was a very successful set up as it allowed riders of all abilities to get involved and stretch themselves according to their abilities.

Then each day all the riders luggage would be transported from hotel to hotel along with a day bag that would be available at each of the feed stations along the route.  The remarkable thing about this though was that the whole event was staffed by Colt employees.  Whether it was the team moving the luggage, or the team moving the day bags, or the team that stocked and staffed the feed stations along the route, each person was a part of Colt and they did an excellent job.    One of the really appreciated features was that all of the riders bags were taken to their hotel rooms and left inside their rooms so that riders didn’t have to haul their bags up to their rooms after finishing the ride.  Such a small detail but so significant.  I greatly appreciated this, as this was not done on the Haute Route.

And the feed stations were excellent, There was no chance of losing weight during this ride as the food at the lunch stops was so good.  The Colt volunteer team did a fantastic job.

Day 1 140km from Barcelona to Tarragona 

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Photo Credit Joe Rass @lebikestop

 

Day 2 Sun was shining again as we went from Tarragona to Tortosa, 156km 2256m.

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Day 3  Tortosa to Castellon – 180km 2,000m climbing and a dip in the lake…..

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Day 4 – Castellon to  the finish in Valencia 125km.

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The Ciena Team Photo Credit Insta  : edstar_osei

The total route length for the 4 days was just over 600km with 7000m of climbing, so a good few days in the saddle.  Also our team 12 managed to take the top three places in the King of the Mountains competition.   (I placed second)

Each of the local regions of Colt that participate in the charity bike ride nominate and raise money for those charities.  In the UK this was the charity Place2be.   ,the UK’s leading children’s mental health charity.

On the last day of the ride they posted a tweet sharing that over £20000 had been raised so far and that this was replicated across each of the participating Colt regions.   Our five person Ciena team was able to add a further £2000 to that total.

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Those that know me, know that I really enjoy cycling, it provides me with a great way to free my mind, recharge, think, test and challenge myself.  This year I have had the great pleasure also to do that and along the way raise a bit of money for charities that help others.

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My Haute Route Experience

It’s been a few weeks now since I completed the Haute Route Alps and I have been contemplating how I can adequately sum up the experience.  The fundraising hasn’t stopped, the justgiving page remains open till the end of October to collate donations. Hopefully this post will try and articulate what was for me without a doubt the toughest physical and mental challenge I have undertaken and help put a few more dollars/pounds into supporting the sustainable diabetes program through Team Type 1 foundation.

Let’s start with the official review video created by the Haute Route Team which gives an insight into the event.   I was interviewed during the event and they used a bit of that interview in the voiceovers.

I arrived in Nice ahead of the event and met up with Joe and Manuel who I met via social media in the lead up to the weekend to grab something to eat.  This meeting set the tone for a great week, making new friends, sharing amazing experiences together, enjoying great company, helping, encouraging & assisting each other.21077699_10213584046777181_9017291818650453197_n

Rather than a blow by blow account of each stage I thought I would share what a typical day on the Haute Route looked like.

  • 5-6am Wake up, get up, shower, kit up, breakfast, pack day bag for drop-off at the start. Pack some food, make a sandwich for eating in the first two hours.  (thanks Ben for the tip)
  • Around 6-6.30am Pack transport bag for pick up at the hotel.  Gently roll down to the start village and drop off day bag for collection at the finish.
  • 7am –  Stage start.  Along with 300 other riders, we roll out for anywhere between 5 & 8 hours on the bike.  IMG_4275
  • 8-9am – Within the first hour or so, we would have hit the first mountain climb of the day. In a normal stage, described here, the race organisers would put in a minimum of three big mountain cols, which in and of themselves would be a decent day out in the mountains on a bike.  This first col of the day would be to warm up the legs and prepare for the next big climb which normally was a monster.
  • A feed Station would be placed normally at the top of the first climb of the day to allow a quick rest and replenishing of supplies.  For me, this meant grab some cut oranges, sugary drink, salted crackers and eat another of my veloforte bites. IMG_4270
  • Anywhere between 11am-1pm – Hit the big climb of the day.  The list of these second climbs of the day read like a who’s who of the famous mountain cols. Cayolle (2326m), Izoard (2360m), Sarenne (1999m), Madeline (2000m) & Colombiere (1618m).  Normally these ascents would be between 9-32km in length meaning that in some cases we were climbing for multiple hours at a time.  Climbing the Cayolle on day 1 I cramped up towards the top making me really worried for the rest of the week.  I made sure I replenished my salt intake better during the week and adjusted my re-fuelling strategy to make sure it didn’t happeIMG_3509n again.
  • From 2pm to 4pm (or later).  The last big climb and avoiding the time cut for the day.  For each stage there was an official cut off by which we as riders must finish in order to be categorised and receive an official finish time.  My goal of the week was to make the time cut each day and not receive the dreaded DNF (did not finish).
  • FINISH THE STAGE – Pick up day bag, shower, change, eat, massage, find hotel and  prepare for next day.  Hand wash kit, pin on race numbers for next day.
  • Find a good place to eat and get those carbs and proteins in for the next day as well as a good debrief of the day.

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The Lows:

Without question the lows came when doubt came into my mind about whether I would be able to complete the climb/stage/race/section * delete as appropriate.  As Chris said to me on Stage 3 the mind always goes before the legs and essentially he was right.  A couple of these darker moments stand out.

∗On stage 1 I cramped up on the climb to Col de Cayolle, as we climbed 32km from Ascros to the first big summit.    At this point I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to make the time cuts and finish the race and all sorts of doubts came into my mind.  Had I trained enough, had I bitten off more than I could chew, was this simply something that was beyond me.   I realised that I wasn’t replenishing the salts I was losing through sweating and the effort and so made some changes to my refueling strategy that involved more crackers and included a bit more salt in my food.   It made a difference, no more cramps.

∗Towards the end of the day on stage 2 we climbed the Col d’Granon a dead-end climb of 12km to a gravel car park.  After spending a little too much time on the top of the climb at Izoard I was running out of time getting close to the time cut and put myself under pressure.  It was a tough climb which tested my mental capacity as I had to dig deep to finish ahead of the cut.  I made it by 30 minutes but I hurt.   I can with complete confidence say that I have no desire to ever go back to the top of the Col d’Granon, the road that leads nowhere.

∗On the Col de Joux Plane, with just 7km to go to finish the day the road went up into double digits, after so many climbs and kms that week I wasn’t sure that I had the legs left to get up these 14-18% ramps which although they lasted just a kilometre or two seemed to drag on and on. There was a reward at the end of it though. (See the highs section below)

The Highs:

∗On the morning of day 2 we gathered at the ski resort Pra Loup, there I met Jerom Grilhot also riding for Team Type 1, but he is a board member.  He shared with me the incredible strains that Diabetic athletes put themselves through to compete.  He said something very poignant, “for me the pain stops when I get off my bike and lie on my bed, for these guys (athletes with diabetes) it is never ending”

∗Seeing my son Scott at the top of Col d’Izoard on stage 2 as he and my brother had travelled across to spend some time on their bikes in the mountains and cheer me on.  Scott took this shot as I made it to the summit.

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∗On day 5, which was the queen stage I had just summited the Col de Madeleine and taken a break to refuel and get ready for the last segment of the day.  As I restarted on the descent, I was on my own with this amazing descent opening up ahead of me with Mont Blanc in full view.  An exceptional moment on the bike

∗Similarly on Day 6 climbing up the last climb of the day on the awesome Col de Joux Plane. We had passed the early ramp and as the road snaked up the mountain there was a moment where the sun was shining beautifully with absolutely no wind, perfect silence with only the sound of my drivetrain moving along.  For a moment everything was perfect.  Ironically within just one km I also had one of my lows of the race as Joux Plane ramped up to double digits but then I was rewarded with a switchback looking over the Mont Blanc Massiv that brought back the beauty of this magnificent climb.

∗Finishing the time trial on Alpe d’Huez (stage 4), completing it in my best time ever and finishing with friends at the top.

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ouch! that hurt
The finish... being congratulated by my brother Chris (in the shot below) and my son Scott (behind the camera).

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The Haute Route for me would not have been possible without the incredible support of my wife Lisa and my family.   They allowed me the time to train and get ride fit and where there cheering me on all the way.
A huge shout out and thank you to the all of the riders, support crews, Police, mechanics, volunteers that made the week happen but especially to Joe, Manuel, Monika, Lukas, Joe, Greg, Sean, Gernot, Ian, Chris and Scott who rode at various times with me and made the days fantastic.

Posted by Mark Gilmour on Monday, August 28, 2017

Stage Summary Videos from Haute Route

Stage 1 Nice to Pra Loup  (You see me in the group 45secs in)

Stage 2 Pra Loup to Col d’Granon (My shoes & socks make an appearance at the beginning of the video)

Stage 3 Serre Chevalier to Alpe d’Huez

Stage 4 Alpe d’Huez Time Trial

Stage 5 The Queen Stage – Alpe d’Huez to Megeve.  (look out for Scott mixing it up with the leaders at 20secs in)

& Stage 6 Megeve to Morzine.

The final Video.

10,000miles completed…

Why 10,000 miles?   Back in January 2016 when I decided I would ride the Haute Route this August, I knew I needed an intermediate goal to keep me focused.  Initially I decided to ride 10,000km by the end of 2016, I reached that goal and went on to cover just over 11,000km.  So with 7 months before the start of the event, I decided to add another 5000km which would make it 10,000miles.   So here we are, with just a couple of weeks to go until the big event, the cumulative counter has just ticked over 16,000km or 10,000miles.

My local newspaper the Romsey Advertiser ran a piece on this milestone and a bit about the Haute Route ride in August.

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To sponsor me, please visit my justgiving page, all donations go directly to Team Type 1 Foundation.

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We fight for the right to live – A visit to Team Type 1 Foundation.

This week I have been in Atlanta for the Small Cell Forum Plenary meetings looking ahead to the advent of 5G mobile technology.  Atlanta is also the home of Team Type 1 Foundation, the charity for which I am riding the Haute Route Alps in just 4 weeks time.  So I popped into say hello and collect a few things ahead of the race next month.

Amber Medley who is responsible for Elite Racing and Outreach for both TT1 and the pro team Team Novo Nordisk took me for a brief tour of the offices and warehouse where they were getting ready for the elite mens participation in the Tour of Utah.  She shared a little more of the work that Team Type 1 Foundation are doing in their cornerstone programs.

Sustainable Diabetes Program.

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The Sustainable Diabetes Program saves lives in third-world countries by providing glucose meters, test strips and diabetes management education to thousands who would otherwise suffer debilitating complications and early death.

To date, Team Type 1 Foundation have provided the people of Rwanda with 2.2 million test strips and 1,750 glucose meters.

More importantly, the supplies and education have dropped the collective A1C of diabetics in Rwanda from 10% to 8.9%.

That means TT1 are saving lives TODAY.

Global Ambassador Scholarship Program.

The Global Ambassador Leadership Training Initiative makes heroes out of today’s university students with diabetes.

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This scholarship-based program recognizes athletes with type 1 diabetes who are using sport as a platform to educate, empower, and inspire those around them with diabetes via community outreach. And, the awarded funds offset the financial burden diabetes care places on families.

Currently, 130 students have applied for the 2017-2018 school year. It is our desire to not turn any away and to ensure that we can empower each student to become a leader in their community via outreach and leadership development.

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The Team Type 1 Foundation fights for the right to live through a global mission of education, empowerment and equal access to medicine for everyone affected by diabetes.

Your donations go directly to support these cornerstone programs, expanding the reach and breadth of Team Type 1’s influence for good in helping achieve global eduction, empowerment and equal access to medicine.

Thank you for your support. To donate visit the JustGiving page www.justgiving.com/MarksTT1Fundraising

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Today, Watch the pro’s ride the same mountains I will be riding next month.

Today the Tour de France reaches the Alps and climbs iconic mountain cols such as Glandon, Telegraphe & Galibier. Tomorrow (Thursday 20th) the professionals climb the massive Col d’Izoard, which sits just a few kilometers from the Italian border in the french Alps.  

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Col d’Izoard profile, image credit http://www.letour.fr 

At 2360m above sea level and rising 1000m over 14.1km with an average gradient of 7.3% from the valley floor this high mountain top finish will test the professionals after they have already climbed over the 1st category Col de Vars.   

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Ahead of the Tour,  the women’s La Course road race will also roll out from Briancon, racing along the valley to Guillestre and climbing the same 14km climb to finish atop Izoard.

These are the same roads that I will be racing in just over 4 weeks time.  Spare a thought for me when you watch the pros suffering on the gradients, in the heat and at altitude. That will be me on Tuesday 22nd August as the Haute Route rides 127km from Pra Loup to Col du Granon just north of Briancon over the Col de Vars and Col d’Izoard.

To sponsor me raising money for Team Type 1 Foundation click here.

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A challenging couple of weeks in preparation for Haute Route.

A couple of things have come up in the last 10 days that have been a bit of a bump in the road in the preparations for Haute Route next month.

First of all, my local doctors surgery Alma Road Surgery in Romsey, decided that they would no longer provide a medical certificate/doctors signature to allow me to participate.   Not that this was something they were not allowed to do but simply decided they don’t want to do it anymore as a practice as three years ago they were willing to do it for a fee. So as a result I have had to change doctors surgery to one that is willing to do these things, and register with a new GP, but being somewhat pressed for time, it may be a close call to get my medical form signed in time.  An unnecessary impediment, which is a real inconvenience, but at least I now know for the future.  The frustrating thing is I have been with that GP surgery for 20 years since moving to Romsey.  My doctor actually retired in that time and I didn’t find out for 4 years, that’s how often I have had to go to the GP.

Then on the same day I find out that my bike has a terminal problem with the frame at the bottom bracket causing the drivechain (the pedals and front mechanism) to move up and down when pedaling (not just round).  The upshot being that it  necessitates a whole new frame.   This is where it pays to buy from a reputable bike shop and authorised dealer. The other advantage of buying from my local bike shop is that they know me and they know the riding I do, so they were able to make a quick call to the distributors and manufacturers, explain the problem and it is being sorted under warranty.

So in a few days I should have my rebuilt bike back and be back on the road on that.  In the meantime, I have dusted off my trusty aluminium winter road bike, the original bike that got me back riding and am putting the miles back on that one.

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Thanks to Tony, Chris and the team at The Bike Centre for keeping me on the road and working with Tifosi bikes to get my bike rebuilt in time for the Haute Route.

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As a little postscript to this story, I had my NHS over 40 healthcheck at my new surgery this week (incidentally I would have had to wait until September with Alma Road) and my risk factor of having a heart attack in the next 10 years is 1.48% .  So I should be ok.

 

 

Less than 100 days to go….

An important milestone was reached last week – 100 days to go before the start of the Haute Route Alps.

At this stage the preparation changes from purely doing the kilometers on the bike to getting some climbing into the training regime.

Recently I have been traveling again with work with business trips to Japan, Korea, Australia and France and my bike travelled with me yet again.   In these trips I looked for routes to provide good climbing experience.

Mt Fuji.

Two days of climbing around Mt Fuji.  I caught the train out from Shinjuki station in the west of Tokyo (not far from Rapha Tokyo), that each day handles over 2 million passengers out to the local town of Sagamiko about 45mins by train west of Tokyo. Bicycles are allowed on the trains in Japan but must be carried in a bike bag and so it is possible to purchase lightweight roll up bags that can then be packed small enough to attach to your frame or stick in the jersey back pocket.

So before heading out from the station I grabbed a bike bag from a local sport shop and packed my bike by removing the wheels, strapping them to the frame and attaching the carry straps.

Day 1 – Sagamiko – Lake Yamanakako – Takao – 137km, 1934m

This route started with a long and steady climb of 45km from 200m elevation up to 1,110m along the Doshi valley to Lake Yamanakako at the foot of Mt Fuji.   Continue reading “Less than 100 days to go….”

The 2017 Alps Haute Route Challenge

This post is designed to answer the question, what is this Charity ride you are doing?

The 2017 edition of the Haute Route Alps will take place over 7 consecutive days (or stages) from Nice on the southern Mediterranean coast of France to Geneva in the heart of the Alps on the Swiss/French border.

In those 7 stages I will cover 897 Km and ride up 22,000m of mountain roads as I raise money for the official charity of the event Team Type 1 Foundation.

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2017 Alps Route image credit www.hauteroute.org

Each of the stages are pretty daunting as the route climbs from the southern coastline of France passing through the Maritime Alpes Continue reading “The 2017 Alps Haute Route Challenge”

10,000 kms becomes 10,000 miles. 

At the beginning of the year I hatched a plan to ride the Haute Route in August 2017. To do so would require a lot of preparation and training, therefore the goal for the year was to cycle 10,000km to establish base fitness before a more structured training regime commences in 2017.

Well here are the key stats for the year.

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infographic courtesy of veloviewer.com

  • Total Distance 11,043.6 km
  • Time 432h 8m
  • Elev Gain 115,117 m
  • #of Rides 482
  • Longest ride of the year 230km (Tour of Flanders Sportive)
  • Longest climb 1806m (Galibier as part of La Marmotte)

So now as 2017 begins, the goal shifts from 10,000km to 10,000miles before 1st August 2017.  So another 6000km of focused training and commuting to get ready for the big event on 21st August .  All the time raising money for the official charity Team Type 1.  www.justgiving.com/MarksTT1Fundraising 

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Official Training shirt (limited sizes available minimum donation £35)

Charity Cycling Training Shirt available 

Thanks to the company I work for, Ciena I have 15 cycling training shirts specifically designed for my fundraising effort for the Haute Route 2017. 

The fit is “italian” in sizing and I have the following sizes available. 

  • 4x medium
  • 5x large
  • 3x XL
  • 2x XXL
  • 1x 3xL

Minimum donation is £35 – please donate directly onto the JustGiving page. All of your donation goes to fundraising. Ciena have covered the cost of the production of these shirts. 

The shirt is on display at The Bike Centre North Baddersley.