Simon Usborne: 'My hope is that residual fitness will see me through the ride and up the 4,000m of serious climbing'

Cyclo-therapy

A A A

So, I'm told there are a couple of semi-important football matches taking place today. And a game involving ladies who are good at tennis. But we're not that interested, are we? The World Cup and Wimbledon may be their respective sport's grandest contests, but for real heroism, grit and – let's face it – controversy, we must turn to the Tour de France, which starts today in Rotterdam.

I'm fascinated by professional cycling but know relatively little about the three-week Tour, arguably the most physically demanding of all athletic events. So while I can't offer predictions or insights into team tactics (I'll leave that to our sports desk) I can watch in awe and, for one day at least, pedal in the tyre tracks of the greats.

The Etape du Tour, as any keen-ish road cyclist will know, is a giant sportive commonly known as the amateur stage of the Tour de France. Every July, usually when the pros have a rest day, as many as 10,000 riders of varying abilities assemble for the same mountain stage that Armstrong & Co will tackle a few days earlier or later.

Last year's Etape took in Mont Ventoux, one of the most fearsome climbs in the sport. This year, I'll be back in France, tagging along with a contingent of amateurs from Sky, as the Tour celebrates 100 years of mountain stages with a daunting 112-mile route in the Pyrenees that finishes at the summit of the cloud-scraping Col du Tourmalet.

This year's ride will be an experiment of sorts. As I reported from a field last week, I've been off the bike for days after pushing my knees to their limits during the 1,000-mile Ride Across Britain, an epic, nine-day slog from John O'Groats to Land's End that tested the will and bodies of all 600 participants. I made it – just – but the injuries I picked up mean that, on the start line in the Pyrenees, I'll barely have turned a pedal since I reached Land's End.

My hope is that residual fitness will see me through the ride, and up the 4,000m-plus of serious climbing involved (so, about half an Everest in a day). Will my knees hold out? Will the saddle sore that dogged my end-to-end effort blow up again? I'll be sure to let you know. In the meantime, I'm off to watch the footie – from a sofa.

s.usborne@independent.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
News
people
Life and Style
tech
News
Justin Bieber performing in Paris earlier this year
people
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Accounts Assistant, Hammersmith

£25000 per annum: Charter Selection: Exciting sports company with a strong bra...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Executive Assistant - London - up to £40,000 + bonus

£33000 - £40000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assista...

Social Media Director (Global) - London Bridge/Southwark

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Social Media Director (Gl...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil