Simon Usborne: 'My hope is that residual fitness will see me through the ride and up the 4,000m of serious climbing'
Saturday 03 July 2010
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.
Chinese ivory trade blamed as poachers drive down elephant population by 2% a year
Twitch and shout: Birdwatchers are raving over rare birds in Britain
Investigation launched after manatee drowns at Paris zoo
The top 10 weirdest animal mating rituals
Conjoined gray whale calves discovered in Mexican lagoon could be world's first ever documented find, experts say
- 1 Michael Brown shooting: Police shoot and kill second young black man near Ferguson
- 2 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 3 Why are UK rail fares so expensive?
- 4 Here’s the damning letter Robin Williams wrote to his Mrs Doubtfire co-star's principal after they expelled her
- 5 Cilla Black defends Cliff Richard: 'I am positive that the allegations are without foundation'
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...
£350 - £365 per day: Orgtel: Manager, SAS, Data Warehouse, Banking, Bristol - ...
£35000 - £43000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: One of the best known and most pr...