Published by Lyn on 5 July 2011
Robin Weston first rode the Tour de France route for charity in 2006. In September he will tackle the 2011 route. In this guest blog he talks about how his charity rides came about. He also has some advice for others cycling the Tour de France for charity (or just for fun)
Sandra and I both took up cycling shortly after we retired to France in 2001. We are now based in the Dordogne an excellent area for any form of cycling.
I rode long distance on my own, and in 2006 whilst out cycling, the thought occurred to me that whilst I was thoroughly enjoying myself, I could do this and help others by setting myself a challenge and raise money for charity. As we had considerable contact with cancer sufferers, we decided that I would cycle for cancer charities. We have children in Scotland and Michigan, USA and therefore would support charities in three countries: in France it would be La Ligue Contre le Cancer; in the UK we chose CLICSargent and the US it would be the Lance Armstrong Foundation (Livestrong).
The challenge was to cycle solo the complete 2006 Tour de France route at an average speed of 25kph. Apart from not riding in Paris and allowing for diversions and normally non-bicycle routes (auto route), I successfully completed the task.
The 2011 Tour de France charity ride
Now approaching 70, I felt it was again time for a similar challenge, so in September I have scheduled to ride the 2011 Tour de France route, again for three charities. This time they are all bike-related. The French charity is Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque Enfants du Monde, which is officially supported by the Tour de France; the UK charity is the Prostate Cancer Charity in partnership with the Tour of Britain; and the US charity is World Bicycle Relief.
To organise this sort of event takes careful planning and with the previous experience, the present challenge was started some 18 months before the start this September (chosen because the roads are less crowded and the temperatures are conducive to more comfortable riding). This may seem a long time in advance, but I can assure you that the paperwork in arrangements with the charities, trying to find sponsors and promoting the project is almost a full-time job. Like everything in life, the more you put in the better the outcome.
How I intend reaching peak fitness
As we both cycle in a recreational capacity throughout the year, I maintain a degree of fitness. In 2006, I sought the guidance of endurance riders through reading and the internet, and I undertook a more intensive 17-week programme before the start date. This time I have set out a 15-week schedule as I worked earlier in the magnificent spring weather we experienced this year.
I plan a set distance/time riding each week, which comprises rides from between 30km to 150km. I believe that it is not a good idea to train to the maximum stage distances, but only to 75-80% distance. This worked well in 2006, so no reason to change. In this region (Aquitaine), we have the benefit of different types of hills and plains, so I am able to vary the terrain as suits. Therefore, I can concentrate on specific tasks on each ride. I ride three days in four as rest and recovery are extremely important, and every third week I have an ‘easy week’ with shorter and less demanding rides.
I monitor my performance using a computer, recording distance, time, and heart rate. I do not have a means of recording cadence, although I am presently experimenting with this as I started to have knee problems earlier on this year.
A final word for other charity cyclists
My advice to others considering such a challenge is to think long and hard before committing yourself. To be completed successfully in terms of the ride, as well as in its promotion and fundraising, takes a great deal of time. It could be considered a full-time job without pay.
If you decide that all the money raised should go to the charities, it can cost you a considerable sum. Sponsors are difficult to come by and for every 100 letters and emails you send, you will probably get one or two replies and these may not be positive.
However, don’t let this put you off: the rewards are immeasurable in so many ways and, after all, what is life about?