To be Supported or Unsupported, that is the question


Andrew Woods 1  Andrew Woods 4

Fancy doing a multi day cycle challenge in 2019? Andrew Woods managed two in 2018 that club members may be interested in.

John o'Groats to Lands End
Myself and two friends cycled unsupported the length of Britain in 14 days in May. For most of the 1100 miles we were blessed with sunny weather and not too much wind. It was a great way to see the UK scenery properly, how landscapes change from the North of Scotland through the Heart of England and into the gruelling hills of the Southwest.

We booked our accommodation for each night in advance, so we had to push on every day to get to our stops. One of our biggest problems was finding places that were still open for dinner when we finished each evening. The evolving scenery, friendly people and the changing food added to the interest as well as the 33 coffee stops we visited along the way!


Andrew Woods 3

As well as bed and breakfasts and inns we also stayed with friends which was great. The sheer exhilaration of doing such a marathon trip was unforgettable.

Some people questioned why we started in Scotland but I think we made the right choice as by far the toughest hills were the ones in Devon and Cornwall and by the time we reached these we were at our fittest and most hardened up. Altogether we climbed over 18,000 m of elevation during the fortnight, which is more than twice the height of Everest!


Andrew Woods 2

If anyone is interested in doing this ride unsupported, I'm happy to give advice as it is a great way to save money.

London to Monaco
In September I went on a supported cycle challenge from London to Monaco via 8 countries in aid of the Blue Marine Foundation charity.


Andrew Woods Monaco 2

The contrast in support and guidance versus our un-supported JOGLE trip was immense. Over 100 cyclists started from London accompanied by Mike Tindall and Zara Phillips. During the next seven days we were guided skillfully by professional leaders, shadowed by medics and mechanics, nourished by our own team of barristers and foodies and could even have a massage at our lunch stop! On top of this we did not have to carry our own gear which does make a difference.

Some 55 of us did the whole seven days and we met up with some extra people (glory hunters?!) for the last 2 days. Going through so many different countries made the trip more fascinating.


Andrew Woods Monaco 1

Some highlights for me were cycling over the cobbles of Roubaix, some circuits of the Roubaix Velodrome and cycling 125 miles on my birthday, ending up in Strasbourg via Luxembourg and Germany. The toughest day was going over the Alps from Switzerland into Italy over the Grand St Bernard Pass. The next day we reached the Mediterranean Sea which was a great relief. The climax was cycling into Monaco as a single peleton of 100 with a police escort up to the palace square to be greeted by Prince Albert himself. A superb finish to an exciting week.


Andrew Woods Monaco 3

It was a great feeling of achievement as it was by far the toughest cycling I have ever done and it was also a great way to meet like-minded people and make some good friends.


Andrew Woods Monaco 4

If anyone is interested in supporting the Blue Marine Foundation in the 2019 London to Monaco challenge (via the Pyrenees this year) then please follow this link



VCC, the largest club at the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships (we think!)

UCI Grand Fondo 2018

16 VCC members took part in the UCI Grand Fondo World Championships held on closed roads in Varese, northern Italy earlier this month (September). Last year we know that the 18 VCC who participated in Albi, France made us the largest club by far at the championships and, whilst data is not available this year, it is probable that we have repeated this amazing feat.

Around 2,500 participants from across 60 or so nations participated in this festival of long distance racing and time trialling. Males over 60 and females over 50 rode 105 km and younger riders 130 km (1,950m climbing). The course was very hilly and technical with several climbs averaging 7% over 2 to 3 miles along narrow, twisty lanes.

UCI Grand Fondo rider 3  UCI Grand Fondo rider 2

VCC participants riding for TeamGB were:

Aisling Patterson, Alan Swain, Chris Ring, Claire Sharp, Izzy Zimmerman, Karine Jones, Keith Loveman, Laura Moody, Martin Arundel, Matt Moore, Michael Wilkner, Mick Connell, Mike Edmunds (TT), Simon Miles, Tim Coulson, Tina Cockhill 

UCI Grand Fondo rider 4

Several other VCC members qualified but did not travel to the World Championships. Qualification was open to the top 25% of participants in the 20+ qualifying events spread around the world. In GB this was the Tour of Cambridgeshire. No VCC podium positions or rainbow jerseys were achieved but there was much heroic riding - well done Team VCC GB! Unfortunately one VCC rider crashed but he got up and continued racing on the replacement wheels that he'd bought at 19:10 the previous evening!

Despite having the largest representation from any country and there being 17 age groups the only podium position for TeamGB was third in the Women's 40-44 yrs group. Speeds were very high with the men's start measured at an average 32 mph and the competition throughout was fierce. GB had more podium success in the time trial races.

UCI Grand Fondo rider 1

Next year the Tour of Cambridgeshire is again the 'local' qualifying event although entries are already full as the participants in the qualifier is being limited to 25% of a maximum of 200 participants within each age group. However there are waiting lists and it is also possible to qualify via any of the qualifying events around the world, for more information go here. Next year the finals are in Poland and the 2020 championship is in Canada.

Courtesy of Graeme Bird

I have just got back from a 900km Charity Bike Ride in October from Bangkok (Thailand) to Siem Reap (Cambodia) which took 5 days.

The purpose of this was to raise money for HOPE for Cambodian Children Foundation and to build a pre-school at the site of an orphanage we support in Battambang, Cambodia.

A group of 29 riders took part and we raised over $175,000 which as a group far exceeded what we originally hoped for.
The highlight was clearly meeting the kids at the orphanage and the reception we were given on arrival into Battambang, but to be honest I loved every minute of it. Attached are a couple of photos of me and the group which I have been sent and the fundraising link.

Kind Regards




Ride Across Britain - 5th – 13th September 2015

Philip Mann and Kate Gannon embarked on the Deloitte’s Ride Across Britain having heard such great things from riders who had done it previously. It is a ‘softer’ way to do LeJoG as it is fully supported, allowing us to focus solely on the joy of the ride. It took a mere 9 days to ride 1,000 miles up hill and down dale (50,000ft +) across stunning scenery that changed with each county we passed. We pedaled our way from Lands’ End to Okehampton to Bath to Ludlow to Haydock to Penrith to Hamilton to Fort William to Kyle of Sutherland and finally to John O Groats. Each day we covered a distance {had a mileage} of around 110 miles which takes some doing day after day after day. The 150 strong back up crew were incredible. Nothing was too much trouble and the organization is literally flawless – tents were set up and packed up for us each day, unbelievable amounts of home cooked food at each stage, chaperones to cheer you along (although we seemed to cheer them along), banter, signs at every junction along the LeJoG route, hot showers, fresh towels, a drying room and Halfords on call to fix any bicycle issues. Indeed the Halfords team provided invaluable support to Philip, who had declared before the ride that his part worn 23mm tyres would be perfectly fine for the ride, whilst I had insisted upon new 25mm Grand Prix 4000s’. After 3 punctures, they replaced his split 23mm with a new 25mm Gatorskin at their mobile workshop in the shadow of Ben Nevis. I said nothing.

If you were tired, or just in need of a pamper, a very good deep tissue massage was available every other day. Seriously nothing was too much trouble – If I was to grumble it would be to say that at times it felt we had accidentally gate crashed a corporate event, even pace setting for Deloitte clients on more than one occasion, but that also meant that I met and rode with Olympic gold medalist Nicole Cook and Paralympic gold medalist Helena Lucas.

We were all treated equally, including being woken at 5:30 am to motivational music for a 7am departure – it is blimin’ cold and dark at 5:30am! Not good for a contact lens novice. We had trained hard for the event and this paid dividends, as soon as we hit any hills –the inevitable peloton that had quietly formed behind us would go from 20 to none in an instant! The first two days out of Devon and Cornwall were tough – up and down all the way (although nothing compared to the Tour of the Peak which we did earlier in the year, and which will forever be the benchmark of a truly grueling ride.) After that the body adjusted and we just hopped on our bikes and rode. The adjustment to eating breakfast at 5:45 took a while longer.

We didn’t manage to find a group to ride with as the serious boys were on their way before we made the start, and we were faster than most of the rest, but that meant we had time relax at feed stations in the sunshine and take photos en-route. We even stopped in Kendal for an hour long rendez-vous with my Aunt Mo, after which, and fuelled with more coffee and cake, we headed up Shap Fell. This was a glorious climb, but not a patch upon the Glencoe Pass, the huge expanse and wild mountains, which were a personal highlight.

On the final day we were greeted with a massive head wind all the way to John O Groats – it would have been nice to have coasted in, savouring the last few miles, but we had to fight our way right to the end. It was really quite emotional to ride under the banner and receive my medal at the finish, but hugely satisfying and rewarding. I’d recommend anyone do it as, with a bit of training, it is easily achievable. There were a surprising number of people who hadn’t trained much and they suffered as a result. There were an awful lot of legs taped with the ever popular Rock Tape by the end. Pretty much everyone got there in the end but for us it was good to finish strong and not too exhausted. That said, we were both glad to get out of the saddle and were looking forward to a proper bed.

Courtesy of Martin Arundel

Fancying a challenge and having 24 hours spare Martin Arundel rode round Brands Hatch 121 times (300 miles), climbed 7865 meters and ate about 12 energy bars, yet for some reason never got bored of powering down Brabham Straight!

I like a challenge so when Revolve24 offered a 24 hour race around Brands Hatch I thought it would be worth a go.

The rules were simple, ride as many laps as you could in 24 hours; Teams were only allowed one member on the track at a time. Most participants were teams, typically 4, 6 or 8, there were 15 ‘solo’ riders.

‘Installation’ laps started at 11am on the short ‘Indy’ circuit to help judge the start being down Paddocks Hill Bend (60 kph) followed by the Hailwoods Hill which is 9.4% at the steepest point to Druids (at my best 19 kph) and down to ‘Graham Hill Bend’, typically taken at 55 kph during the race but some teams took it at 80 kph. The full GP circuit was opened at 1pm to show you the delights of the long drag up ‘Hawthorn Hill’ hitting 8.1% at its steepest followed by the great (read mostly downhill) Stirlings through Clearways, Clark Curve and Brabham Straight.

We assembled in a line at 3pm for a ‘Le Mans’ start which was seeded to allow the faster teams to get away. As usual the red mist descended and my second lap averaged 37 kph, 34.5 kph for the first 10 laps! My first stint was 3.5 hours, averaging around 31 kph.

At my first stop I came in for isotonic refills and leg/arm warmers and restock of bars. I also put on my lights which was handy as just as I got back on the track they asked everyone to turn on their lights.

Two hours later I came in for my evening meal. Being unsupported I had to cycle up to the Kentagon, I think it was pasta, I do remember it was difficult to eat as it had been cut short so you couldn’t spin it round the fork!

In each stint I carried two 500ml bottles and tried to consume 3 ‘bars’, one protein and two carbohydrate types where possible.

Looking at the data I generally managed 2 hours before coming in for fluids/food. My really bad patch was at 2:30am. The slower solo and group teams I had been passing reasonably regularly seemed to have disappeared. I had been up since 8am, it was very dark and 10 degrees C. I felt I was beginning to fall asleep so decided to find my tent, set the alarm for one hour. When I awoke I just realised that I wasn’t mentally ready so went back to sleep. I woke up at 5:10am and had a stern word  with myself, putting on cold wet kit in the world's smallest tent is something I won’t forget! Once on the track it was fine, still pitch black apart from the pit area but the sunrise was welcome as I only had 9 hours to go :-)

The first 128 miles had averaged around 28kph, after that it fell to 25kph, in part because I couldn’t take Graham Hill Bend at full whack as my lights didn’t extend to hit the apex at 50kph and in part I lacked the motivation. The teams could often get on trains of 3 and 4 but I rarely had the opportunity, too fast for the slower teams/solo, too slow for the fast teams to hold on to sensibly.

The rest of the ride was uneventful, I couldn’t catch the person in front and was easily clear of the person behind so there was no point in really pushing it. After a break at 2pm I went back on the track for the end. I floored it through the start/finish, hit 835 watts up Druids (pb up the climb), my 7th fastest lap at 33kph, crossing the line at 58 kph and realised I could fit in another lap only to unship my chain up Hawthorn Hill, quickly fixing it I finished the 121st lap with a minute or so to spare!

Some data:

Hours in the saddle 17:45, sleeping 2:45, refueling 2:30, average riding pace 26.7 kph, 16.6 mph, 7865 meters climbed. One last thing, the new Garmin 520 can be charged without ‘saving’ the current journey unlike the old 500.

Courtesy of Andrew Rice:

The Etape du Tour is an organised event somewhat like a British sportive except that it has far more entrants - about 15000 and goes to a different location in France every year.  That place being a selected stage of the year's Tour de France.  This year it was Stage 19 and it was a lumpy one!  Whilst the mileage wasn't huge, about 86 miles the height climbed was a staggering 4600m and given the heat during the day staggering is no exaggeration for many riders.  Hazel Davies and Andrew Rice booked onto the event via Sports Tours International which meant that apart from booking a flight everything else, including getting the bikes to the event, was taken care of for us which makes for a very relaxing experience.  Now, having entered months ahead of the event you would have thought that there was plenty of time to develop a training programme and be fully prepared for all those metres of climbing.  However, apart from a couple of evening rides on top of the normal Club runs and some mountain biking we found ourselves preparing for the Etape by cycling the Croix de Fer two days before the event.  The weather forecast wasn't that great either so it was with some trepidation we went to bed early the night before the usual 5.00am start.  A generous portion of porridge, fruit and hard boiled eggs set us up for the 10 mile roll down the hill to St Jean de Maurienne with jersey pockets stuff with spare clothing and bars to cover all eventualities!  With 15000 riders to get through the start it takes a lot of organisation so there were cohorts of 1000 riders spread around the main drag waiting to be called forward in number order - we were in the 6000 number group and got away at 7.58.  The start of the route was mostly downhill but it didn't last long before we hit the the ascent of the Cat 2 Col du Chaussy a 15K ride to a height of 1533m.  The descent that followed was a mixture of technical cycling and walking as obstacles and crashes caused severe bunching but soon the road opened out and there was a great descent out onto the valley floor and 25k of mostly flat riding - the only flat road on the whole route.  Even though it was flat we were still held up for some time due to an accident needing a helicopter evacuation from the road.  It was whilst waiting we came across Craig Stewart who told us Jon Sutcliffe was also on the route somewhere.  It didn't seem long before the flat was over and the 25k climb to the Col du Glandon and the Col de la Croix de Fer (Hors Cat climb) just beyond started.  By this time it was clear that the forecast rain wasn't going to happen and it was going to be a long hot ride!  It is hard enough to drink enough when cycling at 5mph but when surrounded by hundreds of riders barely a wheel apart you dare not take a hand off the brakes!  The result was cyclists keeling over all the way up to the Col.  There was at least a water station halfway that served as a break; here we met another VCC member - Mike Burr.  The last half of the climb was a long hard, hot road.  However, we managed to keep hydrated by actually stopping and drinking then cycling some more until after 3 hours (from the bottom) we reached the feed station at the Glandon.  A bit of a scrum to say the least!  Suitably refreshed the 3k to the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer didn't seem to hard so there was no hesitation in going straight over the top and making up some time on the descent.  It is amazing no matter how good you feel on the descent the next climb is  still a 5mph struggle against gravity; in this case the Col du Mollard, a Cat 2 climb.  More liquid intake then another even more technical descent into St Jean de Maurienne and the last feed station before the 19k climb to the finish at La Toussuire.  By this time we were just inside the cut-off time and it looked like we would do it if we could just keep going - easier said than done!  With a steady pace, another water stop and some small relief on a downhill section the final flat straight appeared after a couple of hours and it was time to show the Frenchman on my wheel what a sprint to the line was.  So that was it, all over after 11 hours from the start.  A mix of tiredness, relief and satisfaction of having completed a major ride that we were far from sure we would manage!  Later we checked the results for  the others and found that Mike Burr had completed the ride as well but both Craig and Jon retired due to heat and hydration problems but will be back to complete 'some unfinished business on the mountain'.