Exactly six months to the day I'll be starting the biggest challenge of my life. Since I was 12 years old, I have watched every single stage of the Tour de France. I'm not sure why I got into cycling, as my parents are not cyclists nor sports fans. The spirit of the event just captured my imagination; 3 weeks racing bikes all across France, the scenery, the tactics, the thrills and spills...
Being a teenager, cycling was the first form of freedom I experienced. It was amazing to be able to jump on a bike and travel somewhere under my own power. In fact, I remember my first big ride when I must have been only 15 and rode to Delamere Forest. It took forever but I was so proud to have made it there and rang home from the local phone box (which is a large red box, a bit like The TARDIS with a phone inside into which you insert money to make calls) Riding the 24 miles home was harder so I remember making lots of stops and when I finally got home, taking the longest bath in the world, but boy, was I proud of myself!
On my 16th birthday, I really was hoping to get a motorbike to be fair, however there was no way my parents would support that idea. My dad was knocked off his moped, in the 60's and was totally against motorbikes. "You can have a decent bike", he said. Not really what I was hoping for, a motorbike was much cooler for attracting the girls, but no way was I going to get that one past them.
The bike did appeal though. I bought proper shoes and shorts and started to really get into cycling, especially when the local cycling club caught up with me one day. They sailed past in formation with so much ease and they looked so cool. I sprinted and caught up with the back of them cycling alongside one of the guys. The club was the Tunstall Wheelers and they went out every Sunday covering 60 - 100 miles each week. The guy I was next to was moaning about his legs and I asked if he cycled much. "Not as much as I should" he replied. He was a very laid back character and I later found out that he was the legendary Les West. At that time he was one of the best riders the British Isles had generated and was a fantastic rider, but always moaned about his legs. It was more a bluff than reality as he was often seen doing his ride between Derby, Matlock and Buxton. In fact, on one occasion, Les, in his sixties, was riding his famous training route when a bunch of riders in an event that I had organized for Tunstall Wheelers came over Gun Hill in Leek. Some of the top riders in the country were competing, but Les jumped on the back of the bunch and rode through them, while some of the younger talent dropped off.
I'm still a Tunstall Wheeler at heart although, I now have our own team - Blueleaf. It's not going to upset Team Sky in any way, but we do have similar colours and we ride bikes. That's perhaps where the similarity ends.
Cycling is such a hard sport. You can't short change it. No standing around on a pitch waiting for the ball to come then nod it into the goal. You have to do every mile that everyone does and at their speed to stay with them. You're going to suffer, mile after mile after mile. I may share some of that with you.
So this challenge - why do it? I'm 43 and not the fittest in the bunch so to speak, but I have a dream and ambition to cycle the whole of the Tour de France. Five years ago, when I realised it was the 100th edition, I set my goal to ride it. With team Sky leading the race, what better time to do it.
In the following blogs you will read about my journey from a 13 stone, middle aged guy who has a goal to a honed Tour De France cyclist riding up the Champs Elysees. Please do help and support me, especially nearer the time when I will be raising money for a wonderful Children's Charity. Thank you for following.
Written by Adrian Lomas