When the riders reach this point on Stage 1 they will have steadily climbed out of the Ebro Valley from Haro for 50km, but the real challenge of the day will kick in as we round this corner and climb up and over the Sierra de la Demande mountain range for 15km before a final descent to Burgos.
It wasn’t too pleasant up there during our recce a month ago……
Looking back through the photograhic archives it’s interesting to note that there are far more images of the sunny days with smiling faces, than there are of the other times …..but it is perhaps during these “other times”…… when we’re tired, cold, wet and wanting to give up….. that we feel most connected with why we’re doing this, who we’re doing this for and why our supporters have made their donations.
2008 was such a year….. it rained every day almost constantly….. not many images have survived but here are three…….. featuring rare footage of Peter Schulz…. the man who really re-connected me with my cycling roots, and this was the very ride on which he met Hannah. Please also note that we finished at Ayala Champagne that year… and with quite a large peloton….. Chris Matthews, “Albert” Amps, Jon Hall, Hannah, Peter and myself all back again for the Tour of the Douro next week. A major “Class of 2008” re-union. Fingers crossed for good weather guys…….. that’s done it!
Returning to the theme of introducing the riders… we turn back the clock to 2010, a year which, for me, re-created the feeling of the very first rides with a small group of riders most taking part for the first time, heading south from Calais to Champagne over 2.5 days… riding for the first time in 2010 were Ian Harris – CEO of the WSET; and Andrew Reed of Wiliam Reed/IWC. Pictured here in action, with Alan & myself riding and Lucy (Tracey) Roberts in support. Andrew was to return the following year for the “125 Challenge” to Burgundy, whilst Ian, having taken the opportunity to finally wear out some vital hip-bone structure, returns in 2013 with some new man-made skeletal infra-structure following a hip replacement operation…. well done Ian for taking this brave step to raise funds for the Benevolent!
.. and finally, a scene from the first night’s aprés velo, featuring Andrew without his trousers on………
Moving right up to date with a shot of our two newest recruits taken earlier today before our final weekend’s training ride in the Hampshire Hills, during which 65km passed relatively painlessly (apart from the bit over the top of Butser Hill – highest point on the Downs)….. Gavin and I have been riding together since meeting during the 2011 Dallaglio Flintoff Cycle Slam…. Gavin is famous for riding mostly in hotel gyms and for being quite possibly the best cyclist in the world on a per road mile ridden basis! Dave only signed up to ride the #tourofthedouro a few weeks ago and has honed his fitness by riding repeatedly up the near vertical Castle Str in Farnham…… on the evidence of today, it has worked.
Pictured here today on Old Winchester Hill with Diesel Jon (a rare baguette free shot).
2007 saw the 3rd Mentzendorff Charity Ride to Champagne roll out of Calais on 3rd June in perfect summer conditions…. it was the first time Phillip Amps (of Amps Fine Wines) had joined us and Phil arrived looking fit and ready for action with his (illegal) early 90’s time trial bike from his days competiting vs Obree & Boardman…… he was a man ready to make an impression both on the road (which he duly did) and also off the road via a spectacularly embarrasing incident on the first night when during our team bonding dinner Phil forgot the name of the lovely Lucy Roberts (now Lucy Stewart)who headed our support team… and called her Tracey.. the room fell silent….. no one knew what to say….. neither did Lucy for half-a-second but she then bounced back by responding to Big Phil – calling him Albert…. and thus Phil has forever been known on the Tour as Albert Amps….. and a great comaraderie between Albert & Tracey developed……… pictured here together in 2007.
Phil always takes preparation for these rides admirably seriously and is claiming to have been “off the bike for months” prior to receiving the “call-up” for this his 4th?? ride…… since when he has embarked on a Connolly-esque training regime documented in his own blog. We’re looking forward to seeing him and his famous (and still illegal) old bike on the starting line at Bodegas Roda!
Like all good teams the 2012 Tour of the Douro peloton is a mix of experienced riders and incoming new riders……. tonight we’ll focus on riders returning from our first ride outside the confines of the Champagne region, when in 2009 we broke south and headed to Burgundy. A major challenge that Chris Matthews of Berry Bros was certainly fully prepared for – Chris is perhaps the most experienced of all our riders, having ridden competitively as a young man he felt the irrestible call to return to the lycra when he reached a certain point in life and fortunately for him the Mentzendorff Charity Ride was there when he needed it…. actually Chris first joined the ride in 2006 but by 2009 he’d completely lost the plot (cycling-wise) and re-mortgaged his house to buy an uber-cool hand-made Italian frame, pictured here riding through a hail-storm somewhere north-west of Dijon
Hannah Schulz also first rode with us in 2006 as Hannah Wiggins back in her Louis Latour days, returning in 2008 on the famous “rain-ride” to Champagne during which she first met husband-to-be Peter Schulz, returning in 2009 and in top-form – pictured here leading the peloton up the final 15km climb in Burgundy. Hannah has since moved to Australia with Peter and so it’s great to see them both coming all the way back to Europe to ride with us again… welcome back Hannah & Peter!
And our other Chris – Chris Connolly of Connolly’s of Birmingham is another serious cyclist and stalwart of the ride, first riding in 2007 (the year of the heat!), this will be Chris C’s 5th ride – and he is well prepared, doing some frightening training mileage at ever increasing speeds!
Time to meet some more of the riders and support crew – starting with the man without whom none of this would be possible, Graham “It’s My Van” Hole…. pilot of the main Tour of the Douro support vehicle, pictured here in situ during the our last adventure in the Rhone Valley back in 2011.
I know it’s a bit dark but he’s in there!
Rest and recovery is an often under-rated aspect of our sport, but it is an area that Andrew Reed takes extremely seriously, pictured here getting in some last minute “recovery” en route to the start of our 2011 Tour……
This will be Andrew’s 3rd consecutive Mentzendorff Charity Cycle Ride, having ridden down to Champagne with us in 2010 he then re-joined in 2011, but was mysteriously “called-back to the U.K for a Board meeting” after the infamous 180km hailstorm ‘n hyperthermia stage into Burgundy.
And to end with an “action shot” ….. here is the peloton steaming along a French road… Montague-Dennis displaying his uncanny knack of hitting the front at the precise moment the camera appears.
Tomorrow I will have hopefully gained access to Mentzendorff’s secret archive of photos from the great Tours of 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009….. featuring more of the 2012 Tour of the Douro riders…… watch out Amps, Matthews, Connolly, Schulz (nee Wiggins)!