Team RCUK at the Etape du Tour - Road Cycling UK

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Team RCUK at the Etape du Tour

Etape Boys

The boys get checked out for fitness…

This all started – as these things so often do – in a bar. Last August Bank Holiday weekend our kids were taking part in a three day stage race and, as you might expect from a track club, were doing really well for the first 5km of each stage, then fading fast.

We decided that, if they were going to participate in similar events in 2006, they were going to need a decent training programme over the winter to get some miles into their legs. The trouble is, you can’t really send 11 and 12 year olds off on their own for 100 mile training rides. No problem, we decided – we’d go with them.

Quite a few of the parents are competent club cyclists, but I’m not one of them. I do a 10 every couple of weeks and celebrate when I get under 29 minutes. Clearly some of us were no going to need some sort of excuse to pull on bibtights in January.

We agreed, there and then, that we’d all train over the winter for a season of road racing or, at least, circuit racing at Hillingdon. Oddly, though, by morning there were only two of us that remembered anything about our deal.

With me hitting 40 in 2006 and Adrian hitting the next 10 year milestone, we committed to going through with it and contacted RCUK to see if they would be interested in following our training. Guy Andrews jumped at the idea – and within days had come back to us and suggested that, as well as the road racing, we might like to join the RCUK team on the Etape.

How could we refuse? I came up with several possible refusal strategies, but Adrian was having none of it – despite the fact that, at this point, the route still hadn’t been announced.

Very few people believe me when I tell them I was really hoping for l’Alpe d’Huez – especially those who’ve ridden it. But I was. Right up until the moment the route was announced. At which point the whole venture seemed completely absurd.

With very different levels of fitness and cycling experience – and very different jobs to fit everything in around – it was obvious that my training partner and I wouldn’t be doing much training together, but the club runs with the kids every Saturday morning would give us a chance to compare notes.

As well as my lack of cycling experience, I was – let’s be honest, I am – carrying a couple of stone of fat around with me that I’d be happy to be missing by July. So my priority was long, low intensity rides.

I managed to persuade a coach – John Percy – to put together a plan for me and deal with my other handicaps – almost zero self-motivation and a talent for finding other things to do.

September and October went really well. My normally hectic day job calmed down for a couple of months and by the end of October I was doing long (for me), hilly (for me) rides a couple of times a week on the Trek 2000 RCUK had loaned me. I was pretty confident.

Then in November I got a cold which went to my chest. It didn’t clear until mid-December, at which point Christmas intruded. I got a few short rides in but by early January the cold was back. It was mid-February before I was riding regularly again.

Etape Boys

Cyclists – never known for their flexibility

In March I got the inspiration I needed to get serious again in the form of two new toys. At the beginning of the month I got hold of a Garmin Edge 305 GPS bike computer, which made analysing my progess much more interesting. It’s a really nice piece of kit and there’ll be a review in a couple of days time.

Towards the end of the month, Adrian and I made a 90 mile round trip to the RCUK offices to return the Trek pick up the Willer Le Roi’s that we’ll be doing the ride on.

The icing on the cake came a couple of days later when Wilier importer ATB Sales arranged for Adrian and I to visit Renault F1’s driver development centre to undergo the same fitness test their Grand Prix drivers too. To nobody’s great surprise, was the least fit of the four people tested that day. To my delight, the gap wasn’t nearly as big as I expected.

Since then I’ve done the first (and second (on my 40th birthday), third and fourth) road races of my life, as well as a couple of 10s. I’m trying to get some strength and, ultimately, some speed into my legs for the initial flat-ish stage of the ride.

May will be devoted to adding some long rides and, gradually, hills to the speed work and in June it’ll be long, hilly rides between the road races. Or, at least, that’s the plan. Adrian and I will ride the Cotswolds Tour a month before the Etape to gauge our progress.

Or, rather, to gauge my progress. Adrian’s already doing 100 mile hilly Audaxes, 100 mile mountain bike endurance races and insane reliability trials in the Chilterns. I’m thinking of buying one of those trailer bikes…

There are still some challenges remaining. I’ve only lost 3 or 4 pounds – although none of my clothes fit, so I assume some of the dead weight has been replaced with muscle. The Wilier’s smallest gear is a 39-25 which, even if I lose the rest of the weight I’d originally planned to lose, isn’t going to get my lardy carcass up l’Alpe d’Huez. And we’ve got flights booked, but look like we might have to sleep in the hire car.

And the kids that kicked all this off in the first place? Well, they’re still pretty good over 5km.


Rider Profiles

Name : Adrian Lawson

Age: 49 ½
Height: 6ft
Weight: 13 stone
Cycling History: Riding for 45 years

Went from fixed wheel front wheel drive trike to a moulton at the age of 6 (I can’t believe I was till riding a trike at 6, but I have no recollection of a bike between the trike and the moulton). I soon found the Moulton was undergeared. Some kids in my road had 10 speed racers.

Etape Boys

Adrian get’s some track time

I used to go on quite long rides with them. I have some not very fond memories of thrashing along through the streets of North London.
I somehow got a five speed racer which lasted until I moved close to Epping Forest. I put cowhorn bars on it in about 1969 or 1970 and went over to Hollow Ponds and rode over the mounds and banks and broke it again and again.

I briefly owned a Carlton Racer which started me off on longer and faster riding. One day I rode it up Kings Head Hill. I rushed home and told my family. They came out and stood at the top of the road while I did it again. We knew nobody who could do such an athletic feat. The bike got nicked shortly after.

I got a Viscount Aerospace Pro for my 18th birthday. I used to ride a long way on that. I then started work and commuted from East London to the West End. Every morning there was a posse of riders ripping along the Lea Bridge road, on the right hand side of the keep left signs. I used to join in this anarchic riding with some guys who looked like old pros.

At a junction after a blast I stopped and one of them asked who I rode for. I didn’t know what he meant. He told me I was good, and I should turn up at a layby on Thursday night, and do a time trial.
I did, and did 23.25. I “progressed” and did a lot of time trialling for a while.

I also did some silly things like 180 mile round trips in a day but eventually stopped riding seriously. I periodically went out for a ride, but it wasn’t until about 1984 that on returning from a 3 year trip overseas I went into a bike shop for some new tubs and saw a Mountain bike. I bought it an hour later. For 10 years I rode mostly offroad. I raced occasionally, but mostly I just rode. Then my dad got sick. He lived 70 miles away. In the last months of his life I rode over to see him every Friday night, and back on Sunday afternoon.

I bought a road bike with 8 speed campag and ergolevers, to avoid riding my super rigid fat alloy MTB with 1 inch slicks for 3 ½ hours at a time.
I started to get reasonably fit and rode some reliability trials, charity rides, then Audax. I also joined the local Offroad crew and was going out every weekend and in summer in the week too.

In 1995 I bought a Klein Adroit and a month later a Klein Quantum2.
The first of my children were starting to ride. Sam was five and was a regular at the local kids club. Leah followed but gave up. Rosie followed and persisted.

I started to do the odd race, but I never trained hard enough to figure in the results, so I just kept finding rides going on, and doing them. So long as I could ride from home, ride, and ride home again I was happy.
I also rode to work, and rode around for my job too. I rode thousands of miles every year. I still do. Two of my 3 kids ride too, and they compete, quite successfully.

There is a lot of riding going on locally. Off road, CTC rides, club runs, audax rides, the Hilly 50, the Faccombe 100. The track has regular non competitive sessions for fixed wheel and free.

I am going to be 50 soon. This year I am going to ride memorably. I am working now on getting really fit, fitter than I have been for years.
I have a collection of bikes that would support a couple of pro teams. And I am going to ride them like they were meant to be ridden. I am going to ride over mountain passes, I going to ride 200 miles in a day, I am going to do my fastest ever 10 and I am going to beat my 15 year old son in a sprint. Only one of these ambitions is unrealistic.


Name: Guy Swarbrick

Age: 40
Height: 6ft
Weight: 15 stone

Cycling History:
• Riding for 37 years on and (mostly) off

First bike was a trike but by two and a half I was riding a balloon-tyred two wheeler around the streets of Portsmouth. Well, one street in Hilsea.

Oddly, when we moved to Kent a year later I seemed to forget how to ride the bike and reverted to the trike for a while and then to nothing at all. I re-learned at 8 on a Raleigh Dart, which made way for Vindec’s smaller, lighter (but still huge and heavy) version of the Chopper.

Etape Boys

Guy’s been racing in preparation for the big day

That put me off for another couple of years, but I got a 10-speed Tensor ‘racer’ – with mudguards and a frame made from scaffold-poles stuck together with chewing gum – at 11. I rode that all over Kent until I was 16 when I traded up to a Raleigh Corsa Record – a low-end Panasonic team replica. It was only 501 tubing and, despite the name, some fairly dodgy Huret components, but it was lightning compared to the Tensor.

Two years later I got a motorbike and didn’t turn another pedal until I was 30 when I bought, strangely enough, a Carrera (no, not that Carrera, the Halfords Carrera) Corsa Record. Again, despite the name there wasn’t a Campag component in sight – it was Shimano RX-100. After a couple of crashes it was mostly 105, then Ultegra and eventually the odd bit of Dura Ace and is now my hack bike.

4 or 5 years ago I joined the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Cycling Association (I’m a civilian, but did 7 years in the Royal Naval Reserve in my late teens and early 20s) and started to do the odd club 10 and bought a Look carbon frame and forks which also served as my road bike until last year when it got some aero bars and deep section wheels to make me at least look vaguely the part in the time trials. Didn’t help the speed much.

Also about 4 years ago my son Cameron – and a year or so later his sister Holly – joined Palmer Park Velo and started track and road racing which has kept me going but eaten up most of the toy budget. The rest goes on camera equipment for my part time job as a cycling photographer.

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