Desperate times call for desperate measures. Our man is in training for the Paris-Roubaix cyclo-sportive in early June, but a disastrous March has put him behind schedule. There?s only one thing for it? revive The 30-Day Challenge.

Target: Paris-Roubaix sportive


Sunday, June 8, 2008

62 days to go

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It was all going so well. A decent base in November and December, stepping up in January and maintaining momentum in February.

And then, in March, the wheels fell off.

The entire month was a write-off and now I find myself playing catch-up. There are just under two months to go until the Paris-Roubaix cyclo-sportive and, with the race itself this weekend, it seemed the right time to focus and set some goals.

It?s not quite time to panic and start cramming, but I know I am behind schedule.

So, what went wrong in March? Well, after returning from Het Volk, where I managed a couple of cold, wet rides over the bergs, cobbles and down the famous Schelde canal, I got ill.

For four days I was totally listless and lacking energy. (What?s new, I hear from a very cruel voice at the back). Each day I wrote a target for the following day ? one hour, two hours, whatever ? and each day I crossed it out and felt bad about myself.

Then the illness proper came and for two days I was bed-ridden and utterly pathetic. It took another four or five days to get back to normal again. Almost a fortnight was lost.

While I was drinking Lucozade and eating soft, easy to swallow food, my Paris-Roubaix partner in crime, James, was off in Majorca, piling on the miles. I think he did almost 500 in a week.

In the month of March I managed a two-and-a-half hour ride with James on icy Easter Saturday ? a day when, inexplicably, a white van man veered into the middle of the road to spray us with water as we waited to cross at a junction.

Then came five days spent in a hot, sweaty, airless velodrome at Manchester, eating awful food.

It was hardly ideal training for the Tour of Flanders sportive on April 5. One ride in a month.


I am not proud of the fact I cut out Berendries and Valkenberg at the Tour of Flanders. It snipped only about eight kilometres off the 140-kilometre route, but avoiding the two climbs was the key to me making it to Ninove at all.

For about 40 minutes before I made my decision to head straight on to Brakel and skip the two climbs, I?d been humming the tune to The Self Preservation Society from The Italian Job.

The rain was freezing, I?d not eaten enough and I crept up the Leberg. At one point I looked to the side and realised I was not moving any quicker than the guy next to me. No shame in that, until I point out that he was walking.

Up to that point I?d been feeling okay. Not great, but okay.

My partners for the ride were Edward Pickering, Patrick Trainor from Evans Cycles and Nick Bourne, the organiser of the Tour of Wessex and a man for whom 140 kilometres and a few hills were a mere snack. I could tell he was itching to get his teeth into the full 260-kilometre ride.

I say partners, but to be honest I didn?t see much of them after the start. Bourne accelerated away from us inside the first 500 metres and was never seen again.

We worked out later that as I was creeping up the Leberg in a hail storm, he was settling into his nice warm hotel room.

Pickering eased clear shortly afterwards and finished well ahead despite a major mechanical, which saw the bottom bracket of his Cervelo come away from the frame.

Trainor stuck with me until his superior descending skills on the wet cobbles after the Taaienberg shook me off.

We met up again at the top of the Muur. My minor detour had taken me a few minutes ahead of him. I actually finished reasonably strongly and regretted my short-cut but, at the time it was the only sane decision.

That?s my line of defence and I?m sticking to it.


Now there are less than two months to go and I need to get on a fast-track to fitness. A ride of 255 kilometres is not to be taken lightly. It?s almost twice as far as the longest ride I?ve done this year.

So, there?s nothing for it. It?s time to revive The 30-Day Challenge to force myself to train properly.

For those who don?t know, I set myself a 30-Day Challenge last spring in a bid to get fit(ter). It was a totally unscientific programme based on riding on as many days in a 30-day period as possible. Like Morgan Spurlock eating McDonald?s for a month. But with bikes. And marginally less burgers.

To my mind, the 30-Day Challenge helps clear all the barriers and obstacles everyday life, work and other commitments chuck in the way. It strips away the simple excuses for not riding and gives a focus.

I think it?s possible to think and plan a month at a time, but further than that it all gets a bit hazy. So, my target will be to do as much quality riding as possible in 30 days and hope it puts me within touching distance of where I need to be for the Hell of the North.

As Buzz said on our forum. ?Come on Lionel, give us another 30-day challenge blog. Suffer dude, suffer.?

Let the suffering commence.


The countdown to the Paris-Roubaix cyclo-sportive

Part 3: I?m no Roger Hammond


Official Paris-Roubaix cyclo-sportive 2008 site