The opening stage of the Tour De France is only a matter of days away. This is one of the highest points of the cycling calendar, and usually an event for novice riders to watch in awe.

Not all, it would seem, are content only to watch. We caught up with Redhill Cycling Club member, Oliver Gin, who is currently out riding the same route as the pros, on the same time scale (only  taking just a little longer over every stage). He will be raising money for the William Wates Memorial Trust (WWMT), a charity dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged young people.

Olly started the journey on Saturday 23 June. Before he left, we caught up with the man himself, to find out more about his challenge..

What inspired you to take on the challenge?

My story began in 2009, a friend who had signed up to ride part of the 2010 Tour for WWMT asked me whether I’d like to join in. At that time, the longest distance I had ridden on a bicycle in one effort was 36 miles. After several months of training I completed 12 stages, which left me happy that I’d helped WWMT and wanting to ride the whole thing. So when I heard that WWMT was organising another Tour event for 2012, I gladly signed up.


Riding Tour de France in 2010


How did you prepare for the ride?

For most of the last 8 months before the event, the challenge has been to have as much productive time on the bike as possible. I’ve ridden over 4,500 miles since November which seems a reasonable amount until you compare it to the distance of the Tour! During the snow and ice of Winter, I cycled off road with my mountain bike.  Sufferfest (videos with training sessions you can follow) made turbo training palatable, providing structure and tolerance to… suffering! As hose pipe bans materialised, I learned that breathable waterproofs and merino wool socks were also essential for long distance riding.

Olly's winter mountain bike riding

Long back-to-back days were ridden as part of training camps to Lanzarote, Majorca, the Belgian Ardennes, the South Coast and the West Country. During the last fortnight, resting has been my priority. Over the final weeks, long rides have been replaced by shorter, higher intensity rides to maintain aerobic fitness and to allow enough recovery for me to arrive in Liege with plenty left in the tank.

What have you learnt in that time?

Burning fat rather than carbohydrates is critical for endurance. Instead of energy drinks I use low carb drinks with hydrolytes. Where possible I eat normal food such as sandwiches, bananas, dried fruit, etc. I still use energy bars, but more as a backup option. I avoid gels as much as possible, although I do have some particularly potent caffeine gels for on road emergencies.

Do you have any worries about the ride?

Discipline off of the bike will also be crucial. Long days on the bike, huge breakfasts and transfers between stages will make sleep a precious commodity; travel pillow and ear plugs become essential items. We’ll be hand washing our clothes, which needs to be done quickly (see sleep). In 2010, some cyclists were showering in their kit to save time. Daily stretching and sports massage are necessary to avoid injury, but without a personal physiotherapist I’ll be relying on my foam roller.

What are your aims for the ride?

I want to learn patience on the bike. I love competing and road racing, but this journey is about relaxing into the ride so the second 100km is easier and faster than the first. So bizarrely, I hope to come back from Paris enjoying cycling simply for its own sake. A plus!

To sponsor Olly, and raise money for WWMT click here, and if you’d like to read more about his mission, check out his blog page.