Da Tour

The Virtual Tour D’Ireland finished today. I had a blog half written last Friday – normal blog night – but both my body and my mind were so tired from climbing that I parked it where it lay and it never saw the light of day. Some of it will probably make it across into this edition where it fits the theme.

This tour needed doing. It’s needed doing for a very long time, and it’s been on my mind for at least three years as an actual tour. It still is. I need someone with the time and a motorhome to make it a reality.

Ireland is where this journey started. I don’t differentiate. I knew a very long time ago that I wanted to cycle round Ireland, not least because Jane and I have been there lots of times and (a) we love the place and the people (b) I knew it was as hilly as fuck which made it an appealing challenge.

Ireland has always felt like a piece of unfinished business. But more than that it has always been a piece of unstarted business.

Until now.

Lockdown gave me the opportunity, the motivation and ultimately the time to take this thing on. I set my stall out on day one to try and average 30 miles a day: I managed almost 42. For 293 days prior to the start of Da Tour, I’d averaged 1,244ft of climbing a day. Da Tour averaged 1,964ft. Now perhaps you can appreciate why I was knackered last Friday and why my brain had neither the fuel nor the ammunition to deliver a blog. Knackered by name, knackered by nature.

I took this on for wee Oscar. Trundling around Ayrshire on two wheels, and riding across Australia has kind of taken Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma away from its roots: the embryonic LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma was built around Oscar, Vanessa and Mackenzie. Da Tour was a chance to take the journey back there.

Jane and I spent our honeymoon in Ireland, driving about all over the place, so I already had an idea that it wasnae flat. We then spent many a family holiday in the south so I had a bit of local knowledge of Wexford, Cork, Kerry, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal. But we’d never done the bit at the top: Malin Head and the Giant’s Causeway. Hell, that came like a bolt out of the blue. It’s gonna take a few days for the pain to subside from my knees after that lot.

What’s left are the stats:

40 stages

1678 miles (2700km): average 41.9 miles

78,544ft feet of climbing: average 1964ft

Time: 102h 16m 19s

Average speed 16.5mph

Calories burnt: 59,000

Pints of Guinness burnt off: 280

That’s SEVEN pints a day!


How did I get through 102 hours on a stationary bike?

Music and Scrabble. I play a lot of phone Scrabble (aka Words With Friends) but when I’m on the bike I just play against the computer. It plays every two minutes and it engages the brain, which in turn passes the time and the hills.

When I went to the Solving Kids Cancer parents’ conference three years ago, I made up what I called the SKC Road Trip playlist for the car. It was full of all of the songs that meant so much during LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma. I started life in lockdown on that mix but it didn’t fit: too much slow stuff: too much sad stuff. So I started again: the Lockdown Mix…

And at this point, we kick back into the stuff I wrote a week ago, because it tells the story of how I’ve managed to stay sane on shuffle.

I’ve become ever more at one with my music as the Tour Of Ireland has evolved. There have been some fearsome hills this past week, and as I’ve had a nosey at the map as the road meanders inland, I’ve found myself hoping for something Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy as I arrived at the foot of each climb. U2’s Beautiful Day is my favourite for piling downhill at 35mph but for the long slow climb, I’ve homed in on Frankie’s epic 12” of Welcome To The Pleasuredome to get me to the top. But I’ve retitled it as Welcome To The Paindome.

The mix is full of Stones, Beatles, Thorogood, Quo, Haley, Who, U2, Them, Undertones, Skids, Orbison and Berry to name but a few. Most of it’s drawn from my vintage vinyl collection.

The Lockdown Mix works.

I’ve loved almost every minute. I loved looking at the route and thinking “can I do this?” knowing in one sense that I could, but knowing also in another that I’d set the route so feckin hard that tomorrow was always in doubt. It’s easy to forget that when I got back on the bike on July 1st last year, in memory of Princess Puddles, that I hadn’t been on a bike in anger since the Ride2Cure finished in Adelaide: 289 days without doing anything (apart from Walking2Cure).

While I was still out on the road before lockdown, every day was a notch on the bedpost of Ride2Cure2. Da Tour has kind of taken something away from that. Well let’s go back there for a moment because in the winter just past, we had five named storms: Atiyah (Dec 8th), Brendan (Jan 14th), Ciara (Feb 8th), Dennis (Feb 15th) and Jorge (Feb 27th). Ride2Cure2 endured them all: and prospered.

Ride2Cure2 stands at 333 Stages and counting. 333 stages on the spin. At an average of 35 miles a day. That’s the sub-story to everything that’s happening as a distraction just now. And those 333 stages are down to Anna Meares because it was Anna who lit the fuse under this second coming of the bike ride when I went back to Australia last year. I remember sitting in my hotel room thinking “How am I gonna tell Jane that I’m going back out on the road?” But it’s been okay, apart from getting tired. The first stage was a gig down to Prestwick to my physio to try and sort an injury that was still bothering me after I fell off the bike at the start of Stage 11 of Ride2Cure in Jerilderie. The legacy of that injury right now is that after 45 minutes on the turbo trainer, I have no feeling in my left hand. The problem is sourced in my shoulder so I have to keep doing helicopter impersonations every half an hour to keep the blood flowing.

Behind the scenes, it’s all shit, but you keep on pushing because you can.

So with Da Tour over, what’s next?

I’ve been toying with two ideas: virtual cycling round all 92 football league grounds in England, or doing the F1 calendar.

F1 won.

I’m planning on virtual cycling every Formula One circuit on the calendar, plus a few extras such as Brands Hatch, Donnington, the Nurburgring and Adelaide. How could I possibly forget Adelaide? That’s gonna be the last one for obvious reasons.

I’ve had a play on MapMyRide and it’ll let me create either a cycling route, or if that’s prohibited, a walking route, on each of the circuits I’ve looked at. We’re talking iconic venues here: Silverstone and Monza to name but two.

The plan is then to create a pair of .kml files: a single, flying qualifying lap, and a five lap race against the clock. Ten laps would have been nice but believe me, your arse goes numb after an hour on a turbo so five it is.

Then I’m going to create a Virtual Neuroblastoma F1 club on Strava and encourage cyclists all over the world to throw themselves into the challenge. I’m 67 so I don’t expect to be on pole position for more than five minutes, but the idea is to leave the F1 Neuroblastoma F1 Club as a legacy to the bike ride. What could be more iconic that a bunch of super competitive guys on bikes on smart turbo trainers blasting round the entire F1 calendar in virtual mode. It’s gonna make for great winter training (except I’m gonna do it in our summer just because I can).

Ideas come and ideas go. Some work, some don’t. The problem with where we are just now is that potentially, folk have less money than ever before because of lockdown and the furlough. No money’s coming to the Ride2Cure coffers except for the ongoing support of Irvine AFC, and what I match, pennies for miles, at the end of every month.

So I have a choice: call it a day at the end of the Virtual F1 season, or keep going in the hope that the neuroblastoma message lasts longer than the fundraising. 62,000 miles, which is this side of the coming winter, is 100,000km so maybe that’s a place to draw it all to a close. Time will tell.

But for now, I’m just pleased to have been able to give Da Tour my all.

The magic carpet’s booked and I’ll be virtually in Melbourne at the weekend: the opening virtual Grand Prix on a push bike.

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