It’s taken me a while to get my thoughts together since coming back from France. So, as the dust begins to settle, let’s start by looking at some statistics:
|Climbing:||54,133 metres (6.1 Everests)||48,520 metres (5.5 Everests)|
|Ride time:||163 hours||161 hours|
|Average speed:||21.6 kph||22.6 kph|
|Cumulative Suffer Score:||92.5||97.0|
To the extent that it is relevant for this enthusiastic amateur, I’d say that in terms of overall performance, 2019 was fairly consistent with 2017. There was more climbing but less distance this year, which means that the overall difference of 2 hours is negligible. My time is still about double that of the professionals! Egan Bernal won in 82h57 this year and Chris Froome won in 86h20 in 2017 (though the professional riders lost about 3 hours’ racing this year due to mudslides in the Alps which we were fortunate to avoid). So that’s still slightly less than double their time.
What clearly stood out when I analysed my data in some detail was that I was finishing the day much earlier this time compared with two years ago. On average, by simply being more efficient at the feedstops I was saving myself 45 minutes per day. To put that into practical terms, it meant having far more time before dinner to do all the things that I needed or wanted to do rather than either rush things or be busy late into the evening. With dinner usually at 8pm, getting in before 7pm on 13 out of the 18 occasions when it mattered (time trials and Paris don’t count) rather than 9 out of 18 occasions in 2017 was hugely beneficial. Not only that, but the three times I came in later than 8pm were fairly spread out so there was no cumulative draining effect. This contrasts with three late finishes in a row at the end of 2017 when I had to go straight in to dinner as a sweaty, hungry, feral cyclist whose sole focus was on hoovering up the buffet without the opportunity of becoming human again first.
I mentioned in an earlier post that Steve back at Bigfoot had been analysing my data. Well, what an excellent report he was able to produce on the back of that. The main conclusion would appear to be that I am a machine, not being phased by distance or even by the climbing as such but just taking everything in my stride and, crucially for such hot temperatures, putting plenty of water in the radiator! That was definitely one of the keys to success and which I had identified as something I needed to focus on, so I’m glad I was able to achieve that objective.
It’s probably unfair to try and compare the two Tours since we had a great group of people in 2017 which made that year really special. Some of these are “repeat offenders” and were here again in 2019 of course and there are also quite a few who would have liked to have come back but could not for various reasons. Indeed, such are the bonds among the 2017 crew that we are still in touch, still ride together occasionally and still offer each other mutual encourgement on our respective cycling adventures. In effect, there were others accompanying us on our journey this year that no-one else saw.
So with that qualification, I would say that overall I enjoyed this Tour more than in 2017 for a number of reasons. I touched on some of these on our first rest day in Albi (better weather, better bike and the fact I have survived three weeks before), but in addition to that I loved the route and and had a lot of fun while riding it, including experimenting with taking videos while on the move (climbing La Planche des Belles Filles and the Tourmalet for example) as well as stopping to take photos when I wanted to, rather than just plough on to the finish each day.
The challenge is both physical and mental and I was thinking during the trip that I probably should have had separate scores for those. Had I introduced a “fun factor” for the mental side of things, then I would have scored stages 6, 8 and 21 as Very High (success on the Planche, hailstones day and Babs coming to Paris) and stages 7, 15 and 19 would have been Low (long flat and boring, time pressure, no upper body strength). The rest are evenly split between High and Medium. While the suffer score does not really count as hard scientific evidence, nevertheless a cumulative score of 92.5 was 5% down on 2017 and intrinsically feels about right!
Reading through Steve’s analysis on my performance, it would seem that I may have thought of certain stages as being harder than they actually were for me in practice. So it was interesting to then read an article in Cycling Weekly which comments that working on the psychological can improve our physiological performance. So maybe I’m on to something and should have a suffer score that reflects external factors such as poor weather or roads and a fun factor that records how much I’ve enjoyed the day for various reasons! That would perhaps stop the mind thinking that I should be suffering just because it looks like a tough day and maybe help me to tap in to those extra physiological resources that I have but are maybe denied just because my brain says they should be so denied.
I’m making no plans! For now I’m happy being back on the local roads and have taken an opportunity to put my Tour form to good use on hills that I’ve climbed many times. I smashed my PB on Ide Hill (4 mins 58 compared with 5 mins 48) and on Polhill I beat a time that had stood as my best since 2011. All meaningless really, but fun nevertheless. Give me a few more weeks and I won’t get near those times again!
My main goal on returning was to be reintegrated into polite society! The buffets were a bit of a scrum in the mornings – not quite survival of the fittest but you had to take your chances when presented with them! When we had them, the evening buffets tended to be more civilised, but again we were taking (and eating) far more than would be normal. I estimate that I was consuming up to 4,000 calories per day – all of which I would have burned off as my weight did not change during the period.
There are quite a few mountains that I’ve climbed many times now, so I probably ought to do something different. My current league table is Galibier 5, Glandon/Croix de Fer 4, Izoard 4, Planche des Belles Filles 4, Telegraph 3, Alpe d’Huez 3, Mont Ventoux 3, Tourmalet 3, Peyresourde 3, Ballon d’Alsace 3 not to mention those that I’ve climbed once or twice. All in France, though I have ridden a little in Spanish and Italian mountain ranges.
It’s been a huge privilege to be able to take part in Le Loop again and to play my part in raising funds to support local charities that give young people opportunities they may not otherwise have. In doing so, we were blessed once again by a fantastic team that made sure we had all that we needed during the three weeks and also by good weather. It truly has been the “Sunshine Tour de France”.
Thanks again to all those who have supported me. As I have written before, the Tour is now over but not so the work of those charities. It’s not too late to add your support if you wish to and you can find my fundraising page at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/johngriffiths5.
Vive Le Tour. Vive Le Loop. Vive Le Sunshine Tour de France!