Cycling is one of the greatest participation sports around. As fans, we’re used to watching our heroes ride epic races, but the beauty of cycling is that we can take on our own challenges and have our own adventures. For somebody of my limited ability, a challenge is a ride that takes me into another county. Other people, for some crazy reason, choose to take on something a little more demanding, and friend of VeloVoices Maff Felstead is one such person. This year Maff and the rest of Team Shake ‘n’ Bake are planning to top their London-Paris exploit from last year by tackling Paris-Geneva. The thought of this alone is enough to give me lactic acid build-up in my calves …
Ant: So Maff, how did you get involved in this madness?
Maff: Well, it started as a group of friends who rode together once a week, going a little bit further every week, progressed to sportives and then fulfilling the desire for a proper cycling challenge, which was London to Paris. Paris to Geneva is the next challenge up the ladder.
Ant: So tell me a bit about what this ride entails.
Maff: It’s four days’ riding and we start from the Eiffel Tower and end next to Lake Geneva. It’s approximately 80 miles a day for the first two days. Day three is the longest, at 98 miles, and has a 6km ascent. Day four is only 70 miles, but most of it is on the way up the Col de la Faucille, which is a cat 3 Tour de France climb of 1,323 metres.
Live like the pros
Ant: Personally, I’d be struggling to get much further than the Peripherique, so that sounds pretty tough to me. Days three and fpur in particular sound like nothing short of masochism! This also suggests that London to Paris must have been worth the effort. What did you enjoy that made you come back for more?
Maff: Basically, four days of riding with nothing to think about but riding, is the closest any of Team Shake’n’Bake will get to living like the pros. We have mechanical back-up, food supplied and brilliant organisation by Discover Adventure – why wouldn’t we come back for some of that!
Ant: I see your point, and aside from the pain, I guess a few days riding through France and Switzerland pretty much sells itself. So with the support and logistics sorted, the training and preparation must be your priority. What’s the key?
Maff: You can’t lie to yourself. You can’t take shortcuts and, like much of life, it’s all about TITS – as in Time In The Saddle – out in the elements and suffering. So that’s what we do. It’s much better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
Climb every mountain … well, one actually
Ant: Since the UK doesn’t have anything quite like the Alps, how are you tackling your preparation for the climbs that you’ll face?
Maff: I have bought a child’s trike and am riding it up Box Hill as often as possible. I think it’s a pretty good replication. Honestly, you can’t really find a comparison in the UK. I think you just need to make sure you are in the best shape possible and hope that’s good enough.
Ant: I add extra resistance to my rides by carrying an additional 7kg of bodyweight. Of course, this will only pay off if I ever lose those kilos! Maybe one day, if that ever happens, I might be able to tackle a decent climb. Obviously just getting through this ride is a big task in itself, but have you and the team set any specific targets for the ride?
Maff: There’s a mountain that needs to be ridden – getting over that would be the main target. Getting to Lake Geneva and raising lots of money for charity would be the others.
Ant: Is there a competitive element?
Maff: There is no competitive element as it’s a charity ride and not a race … but we do like to come first.
Ant: Looks like a bunch sprint into Geneva then! Fair play to you, Maff, and the rest of Team Shake ‘n’ Bake, for having the guts to take on such a challenge. Hopefully it will be a rewarding experience!
So now I’m wondering how realistic it is for me to one day raise my game and tackle something like this. I’m certainly tempted, and have even taken some advice from our own Sheree, who has also ridden London to Paris. (Although there is probably more chance of Bjarne Riis growing an afro, but never rule it out.)
Col de la Faucille
Following my chat with Maff, I did a little reading about the Col de la Faucille, and came across this fitting little gem. This climb has appeared in the Tour de France several times, and on one occasion (stage 18 in 2004), was the scene of some pretty hideous bullying of Filippo Simeoni by a certain disgraced Texan cowboy. [We have no idea who you could possibly be referring to … – Ed.]
Simeoni, who at the time was a prosecution witness in legal proceedings against Dr Michele Ferrari and had implicated Lance Armstrong, was hit with the full force of the Texan’s temper and cycling’s omerta. I like to think that Team Shake ‘n’ Bake defeating this climb will win it back for us fans, showing that cycling is about the bike, it is about the enthusiasm, the adventure, the camaraderie and sheer bloody determination to beat a challenge.
Maff is on Twitter as @Maff_Felstead, as well as Team Shake ‘n’ Bake @L2PShakenBake. I can also highly recommend that you stop by their blog for more wry anecdotes about their training and the build-up to the grand depart.