While our thoughts are turning towards the final grand tour of the year, we’re still keen to hear about the Tour de France from the perspective of Sophie Chavanel, physiotherapist at FDJ, who shares her experiences and insights from a challenging and ultimately disappointing Tour for the team.
The final stage of the Tour de France drew a number of the VeloVoices and our friends to Paris and, as can be expected when you get a group of 30 or so cycling fans together, we didn’t talk about anything much other than bikes. The incredible thing was the way that all of us, as fans of pro-cycling, were able to talk about cycling adventures of our own. One such adventure is that of Chris Bloomfield, who is preparing to ride solo across the USA. More specifically, Chris is preparing to ride 3,500 miles, including the legendary Route 66, in just 66 days – all to raise money for two charities: Great Ormond Street Hospital and Alzheimer Society.
Ant: So Chris, firstly, what inspired you to take on such a mammoth challenge?
Chris:I’ve always been fascinated by adventure and this trip is definitely that! It has far more meaning that just adventure though, it is about honouring my late grandfather who suffered with dementia for many years before he passed away in August last year.
Ant: What was it specifically about the Trans-America route that drew you to it?
Chris: Well, I have fond memories of watching Westerns with my grandfather so maybe that had a bearing, but it’s also a legendary route, and the stories I have heard about it excite me. On top of that, cycling through such a stunning wilderness is a fascinating and unique challenge that will put me well outside of my comfort zone.
Who would have thought that Gary Cooper would have inspired Chris to cycle across the US?
Ant: Just to be clear, you’re riding this solo, with all of your gear on a trailer which you’re going to be towing?
Chris: That’s right. I’ll be riding this solo, dragging my gear behind me, which makes it even more demanding. I’m hoping that this will create situations where I will need help, and that by having to depend on help from others, I will create a parallel between myself and those with dementia as well as the children in Great Ormond Street, who are in such desperate need of help.
Ant: Now, about the route itself, give us a little overview of where you’re headed.
Chris: The trip starts on 1st October and will end around 7th December. I start from Times Square in New York City and will end in Los Angeles. I’ll be crossing 13 states before I reach California.
Ant: What do you think are going to be the biggest challenges of the trip as a whole?
Chris: The biggest challenge will be the mental element – although I am not quite physically there, I still have seven weeks to work on this. The mental element of being alone for days at a time is going to be a huge challenge. I’m also expecting the Mojave Desert to be tough going and there is a stretch near Albuquerque where the elevation is much higher than the UK.
Ant: Had you done much cycling before deciding to take on a whole continent?
Chris: I’ve always liked going out for a ride on a Sunday afternoon, and I used to average around 50 miles a weekend, but you could say it’s evolved a bit now!
Ant: As a more recreational cyclist myself, the thought of stepping that up to what you’re attempting sounds quite daunting. What’s been your approach to training?
Chris: The training is pretty time-consuming, but it’s important to get the miles in before the trip. I’m doing stints of up to seven hours on the bike, which is a lot to try and fit in, but it needs to be done! Unfortunately my bike has weathered the training worse than me and has suffered a cracked frame and forks, which was a massive setback.
Ant:I think if I attempted seven hours on the bike it’d almost certainly be me that broke first! More importantly, you’re doing this to raise a lot of money for charity – how’s that going?
Chris: It’s been steady but I’m ambitious! The current total is around £3,000, which is great, but I want to raise as much money as possible for these wonderful causes, so I’ve tried to boost the total by doing some fundraising events.
Ant: Really? When people talk about fundraising events, I always think of somebody sitting in a bath of cold baked beans for money!
Chris: Well, I thankfully didn’t do that, but I did ride an exercise bike for five-and-a-half hours in a lion onesie! Believe me, takes some character to turn up at your workplace dressed like that! People reacted well to my humiliation though, and were very generous in their donations – I raised £550.
Spinning in a lion onesie is always worth it to raise money for a good cause
Ant: Well, at £100 an hour, that’s a pretty impressive rate of return! There are some footballers who don’t earn that much! After all that you’ve done so far, have you got any advice for anybody who might be tempted to follow in your footsteps?
Chris: Planning is crucial, and you also have to be persistent in order to secure sponsorship and support. I expected companies to be falling at my feet trying to offer a sponsorship deal but you really have to work at it to get the right result.
Ant: And finally, when do you set off?
Chris: 1st October is the date! It’s looming large on the horizon, and it won’t be long before I’m pedalling out of Times Square and on towards the Pacific!
I love the way that cycling touches our lives and creates a community beyond the racing. It really endears the sport to me and makes it very special, and the fact that you don’t have to be a pro to have an amazing story about cycling, to me, sets it aside from any other sport. What Chris is hoping to achieve is inspirational and stems from some of the greatest human traits: a sense of adventure, lust for life, compassion, and a desire to do something good for others. The fact that cycling can be a means to express all of this why it isn’t just a sport, it’s a window to freedom. Here’s hoping that Chris has a safe trip and a wonderful adventure, and in doing so manages to raise plenty of money for these important causes.