About a year ago I did something I'd been meaning to for years, I bought a road bike.
I'd spent hours, days of my summers watching the Tour de France (and the Vuelta, and the Tour of Britain and... well, you get the picture). But the last time I rode was on a cheap mountain bike to get around at university.
So, convincing myself that a bike would save me money (ha!) on my commute, I took the plunge and bought a second-hand Bianchi.
I spent the next year playing at being a rider, London to Brighton at a
terrible speed, a weekend ride to Tunbridge Wells with three friends
(staying there overnight), a few laps of Richmond Park and a
post-Olympics trip up Box Hill.
I didn't commute, I did steadily buy more kit (better kit is like being a better rider, right?).
I'm not playing any more.
Last night I signed up for the Etape du Tour. I'm going to ride an
actual stage of the actual Tour de France a couple of weeks before the
pros go through he same road. Closed roads, support cars, fans,
categorised mountains, the works.
My flights are booked, so's my accommodation, I've paid for a race entry place. It's actually happening.
One problem: I'm in no shape to do it. I'm at least five kilos too heavy, I'm rubbish at climbing (I was reduced to walking up Ditchling Beacon during London to Brighton), and I've never ridden that far.
And then there's the broom wagon. A van full of gendarmes sweeping up riders that aren't fit to ride the course. There are tales of men who've trained for months, broken themselves on the day, then been swept up 7km from the end. No medal for them. Or just not been fast enough at the start - and been pulled over and placed in the coach with plenty left in their legs.
Training, in earnest, has to start now if I'm to avoid this nightmarish vision of rolling defeat. Oh, and I should probably get a new bike.
The best research I've found on training seems to suggest that by February I need to be able to comfortably ride 60 miles without a break - to do that means long, then slightly longer rides at very least once a week throughout winter and probably some gym and indoor work as well. After that it gets hard.
Wish me luck!