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Meet Team Felt Cycling Plus: Taking on the Fred Whitton!

| Blog, Cycling Plus | 13/03/2014 14:49pm

This year Team Felt Cycling Plus will be taking on the Saddleback Fred Whitton Challenge, one of the toughest sportives on the calendar. Meet the four readers, and one idiot – me –, who are aiming to make passes in May…

The beer, it was definitely the beer. It was a pleasant summer evening and I was standing in the Barrow-in-Furness back garden of James Hodgson, who’d just been taking me through his entry into our Britain’s Best Ride competition.

The Cumbrian route would eventually win, but, as well as the excellent Belgian ale, it was James’s Fred Whitton T-shirt that grabbed my attention. James, it turned out, had ridden the Saddleback Fred Whitton Challenge a few times and through his club helped with the organisation. Emboldened by the special stuff I was drinking, I blurted out, “You know what? I’ll do the Fred next year!”

Next thing I knew I was shaking James’s hand – we may have cut our palms and made a blood pact… can’t remember – and agreeing that, yes, in 2014 I would tackle the 112 miles and many, many climbs of one of the most iconic and toughest sportives in the UK, nay, the world…

The editor in action. Phwooar!

Of course, my agreement with Hodgson – sadly witnessed by three members of our video team – was made before I’d ever ridden in the Lake District. I subsequently tackled just two of the Fred’s six big climbs, Wrynose and Honister Passes, threw up and realised just how tough the challenge was going to be when you add in Kirkstone, Newlands, Whinlatter and Hardknott. (I don’t need to mention that I did them months apart, and frequently stopped for ‘photography’ reasons, do I? Good…)

But as someone once sang to a jaunty 1980s electronic backing, the handshake seals the contract and from the contract there’s no turning back, so nine months on I’m still doing the Fred. Better than that, I’m doing it as a member of Team Felt Cycling Plus, which means you’ll be able to follow me, and four other fools willing participants as we train for and at least start the Saddleback Fred Whitton.

I’ll introduce the rest of the team shortly, but I know what you’re thinking. ‘This bloke is the editor of Britain’s best-selling cycling magazine. He must be pretty much an elite athlete, a man capable of holding the wheel of some the world’s best riders. I hate him. Not only is he devilishly handsome, but he gets to ride expensive bikes, has access to the UK’s best sports scientists and no doubt spends all day, every day on his bike. And I bet he can get EPO too if he wants…’

Sorry to shatter your illusions (well, except the good looking bit…), I may be 41, but Chris Horner I ain’t. Like you, most of my time is spent working and, sadly, that work isn’t riding bikes. It’s sitting behind a desk, swearing at my colleagues, checking Facebook and drinking too much coffee. I have two primary school age kids. I occasionally drink far more units of alcohol than I should. I sometimes look out of the window, then at my shed, and turn around and go back to bed rather than for a ride. I think it’s fair to say I’m a typical MAMIL.

I love riding my bike but I’m not in a club. I don’t have a coach – although that’s going to change for the Fred. I know how to use a power drill but not a power meter. And I climb like a brick, which is nice because I’m bricking it about the Fred.

I have completed plenty of sportives and big rides – in 2013, for instance, I completed the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 and rode a century on three consecutive days during Paris-Londres in June. But those rides count for nought when I tell cycling friends I’m riding the Fred. Oh no, they just do a snorty laugh, before adding: “Yeah, just like you rode the Marmotte!” Then they steal my lunch money.

Obviously I need to find a better class of cycling ‘friends’, but they have a point. The 2011 Marmotte was very much my velo horribilis. Like the Fred, the Marmotte is a legendarily tough sportive. The French Alps replace the English Lakes and it weighs in at 108 miles with over 5000 metres of climbing. It takes in iconic Tour de France climbs the Glandon, Télégraphe and Galibier before finishing with an ascent of Alpe d’Huez. Well it does if you make it to the Alpe…

I managed Glandon okay, but found myself dry heaving up the Télégraphe before falling asleep for an hour at the summit café. The Galibier was a living hell – I bonked more impressively than Boris Becker in a cupboard – and the broomwagon at a café on the Col de Lautaret was one of the sweetest sights I’ve ever seen.

So, needless to say, this is the only ride that many acquaintances seem to remember and it doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence when I ‘look forward’ to the 112 miles and 4000 metres of climbing of the Fred. Oh well, at least I won’t be doing it on my own…
Rob Spedding, Editor

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