Martyn Jones' Tour de France: Part 3

By Martyn Jones | Monday, July 14, 2008 11.00am

On July 3, Martyn Jones, a 34-year-old media director from Hertfordshire, left the starting line of this year’s Tour de France with the aim of completing every stage of the Grande Boucle – 48 hrs ahead of the race itself. 

Martyn is keeping us informed of his progress (when he can locate internet access in rural France) and here's his third diary entry for BikeRadar:

Stage 3: St Malo - Nantes, 208km

After tackling the long, epic Breton roads I am finally heading out of this region, south of the Loire where the weather will be better, I hope. It felt like I was stuck in the north west for an age, complete with that strong westerly wind that has been the biggest handicap so far, and never more so than on today’s 208km stage - most of which was ridden into a headwind.

I passed some spectacular roadside creations en route, however, - castles made of haystacks, gigantic bicycles draped in flowers...all created out of  a  passion for 'Le Tour'.

Gentleman's Code of Conduct

There are many unwritten rules obeyed by road cyclists...one of which is to welcome the company of another rider, regardless of age, sex, fitness etc. If you're passing, say "hello" or at least signal and move on (eg wave) or have a quick chat. It never ceases to amaze me how such rules are either unknown or disregarded...it’s the type of thing you value when riding 200km alone into a headwind!

I met a couple of Scotsmen who are riding parts of some tour stages, one of which was today's. The first of the two riders seemed to understand the code of conduct, the second didn't. After chatting with the first, I caught up with his friend further up the road to chat and he appears to ignore me, as if preferring to view it as a competitive manoeuvre. Next thing I know he thinks I'm racing him down a small hill, he catches me up, passes me on the incline and runs out of breath before the small summit...I pass him, bite my tongue for a moment, then wish him luck as he prepares to get his breath back... Quelle plonkeur!

Pretty hard stage in all..

Time in saddle: 7hours 18 mins

Calories burned in the saddle: 6700

Feel good factor: 7/10

Stage 4: Cholet TT, 29.5km

I rode the time trial (TT) course at the same pace as I would a long stage...in other words today was like a recovery day for me. It took around an hour, taking it easy, spinning the legs before returning to the hotel for an hour’s leg and back massage. This time the massage was a little deeper, now that I am able to handle and benefit from it.

My masseur Ed (who works with the Tweenies and some well known WWF fighters!) does a good job and says that my muscles are in good shape - not damaged or tangled, which is welcome news.

Calories!

Elvis himself would be pleased with the calories consumption to date - put simply I am eating obscene amounts to replace what I am burning off. I've heard that it’s almost impossible to replace what you lose in a typical day so it’s a real job just staying at the same weight.

During each ride I consume around 6 - 8 litres of carbohydrate drink, 4 - 6 energy bars (mule bars) and 3 - 5 energy gels (with caffeine) . On top of this I have some savoury stuff about half way through each stage with a Coke or two. It’s a massive amount and yet I never feel bloated. Breakfast and dinner are two to three times normal portions.

Conditions: very windy, 23 degrees, changeable

Calories burned in the saddle: 710

Feel good factor: 7/10

Stage 5: Cholet - Chateauroux, 232km (longest stage of the Tour)

Entered what feels like real rural France today around halfway through the massive stage. I got lost due to bad directions early on so - would you believe it? - I actually rode 10km further than the tour stage route!

Countryside South of Richelieu was great - sunflowers, corn fields - temperature warmed up a little before showers returned again so rain jacket got another soaking.

The most outstanding feature of the day was the incredible road surfaces and how epic the roads were - 10 miles straight over the horizon followed by another 10 miles. These are bigger vistas than I have ever seen - even in America. This is a big country and in these parts there’s not much going on other than farming. With the help of a tail wind I rode the stage in only 7hrs 36 mins

Calories burned in the saddle: 8,200

Feel good factor: 9/10

I lost my appetite in the evening before my meal. Suddenly I felt a chill, started shaking violently and had to wrap up - diarrhoea followed and I went to sleep feeling drained and helpless after what had been a good ride earlier. The Tour can do this to you - one small bug from nowhere and you're toast. I hope to recover in the morning…

Stage 6: Aigurande - Super-Besse, 195.5km

So hard, so hard. Last night's sickness reduced my appetite to nearly zero at breakfast. I had to eat and drink though without being sick, so I gradually piled on the calories hoping I would stay together for the 195km in the Massif Central mountains. The thought of such a long ride today was especially tough to deal with. I felt car sick, weak and down.

On top of this, the weather had taken a bad turn yet again - more rain and colder all of a sudden. The temperature was down to 13 degrees and it drizzled for most of the day.

Dressed in winter clothing I set off and slowly but surely, mustering my energy through the undulating back roads as I climbed to around 1000 metres midway through the day. I was still hardly able to eat and have had to put my faith in the energy drinks for calories. 

Since I got into this sport around the age of 12, I've cycled around 200,000 miles and (luckily) I haven't experienced many days as tough as this. What helps is a strong sense of managing yourself, your physical and mental resources and trusting that your training will see you through. I finished the stage well in the end, and was very glad to pile into the back of the support van and head off down the mountain to the hotel for dinner.

Calories burned in the saddle: 7,200

Time in the saddle: 7 hrs 45 mins

Conditions: awful

Feel good factor: 3/10 (hardest day for me so far)

The crew have started calling me "sir" and "boss" now - not sure whether out of respect or fear that I might crack and fall apart!

Martyn is keen to raise as much money as possible for his chosen charities so to make a donation visit: www.justgiving.com/letour4good or to send your  good wishes email him at: mhj_456@yahoo.com

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