Chris Dowd Cycling Challenge - Progress so far

The Final Update

All done.
I’m sad and I’m happy.   
Sad that it’s all over because I really enjoyed the ride, the scenery and meeting lots of CSF folk. 
Happy that the ride went so well and that I’ve raised 2550€ for a fantastic cause from all your generous donations.
Ian and Sue Purslow organised a fabulous reception for me today at the Col du Tourmalet, with over 20 people waiting to celebrate with me with a glass or two of bubbly.
Again the weather was sunny today.   I felt really good climbing Tourmalet today, so good that I was setting a personal record pace, but had to hold for over 30 minutes at La Mongie in order to avoid arriving at the Col before anyone else!  I had planned a very pessimistic timetable, that turned out to be exactly the opposite of how I felt on the day.
Thank you to Pat, President of CSF National for a lovely gift of wine and chocolates to say thank you for my efforts.
Thank you to Jayne Ray, President of CSF Gascony for the lovely gift of a beautiful bowl made by her.
And finally, thank you to Penny Parkinson from CSF for being my organising right hand lady, with me every step of the planning, for over a year up to today.
TOTALS : 1182km ridden, 11056m climbed, 43000 calories burned, in 8 1/2 days.
Goodbye for now…..  Until the next time I cycle for charity in 2022.


Day 8 Update

I’m home.   Well, was I really in Paris a week ago?, it doesn’t seem real at all.
The week has literally flown by, which has to be a good sign.
Now to rest up and be as ready as I can for 100km to the 2000m high Col du Tourmalet on Sunday.
It was sooo cold this morning, just 3 degrees for at least an hour, and all i had was summer gear plus a jacket, the sun seemed to take forever to rise up and start warming me and the air.
 Stage 8 of my 9 stage personal Grand Tour is now completed, with Stage 9 set to be what is called the Queen Stage.  I’ve won every stage!, but also I came last too.
Physically I'm feeling good.   The legs feel tired of course, but I’m better than I’d expected to be.

Day 7 Update

Celebrations today as my sponsorship total cruised through 2000€ with a whip round donation from CSF Haute Vienne.  Happy days, it’s more than I ever imagined I would raise.  Thank you. 
Not a long Mail today, I am feeling quite tired now. Today was another long day at 150km, and finished with quite a few deep rolling hills too, into a headwind, just to make sure I suffered a bit more. 
Stewart Baker joined me again today, riding alongside until lunch.  A big thank you for the company and conversation.  
I had a great evening, night and breakfast with Sue Hick, who, not even being a member of CSF, was incredibly generous putting me up for the night.  
The countryside was mostly pretty today, but nothing particular to photograph.  The long days are now over, with ‘just’ 100km tomorrow to get home.  Then of course, the 100km from home on Sunday climbing 2000m to the Col du Tourmalet.  
Totals so far are 943km ridden, 7635m climbed, 34335 calories burned, in 6 1/2 days.

Day 6 Update

Another lovely day to be on a bike in the french countryside, riding over 100 miles. 
Today was the longest distance yet, and the most amount of climbing, but the scenery of Haute Vienne and Dordogne was beautiful. 
I had huge support today, it has been amazing.   Clare of CSF Vienne set me off at 08:00 after a lovely breakfast, a good sleep and great company, though it was just 7 degrees!
An hour later 8 members of CSF Haute Vienne, organised by Sue & Richard Ware greeted me with coffee and pastries.  I’m sad I could not stay longer and do their efforts justice. 
I was flagged down about 10:40 by a couple that had come out to see me en route. 
Colin from CSF Dordogne Sud made me a lovely lunch that hit the spot perfectly. 
And then Stewart Baker rode with me all afternoon, working hard to break a headwind in front of me, which otherwise would have been hugely draining.  
Tonight I’m staying with Sue Hick, who contacted me via the Connexion article on June, doing sterling work with a great dinner and a bed for the night. 
So you can see that support to get through a long day 6 has been brilliant. 
Another long day tomorrow, but the last long day. Stewart will again ride with me, this time all morning. I look at a map now, and feel I’m well on my way to the finish, which I guess I am!
Some lovely pics again today. I’m particularly pleased with the dawn on La Vienne. 
360km to go.........
Totals so far are 794km ridden, 6245m climbed, 29080 calories burned, in 5 1/2 days

Day 5 Update

A fabulous day’s cycling, the best and most beautiful yet. 
For all but the last 15km, today’s 132km route was an upstream ride along La Vienne. What a beautiful river, every part of it was a picture.  If only the road builders, way back whenever, had put the road along the riverside all the way it would have been even better, but instead they seemed to have gone up and down every adjacent hill they could find!
Today marked half way on this journey. But even more importantly it also marks the completion of another one of my cycling triple challenge for CSF targets.  Today I completed 15,000km ridden in 2019 (with at least 150,000m of climbing), with almost 4 months to spare.  That was 600 hours in the saddle.  
Don’t tell anyone, this is between just you and me!, but privately I’m now targeting 20,000km for the year - no point in stopping now!!
I had lunch today at the home of Susan Hooper, a member of CSF Vienne.  It was a real pleasure and I thank her for her kind hospitality.  In my pictures you will see her cute dog Teacup. 
 I’ve been eating a lot today, as promised to my dear wife.  A picture of the afternoon treat is below.  It’s definitely a plus side of the trip to feel free to indulge. 
 Another pic is weirdly of my mirror on my bike.  I thought I’d show you the most useful accessory/gadget on the bike.  With it, I feel so much safer and it’s so easy to see behind me without wobbling across the road!
 So how am I feeling?  Good is the answer. No enduring aches or pains or blisters etc yet, so fingers crossed I’m good to the end.  (We think you are looking great! - CSF)
 Tonight I’m being hosted by Clare of CSF Vienne. It is so nice to stay in a home after 4 nights in budget hotels. 
Tomorrow brings the Charente and Dordogne, so lots of hill climbing is guaranteed.

Day 4 Update

Every day is turning out to be further than my route planning said, but then I am prone to the odd missed turning, and my cycle computer keeps on trying to take me the wrong way up one way streets too.  By the time I tour around pretty towns and look for the only open bars to get a drink, all the extra bits add up. 
Today I rode 161km, 100 miles.  It was again mostly very pretty countryside but this time there were Chateau at every turn at times.  
Tonight I appear to have made a planning error, giving myself a 1km walk each way, in flip flops, to get dinner.   I’m so very much looking forward to the next two nights when I will be hosted in a home (that’s not a mental home, I mean someone’s house).
Tomorrow I pass half way...hooray!
‘Only’ 680km to go.........
Totals so far are 499km ridden, 3445m climbed, 18430 calories burned

Day 3 Update

The third day of my 8 1/2 day circa 1150km challenge is complete, and I’m beginning to really feel like the challenge is on. After 2 days of heading west and south west, at lunch today I turned south and am finally heading in the right direction, passing cities that we all know from our autoroute trips to England, such as Alençon and LeMans. Scenery today was lovely all the way. Gently rolling countryside and never ending Oak forests. The breeze was behind me from lunch onwards too. Unlike most of France today, I saw no rain either.

Pictures today include my breakfast companion in a bar in Le Mêle-sur-Sarthe,

 the house my wife and I will buy when we win Euromillions tomorrow evening,

 and my end of day treat, which unfortunately is not a glass of wine as this trip is strictly tee total until I reach the Col du Tourmalet at about 14:15 next Sunday - will you be there?

This is the first time I’ve been away, solo with luggage on board, for longer than 1 night. I’m starting to learn new things about managing my effort, and especially managing my diet. For the last few km today I was feeling a bit weak, I’m not eating enough. I need to eat more, and more often, ideally high carb high protein foods, but anything will do as long as it’s not too fatty, I just need to eat eat eat. Michelle’s (my wife) flapjacks are yet again my twice daily go to miracle energy food. 

 CSF Nord with Chris

Tomorrow’s forecast is 22 degrees and sunny with a tail breeze, so whatever happens I won’t be able to blame such perfect cycling conditions. Totals so far are 338km ridden, 2443m climbed, 12800 calories burned. Only 830km to go.

Day 2 Update

That was a horrible day’s cycling for sure, but to be balanced not as bad as it might have been if it had been raining!    Most of the 144km was spent battling a 20kmh headwind in 30 degree heat on wide open unsheltered roads.    Definitely not to be repeated any time soon. 
It’s done now, and after lunch tomorrow I turn south, with, according to the forecasts, a tail breeze/light wind behind me all the way. Happy days.  
There was nothing too picturesque about the scenery today worthy of a photo, but the villages were often pretty. 
I’ve definitely used up too much energy today, so after a good nights sleep I will hopefully be refuelled and ready to go. 
Totals so far are 199km ridden, 1254m climbed, 6835 calories burned


Day 1 Update

After so long in the planning, today the adventure finally began.
5 1/2 hours on a TGV and I was in Paris, for only the third time I’ve ever been there. Yes, one was with Michelle!
I had a fabulous lunch with the lovely Deborah and Patsy of CSF Paris, who then gave me a great send off at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Today’s 54km was always going to be slow. It’s a long time since I rode in the mayhem and dangers of a big city, and I took it carefully. I then got well and truly lost trying to navigate the now huge expanse that is La Defense. The sat nav was useless among the tall buildings, and it was alleys in all directions, with the only road through being motorway class. Eventually I escaped, and arrived on time at the overnight hotel in Epone. Tomorrow might be the toughest day other than the Tourmalet climb as it is all heading west in open countryside direct into a head wind.