Pain is temporary but if I quit, however, it lasts forever – Armstrong

Buenos Dias Tash Appreciators,

I trust you all had a good holiday weekend!

I kept my social outings/drinking to a minimum over the weekend because on 13 May four of us – me, Leitchy, Ol’ Man Anderson and a friend of said Ol’ Man who is currently going through high-altitude training in South Africa – are going to attempt the Etape Caledonia: an 83 mile bike race round Perthshire including several thousand meters of climbing. Madness. 

We are riding for Marie Curie and have committed to raising at least £1,000 between us. Surprise, surprise, that’s where you lot come in. Now this isn’t a race we can just turn up to and finish – it’s hard. So if you could sponsor us a couple of quid that would be greatly appreciated! I will, of course, keep you updated re our progress and intend to get pictures at the finish (if we finish) to prove we did it. Here’s the link to our JustGiving page:

http://www.justgiving.com/etapcaledonia2012

I’ve not always been a cyclist but the years of watching the Tour De France finally had an effect and I bought a decent bike. The  seemingly superhuman blokes who enter the Tour fly up and down impossibly steep mountains in the Pyrenees and Alps then, days later, batter across the flat at 50-60kph. And they do this over and over for three weeks!

Most people think that bike races are just about crossing the line first but that’s just a part of it. I see it as the ultimate team sport. Most pro cyclists will never get to the heights of Armstrong, Merckx or even Cavendish. Indeed, some have to sell their bike at the end of the season to get by. But they ride for a team and for their team leader. These guys “bury themselves” (go as fast as they can until they can literally go no further) just to keep their man out of the wind or out of reach of an opposition rider. Could you imagine players in other team sports riding through agony for three weeks just so that some other guy can wear yellow or green on the Champs Élysées? I don’t think so. 

So while we are trying to get round the Etape course, the 4 of us will have to work together: take turns on the front of the group; push others on when we’re feeling good; and dig in to keep up when we’re feeling like we can’t pedal another metre. We’ll also be spurned on by the support of the folk who sponsor us.

So, to the Tash. It’s obviously going to be cycling related but, due to aerodynamics ‘n’ that, most riders don’t tote a Tash. I have therefore chosen a true supporter of cycling – a man who’s example any of you can follow on the Etape route if you wish. He has followed the Tour and Giro (d’Italia, not the dole queue) every year since 1993 and feverishly supports the riders; particularly in the mountains. They call him El Diablo (although he’s actually a German called Dieter) and he’s bloody marvellous:

I’ll leave you with one last photo. We know the race will be agony at times but I’m sure that the end in Pitlochry will feel like Paris in July. I also think my reaction to finishing may be along the lines of the Manx Missile – Mark Cavendish:

Have a great weekend folks!

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