I've just finished the Tour de France
11:00am Friday 20th July 2012 in Sport
AS Britain’s Bradley Wiggins remains on course to become the first British winner of the Tour de France, a father-of-three from Naphill can say he’s been there and done that.
Forty-five-year-old Guy Townsend has just completed the epic race, raising £42,000 for charity.
With 21 others he took on the 23-day, 2,200-mile long tour, riding a week ahead of the professional riders.
He said: “It is the most brutal thing I’ve ever done. It was all about survival for us and not a race. It was just about covering every centimetre on the way to Paris.
“I knew it was going to be tough but I had no idea how hard it would be.
“It’s the biggest achievement of my life. It’s one of those lifetime ticks.”
He rode ride up to 140 miles each day – the equivalent to a circuit of the M25 – with mountains and bad weather chucked in.
He turn his pedals one and a half million times, riding for between seven and 12 hours a day burning up to 10,000 calories in each session.
He even fell asleep twice on his bike as exhaustion and fatigue took its toll.
“That was pretty scary,” he said. “My eyes were fixed on the wheel in front and the next thing I knew was that I had that feeling that you get when you drop off in a meeting at work. I felt that jolt that you get when you know that you have fallen asleep.”
The severity of the event took him by surprise.
He said: “It had no respite. It was long and drawn out and you suffer for eight hours a day.
“I am a pretty hard-core cyclist but this is the toughest thing I have done.
“It was brutal, 120 or 130 miles a day for 23 days. Every day was harder than the Chiltern 100 and anyone in the know in cycling will know how difficult that is.
“But that was in a different world altogether.
“You life is distilled down to wake up, eat, ride your bike all day, stretch, eat and sleep again for five hours before doing it all over again.”
The ‘lighter moments’ were few and far between.
But the team’s tremendous camaraderie saw them through with moments like when they all arrived en-mass at a laundrette on Guy’s 45th birthday, a rare rest day, and proceeded to wash all their kit while sitting there in just their boxer shorts, like in the famous Levis advert.
If that caused a stir so did breakfast at the 19 hotels they visited.
At 6am Guy and his colleagues would each scoff their way through two sausages, two rashers of bacon, a bowl of muesli, four croissants, half a baguette with jam, a yogurt, three glasses of orange juice and two cups of coffee, which he added to his menu to prevent him falling asleep in the saddle again.
The journey took him across three countries – Belgium, Switzerland and France – experiencing different elements.
On the famous Circle of Death mountain climb, the temperature dropped as low as 6 degrees centigrade, while approaching the Planches, it reached 34.
The riders also had torrential rain, hail and mist to contend with as well as the normal cycling hazards and mountain climbs.
He said: “We climbed over 50,000 metres – that’s like cycling into space (seriously).”
But he couldn’t give up.
He said: “I was worried when I went into it because I had tendonitis on my left knee and on the first day we experienced some of the worst conditions I have known. I thought the cold and torrential rain would make my knee worse and that I might have to come home, but somehow it went away.”
As well as the fear over his knee, he had another pressure nagging away at him for the three weeks.
“I had told four or 500 people I was doing this. They had sponsored me and having that sort of money promised to you is pretty motivational.”
Guy and his colleagues were riding for the William Wates Memorial Trust – a charity set up in memory of a student who was killed while on a gap year in South America – and which raises money to keep British children off the streets.