Saturday, 7 July 2007

The Four jours de Londres

My full diary is coming soon; in the meantime check the Daily Peloton for reports from the Flandrien exhibition and the T Mobile press conference.

Saturday night here........been up since 6.30, standing in London from 9 till 6.30pm. Up tomorrow at 6am. This Tour malarkey is great, isn't it!

Vive le Tour.
PS - the above picture - that person wearing a 6 is me.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Historic Rochester

One of the most attractive parts of the route is Rochester; unbeknown to many people it is also a key location for cycling whenever Britain puts on a race.

A poor mans' Bordeaux, if you like.

Within the past ten years, the town has paid host to :

August 17th, 1997 - Rochester International Classic
UCI World Cup race, 242km, won by Mapei's Andrea Tafi

May 30th, 1998 - Prutour Chessington - Rochester
Stage 7, 161km, won by Gan's Stuart O'Grady

May 24th, 1999 - Prutour Rochester - Portsmouth
Stage 2a, 180.5km, won by US Postal's Julian Dean

September 2nd, 2006 - Tour of Britain Rochester - Canterbury
Stage 5, 152.6km, won by T-Mobile's Mark Cavendish

The Tour de France passing through the town is another great occasion for one Kent's Tourist hotspots. Even when the rain came down, as it did when the Tour of Britain 2006 visited, it is easy to see why thousands come here every year. The Tour will bring many more; the Hotel's I've contacted are very busy over the full weekend that the race visits England - by Car, London is around fifty minutes away, trains can take even less time.
September 2006 - The Tour of Britain in Rochester
The High Street
Rochester Cathedral, taken from the High Street
No need to guess the event or the attraction
The riders came - and will do in le Tour -down here. Another 90-degree bend is at the bottom is out of the picture
St. Margarets Way - Rochester says goodbye to the Cyclists.
Roubaix replicas?

Monday, 18 June 2007

Riding through Medway , June 2007

Imagine the Superbowl being played in your local park. Exactly. And as much as I would love to see it happen, Bruce Springsteen is not going to turn down 80,000 people at the Giants Stadium to perform in my garden. Indy 500 ? Pfft.....that is not going to be staged in my neighbourhood any time soon. That's what makes the Tour so different, so unique. Ordinary, aspiring cyclists, who dream of putting on the Maillot Jaune, can ride on the same pieces of tarmac that the professionals do.

You can see what's coming.

I've been out on my Claude Butler San Remo bike, and taken it out along the Medway section of the course (Strood 36km - Rochester 53km). One point of interest to you anoraks - the first sprint of the day on the A289 comes directly after the Medway tunnel, to which cyclists and pedestrians are denied access. Therefore this was ridden in two parts - aiding my poor fitness greatly.

(The pictures are from BBC Kent's Website [Video run through of Stage 1 - Real Player]).

The Bike

Claude Butler San Remo - 2007 Model.
Shimano 14 Speed Gears, 53x39 Silver Alloy Cranks, Kenda K-177 Tyres.


The run down into the town centre (along the Gravesend Road and London Road) is very easy; the descent is not particularly steep (around 4% directly before when enter the High Street), although the wide road is spoilt by various traffic islands. I rode this part on my big ring, and hit a top speed of 27mph. The Gravesend Road is a long stretch, and nearly all of it is downhill, so I can't see any breakaway groups escaping here.

My San Remo rode fairly smoothly on the surface, the tarmac is passable and were no noticeable pot holes.


From Strood, the race progresses into Frinsbury. This is slightly tricky, as the roads narrow on the approach into this village. Again, there is some road furniture. Once we get onto the Frinsbury Road (A228), the road widens again. For around 500 meters, this starts off very innocuous; a false flat follows until the junction of the B2002. The route stays on the Finsbury Hill, but from this point onwards the road kicks up for around 1km. This is the first 'challenging' part of the course in about 15km, so much so that I had to come of the big ring and drop a couple of gears. Without trying to sound arrogant, I envisage that a lot of the taller riders will do the same thing at this point, as well as getting out of the saddle. This rise only lasts for around 700m, normality is soon returned!

At the junction, the riders will do a right at the large roundabout down St. Anthony's Way, which in turn leads us to another roundabout taking us onto the A289. This part of the route includes the Medway Tunnel. After the brief incline, I really enjoyed this section. It was not technical, the road was smooth and the Butler gave me great confidence to push hard.


Upon exiting the Tunnel (which has taken us under the River Medway), we continue on the same road, which is where the first Sprint point occurs. This two-laned road is only a handful of years old, and passes by the University of Grenwich's Medway Campus.

My only worry is the amount of islands at the top of this road. The lanes filter down into small bits of road, and have intruding obstacles either side. I am going to take another trip down here to investigate; I drove past it this afternoon, and a brief look suggests this could lead to a crash. In contrast to the picture above, the succeeding picture shows how the bottleneck occurs within just a few hundred meters. There is a slight cut of the corner the riders can take - even this would still be dangerous.

We now approach Brompton, via the long Medway/Prince Arthur Road. A gradual incline takes us onto the aforementioned Brompton Road/Wood Street. The latter has recently tarmacked, and a nasty pothole that was on the run down onto Dock Road has also been the recipient of some TLC.

I'm sure that Dock Road is going to be one of the fastest parts of the route. The ride here is comfortable, and the two lane width will assist the peloton. As we approach Union Street, another fairly tight (due to road furniture again) downhill bend awaits the riders. I had no problems here, a group of 180 riders may experience something else.


Of all the tragedies in the World, the Tour passes through Chatham - infamous within England for the birthplace of the 'Chav'. I won't go there..... Luckily, The Brook and New Road are two of the main roads around the town, so the out-dated and tacky High Street may not be shown on the Television feed. The beginning of New Road is slightly uphill, other than that I struggle to find any problems for the Cyclists.


The short downhill section of Star Hill takes us into historic Rochester, well known for the Castle, Cathedral and associations with Charles Dickens. Despite the length of the hill, it is very steep; the peloton had to ride up it three times during the 1997 Rochester Classic race, held over 242km of Kent roads.

Sadly we don't pass through the historic High Street - complete with the Roubaix-eqsue cobbles-, however both the Castle and Cathedral are within a few meters of the riders as they turn towards Burham. This part of the course - as well as several kilometres of Stage One - were used as part of Kent stage of last year's Tour of Britain. (Yes, the one that was marred by a horrific Police Escort). My main worry here is the width of the roads by the Castle; the one-way system is used, and outside the historic venue the roads turns 90-degree left, then immediately downhill. If it rains, which it did for the ToB stage last September, chaos could well follow.
Leaving Medway

St. Margarets Road takes us away from the town centre and onto the outskirts of Rochester. My complete lack of fitness meant I had to drop the gears down a little for this road, as it gradually rises uphill; the distance rather than the ascent is the tricky part here. Speed- bumps are installed here, however these can be removed. I doubt the ASO will tell the local authorities to leave them in, as 'nuisance' is not the right term for this littering of the tarmac. The best thing about this road was the recently re-laid surface, which had a pothole epidemic in the past.

With the various stops along the route, this section took me nearly one and a half hours. Anything between thirty to forty minutes for the professionals come July 8th wouldn't surprise me.

Post One - Introduction

It is nineteen days until the Tour de France starts in London;the day after the race travels through Kent and into the historic city of Canterbury. For English cyclists, it is a great chance to see le Tour on home soil for the first time since 1994. Many more are luckier - the event passes through their hometown. It may even go past their house. If that applies to you, don't expect to go anywhere on July 8th.

I am in the latter category. I currently live in Brompton, and the race passes through the aptly-named Brompton Road on its way out of Gillingham into historic Rochester.

However, I won't be there to watch the race - my viewing points are as follows:

Prologue - The Mall
Stage One - The Mall (Roll Out), Strood High Street, Corporation Street (Rochester), St. Margarets Street (Rochester), Rheims Way (Canterbury - finish)

This blog will focus mainly on the Tour in England, particularly the preparations in the Medway area. The Cyclosportive event on Sunday, July 1st ( will also be covered.

Feel free to get involved, that's what Blogs are there for. Hopefully I'll be seeing some of you in and around London come July!