Three Hundred Miles in Three Days, Mistakes for Free

Optimal cycling

What European Cities are roughly 300 miles from London? Amsterdam, Cologne, La Rochelle and Paris (if you take the long way). That is only an interesting fact if you are planning to cycle the 300 miles rather than drive, fly or take the train – which is of course is the sensible thing to do.

What happens when you’ve already cycled to all of the above? You cycle to Luxembourg of course, and if you’ve already cycled 300 miles in 3 days what can possibly go wrong this time?

Mistake no. 1

The wrong kind of training. Every time 30 miles was clocked up I felt like clocking off, at least my body did, and my body is a very persuasive influence on my mind. How come? Year to date I had clocked up over 1000 miles on the bike. So, what was the problem?

Mistakes are the portals of discovery (James Joyce)

 These miles were accumulated whilst commuting on flat urban roads or on single-track on my mountain bike during the depths of winter.  Clocking up any miles is great but what I didn’t do was clock up a few good 50 plus milers on my road bike, not only to get big miles on the clock but also to give reassurance that I had what it takes to ride three one hundred mile rides back to back.

Mistake no. 2

The wrong kind of legs. I thought I had been very thorough in packing my kit bag, unfortunately I forgot to pack the right kind of legs. When I hit the hills (and I’ll admit they weren’t even big ones), I found I had definitely left my climbing legs behind!

If you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t really trying (Coleman Hawkins)

Put simply, the best training for climbing is climbing and I’d not done enough, you’ve guessed it: climbing.  When time is short, a crash course of hill repeats would’ve helped and as I hadn’t made it out to the hills, weighted squats in the gym or ramping the resistance in the spin bike (staying in the saddle) would’ve built up strength in my legs.

Mistake no. 3

The wrong kind of refuelling, rest and recuperation.  After 8 hours in the saddle did I drink a [High5] Protein recovery shake? Stretch? Roll? Refuel? No. I lay on my hotel bed feeling sorry for myself then headed to the hotel bar to drown those sorrows. Unsurprisingly, next day I was stiff, sore and dehydrated, only exacerbating my problems and making the day ahead harder.

Mistakes are part of the game. It’s how well you recover from them, that’s the mark of a great player (Alice Cooper)

Perhaps less time in the bar and more time under a hot shower, stretching and rehydrating (not with beer or wine) would’ve been time well spent and set me up for the next day’s 100 miles.

Mistake no. 4

The wrong kind of preparation. My matching [Castelli] cycling shirt, socks and shorts for each day were all carefully selected and coordinated.  Which wasn’t much use when I got 3 punctures and ran out of inner tubes and the CO2 gas canisters in my saddle bag had already been used, or when the sun came out and I didn’t have any sunscreen.

Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them (Bruce lee)

I’d forgotten the 7 Ps: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents P### Poor Performance!

Mistake no. 5

The wrong kind of bike. Most of my training had been completed on my singe speed steel framed commuter, but for the ride I unleashed my S:Works Venge with its aggressive road geometry and an even more aggressive race saddle.  I hurt in places I don’t care to elaborate on.

We can’t blame the technology when we make mistakes (Tim Berners Lee)

I should’ve put more training miles on the bike I was intending to ride 300 miles on. Simple stuff really.

300 miles in 3 days is always a tough challenge but without the correct training and recovery you can only make it tougher and potentially ruin your trip, the miles were draining, my teeth gritted and resolve questioned.  Which leaves just one question: where to next year? Reims, Nantes, Brest, Düsseldorf, Maastricht, suddenly previously unconsidered European cities become really interesting. Get on your bike and ride to them before you need a post-BREXIT visa.

(For the record – the best 300 miles in 3 days ends in Cologne.  Cycling amongst WW1 battlefields, over Belgian pave, through Brussels, up Flemish bergs, on German Autobahns (very possible if you take a wrong turn) and ending in German beer cellars – and a total of 5 countries in 300 miles 3 days).

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