The road to Ventoux - Part 11

Checkpoint alr5

The Ventoux3 challenge is all about raising money to support research into mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder) through the Out of the Blues charity. To make a donation go to

Just over one year ago, on the 3rd November 2019, I did my first ever ride on a road bike, and my first ride on any bike for the best part of 20 years. I thought this might be a good time to reflect on my progress to date.

Overall, over the last 12 months I have done 181 rides covering 4502 miles. Of these, 41 rides (1162 miles) have been outside and 137 (3192 miles) have been virtual. Clearly, I need more experience outdoors! I have two planned for this weekend as a start. However, there will be more riding indoors over the winter than outdoors I strongly suspect.

Highlights of my rides to date have been ones in the summer from Morpeth to Holy Island, Keilder and over to Lanercost in Cumbria. My virtual ride highlights have been two ascents of Ventoux (not on the same day!) and last weekend’s epic 6 hours 15 mins non-stop ride covering 88 miles over the Zwift “Uber Pretzel” route. It started with a 35 min climb with a nasty ¾ mile finish with an average gradient of around 15%. However, the real killer was the last 7 miles of the route up the virtual Alpe d’Huez. It took me nearly 1 hour 20 to slog up this and I could hardly stand up when I got off the bike at the end.

Over the last month I have been working with Ed Collins (see This has been really interesting and informative for a newbie cyclist. We have been focusing on easy endurance at the weekend (easy that is apart from the Uber Pretzel!), and then ‘sweet spot’ and cadence drill rides during the week. The sweet spots sessions are about increasing my ability to ride at a level just a bit below my all out maximum. They are reasonably tough. The cadence sessions have been a revelation with Ed getting my doing rates of high 90s and at times well over 100 for short periods of time. I am already seeing the fruits of this with my average cadence during ‘free’ rides going up.

One piece of bad news is that my lovely Trek Domane bike fell over in my garage and sustained a 3X1cm ‘dent’ in the cross bar. As a result, I am getting the frame stripped down and then taking this to Fibre-Lyte in Stokesley to be repaired – all very costly. I will be without the bike for 6-8 weeks in total. However, every cloud has a silver lining! This was the perfect excuse to buy a second bike! I decided to go for a Trek Checkpoint (see picture): similar geometry to the Domane but being a gravel bike it will open up additional routes and make a good ‘winter’ bike (I hope). So far, I have ridden it twice on Zwift and today will be the first time outside.

What about the Ventoux3 challenge? My hope remains that I will attempt this in May. However, COVID may obviously get in the way of this. I intend to make a decision as to whether the attempt is on of off in late February early March. If I don’t go to France in May, I will be looking at doing a virtual challenge in its place and postponing the ‘in real life’ attempt to a later time. Co-incidentally, I am planning on going to Ventoux on the 7###sup/sup### July when the Tour de France will be there for their 11###sup/sup### stage of the race. Uniquely (I believe) they are going to be riding up the mountain twice in the once stage – wimps!!! They won’t be able to join the Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux – you have to complete the Ventoux3 challenge to do that!

What ever happens in May, I am working on an idea that has been put to me to do some intermediate challenges as fund raising activities for Out of the Blues – more about that once ideas are crystallised!

Don’t forget the site that provides a wealth of advice around dealing with isolation, self-management of anxiety and depression, and how to stay safe at these difficult times. Please have a look at the site and share it with others – there is something there for everybody.

I wish everybody the very best and I hope you all stay healthy. Whatever your situation try to make exercise of one sort or another a part of your daily/weekly routine. If you want to get involved in the Ventoux3 for Out of the Blues challenge in any way, then drop me an email at

Hamish McAllister-Williams