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From Torr Head to Le Tour - Setting goals to achieve great heights

Posted on July 23, 2013 @ 11:23 AM in Cycling

Two members of the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive team recently returned from conquering the L'Etape du Tour (the amateur stage of Le Tour de France.) Chris Scott explains how goal setting and expert coaching allowed two 'average joes' to complete such a challenge.

 Every goal has to begin with inspiration - whilst backpacking around Europe in 2001 I was en route to the Arc de Triomphe for a spot of sightseeing when my route was blocked by a cycle race.  I started chatting to an American couple who told me in great detail how a cancer survivor from Texas had just won his third consecutive Tour de France.  Say what you like about the guy but from that moment on I was hooked.

Due to commitments to other sports, cycling took a back seat with only the odd charity cycle and half baked triathlon attempt.  However in 2011 a conscious decision was made to complete the L'Etape du Tour.  With keen cyclist and work colleague Chris Armstrong easily convinced to sign up to the same goal we set about training for the now defunct  Etape Hibernia in Co Clare later that summer . 

We aimlessly road for hours around Strangford Lough and the Glens of Antrim (creating the  basis of the Giants Causeway Coast Sportive route in our minds) and the infamous Torr Head became our nemesis (yes we are to blame for its inclusion within the route!!).  The Etape Hibernia was completed in a reasonable time yet a lot more was required - but how could we feasibly fit in more training?

2012 was a disaster with more of my time spent in the physio's treatment room than on the bike, however with encouragement from Chris A, we battled through the Inishowen 100 and Etape Cymru through the mountains of North Wales.  Injury restricted training aside we were a long way from taking on any Alpine passes.  

(Chris A and Chris S on Five Finger Strand - Inishowen 100)

With our goal and the experience of the Irish & UK based sportives still firmly front of mind we registered for the 2013 stage of 130km from Annency to Annecny Semnoz - with the summit finish of 11.5 km @ 8.5% it was no small undertaking.

A new carbon Vitus Dark Plasma VR was purchased thanks to great advice and support from the Chain Reaction Cycles Flagship Store in Belfast but our best investment was in the coaching services of Dig Deep Coaching.

Following an interview with coach Stephen Gallagher and completion of a detailed questionnaire, we received our training programme.  Training changed from aimlessly cycling round for hours until we felt tired to shorter focused efforts of heart rate and cadence .   After the first winter turbo session it became clear that Dig Deep Coaching's programme was going to give us everything we needed to succeed (if we followed it!!)

It should be said we probably weren't model clients - due to work commitments we struggled to follow the plan to a tee but Stephen remained patient and positive - in fact I think his greatest skill is that he treats everybody with the same professionalism and enthusiasm regardless of whether you are an average joe or a champion road racer.

With training complete, the day itself was the most amazing experience, we set off from the shores of Lake Annecy in waves totalling 11,500 cyclists from over 50 countries.  With 3 categorised climbs out of the way before breakfast it became clear we would finish within the time limit - providing we finished i.e. coped with the increasing heat.   Rudyard Kipling said 'only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid days  sun' - I certainly felt like a mad dog when climbing 15km up Mont Revard in 30 degrees Celsius.

The summit finish up Semnoz was always going to be the biggest challenge, in fact it gave us both a kicking during a recce trip in May.  But as the large crowd cheered us along the lower slopes something kicked in (maybe the caffeine gels),  I was suddenly transported back to my garage turbo sessions of high cadence and heart rates. As I overtook competitors wobbling on the brink, pushing their bikes or lying on the road side I counted off every 100 metres on my GPS until the top and the finish.  

9 hours later with 5 1/2 hours climbing we were at the finish, certainly not breaking any records (Chris Froome completed the stage in just under 4 hours) but a life goal completed. Thanks to the L'Etape du Tour and Dig Deep Coaching cycling will never be the same again! So set a goal, make a plan and enjoy the success - why not start with the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive on September 7th this year.


Chris Scott
Chris Scott

When not boring everyone about his little kids’ latest antics, Chris enjoys sailing and cycling, if only to offset his love of eating out and Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon..

5 comments have been posted in reply to this article

Posted by Gary Benson on July 29, 2013 @ 1:01 PM

Your story has inspired me to give Torr Head a bash at this year's GCCS - I cycled the GCCS last year but skipped Torr Head and followed the "easy" route back to Ballycastle as it was my first proper sportive and my legs were failing me after 60 miles of cycling over the Antrim Hills. But after a bit more practice and experience I'm determined to take a right-turn this year just after Cushendun and conquer the demon named Torr Head. Whether or not I survive remains to be seen....

Posted by Chris - GCCS on July 30, 2013 @ 9:04 AM

Torr Head all the way this year Gary!! Keep the powder dry until Cushendun then enjoy the challenge!!

Good luck with the rest of your training - hope to see you on the day itself


Posted by Swaas Dekker on July 31, 2013 @ 5:21 AM

I am comming over from Holland to ireland to cycle the gccs,

I was wondering wat the length and the avarige gradient is of the Thorr head? I hope you have some information about this for me.

Kind gregards.

Swaas Dekker

Posted by Beverley - GCCS on July 31, 2013 @ 11:15 AM

Hi Swaas,

That's great to hear that you are coming over from Holland for the event, this will surely be an event to remember for the scenery alone.

The Torr Head road is 11miles long with hills of gradients up to 20% (the largest hill is 828ft). Here is a link to the Garmin map which will give you more of an idea of the route itself - http://connect.garmin.com/player/219215718

Looking forward to meeting you at the start line on the 7th! Give me a shout if you have any more questions.



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