Regular readers of the MEETinLEEDS blog will remember that long ago (a week is a long time in the Digital Age) we pledged to show our support for Le Tour Yorkshire by cycling the entire Leeds to Harrogate stage of the Tour de France 2014, using spinning bicycles at the Edge Sports Centre.
For those of you that missed the story, here is a quick recap:
Along with our colleagues at the Edge, (all conference delegates and MEETinLEEDS residents at Storm Jameson Court get free access to the facilities at the Edge, remember!) and Great Food at Leeds, who provide catering for our conferences and events, the 20 riders each completed 9.5km to take us the 190km distance to the finish line. We calculated the total time it took us and then we will compare this to how the professionals fare on the 5th July!
“Team Leeds” ranged from novices to spin class teachers, travelling in pairs to instigate a bit of healthy competition. A full gallery of the photos from the day can be found on our dedicated Tour de France page.
So without further ado, here is a rundown of the day (you can click on the images to make them larger)…
Residential Services took on The Edge in the opening pair, with Tony Hall posting a credible 24:43 for his 9.5km (bearing in mind Tony cycles into work, and at an hour that even the tweety birds are still napping. He hastens to add that he had the resistance on the bike set to high, and so did the equivalent of the Ilkley to Chelker Reservoir section of Stage 1) and his Sports counterpart Rob Wadsworth averaging 18:45 per 9.5km. We say averaging because Rob thought he may as well do 21.1km while he was on the bike. This was just after taking an hour long Spinning Class. We think he is going to enter the Tour de France team next year to join Froome, Wiggins and Boardman on Team Sky.
Next up was MEETinLEEDS’ own Lisa Wood, who took on Tilly Hall of Great Food at Leeds. Tilly had also taken the same Spinning Class as Rob, forgetting she would be back on the bike within an hour, but posted an excellent time of 20:59, and was there to cheer Lisa over the line in 24:08. This was despite Lisa’s protestations that she could not do it (but still pedalling at the same time as pleading).
It was an all MEETinLEEDS affair in the next round, as Alan Gallagher squared up against Natalie Ruecroft. Alan steamed over the line in 20’06” with Natalie shortly behind in 21:54. It was Natalie’s first time on a bike since her school days at Castleford High School, so she treated herself to a nice Mocha from the Edge Café to celebrate.
MEETinLEEDS’ Digital Guru Matt Hamnett took on Helen Moulding of The Edge next. Helen crossed the line in 19:48, without even breaking sweat, while Matt’s effort to make 19:15 was manifested on his brow. “Fit people sweat more” was his mantra, in which case he could give Mo Farah a run for his money. Admittedly, your reporter did try to quiz him on the finer points of Digital Marketing throughout his 9.5km stint, which he answered with aplomb, if a little breathlessly.
It was MEETinLEEDS vs The Edge as we passed lunchtime to hit the halfway stage, Harriet Boatwright facing off with Luke Wilson from The Edge. The crowd anticipated Luke to be a strong contender and were proven right as he raced to the top of the leader board with a terrific 17:26. However, just 5 seconds later Harriet zoomed over the line and into second overall. This turned out to be the best time of the non-cyclists. Harriet put her amazing effort down to the pacing of Luke (“I just made sure my legs were spinning as quickly as his”) and pure grit.
We then had a Financial Face-off as Kevin Stephenson and Mike Ferraby from the University of Leeds Finance Department. The partner-pacing effect came into play once more, Kevin hitting the 18 minute mark exactly and Mike not far behind at 18:35. Brilliant effort from the boys more accustomed to spreadsheets, budgets and other elements in the dark-arts of Accountancy.
As news of the event spread Paddy Craig of The Edge fame decided to try his hand (or legs) at the 9.5km mini-stage. As he didn’t have a cycling partner, I hopped on to help Paddy keep the pace. Unfortunately, he left me in his slip-stream and took the lead with a time of 15:56. After obviously taking a wrong turn somewhere I wheezed over the line in 19:52. I wrote this off as rustiness as the full extent of my training was walking to the chippy the night before.
As the competition heated up 2 pros stepped up to the plate, as Gary Butterfield from The Edge and Ricky Thompson of Great Food at Leeds straddled their stationary steeds in full cycling garb. They finished with times of 15:53 and 17:25 respectively. Gary is training for an Iron Man event in Australia, and took the lead with just 3 seconds between him and his closest rival. A special commendation goes to Ricky who not only posted a top time, but carried on for a full hour, completing a total of 30.9km!
Another member of the Finance Department, Nick Holdsworth, took to the saddle along with Jo Bayley, the PA to the Big Boss of MEETinLEEDS. After some good natured banter and ruddy faced exertion Nick crossed the line first in 18:53, taking time for a quick lay down as Jo breezed in with 21:33.
It was time for me to make my practice run count, as I attempted to tackle Tom Exeter from The Edge. Now, Tom is a spinning instructor, and I am brilliant at spinning on my chair, so all I could do is try and do MEETinLEEDS proud and sabotage Tom by chewing his ear off. However, Tom had a plan: headphones. My plans scuppered, I endeavoured to beat my earlier showing. I looked over to my right after around 13 minutes, as there was some very audible exertion coming from Tom. After 14:04 Tom had crossed the finish line, reporters were scrabbling and pushing microphones in his face, asking how he felt after beating the 9.5km record by nearly 2 minutes. At least in my exhausted mind they were. 5 minutes later in a time of 19:23, I crossed the line, attributing my lack of a sprint finish to cramp (honestly).
The final 19km was a clash of the titans, as Stewart Ross, Head of MEETinLEEDS, took on Ian Robertson, Head of Residences. There was an obvious healthy rivalry (and excellent colour coordination with our background banners) as they took to the saddle and a look of determination on Stewarts face as he chased Tom’s record. After 9 and a half minutes Ian declared himself finished, much to the astonishment of the crowd. After an official adjudication, it was discovered that Ian had mistaken his time for the distance covered. Ian recovered and regained momentum to finish with a superb 17:40, while Stewart had already streaked over the line in 15:08, taking silver and a place on the podium.
It was time to tot up the totals and see how long it took us to cover the 190km of the Tour de France Stage 1. Drumroll please…
6 hours 18 minutes and 10 seconds was the total time of the top 20 of our 21 riders (sorry Tony, you missed the cut). This was at an average speed of 30.1 km/h.
Our clear winner, Tom Exeter, had an average speed of 40.5km/h. If this was extended over the total 190km of the Leeds to Harrogate route it would give a total time of 4 hours 41 minutes and 28 seconds, which would give the peloton a run for its money. However, being privy to the colossal effort it took to keep up that speed for just 1/20th of the total distance makes you appreciate the dedication and preparation it must take to compete at the very top level.
A massive thank you to everyone involved in the event and roll on the 5th of July!
Do you think we have what it takes to beat Froome, Wiggins, Boardman and co over the finish line? Tune into the Tour de France and cheer on Team SKY. Better still come on down to Leeds and join in the fun!
For more information about the Tour de France and for some awe-inspiring images of our Homage Event you can visit our dedicated webpage here.