Fat Lad At The Back

  • Two Lasses in France

    franceOver the last few winters a pattern has occurred, I can’t ride my bike as it’s too cold/wet/dark/icy… I feel miserable as spring seems so far away and I start reminiscing about warm summer days on the bike and how I miss it. So to motivate myself to keep riding I say to myself “mmm if I have a cycling adventure to look forward to it will keep me training over the next few dreary months”.

    On a bleak Sunday in January this year I decided that cycling across France would be a pretty awesome cycling trip. I like an adventure but unlike a lot of intrepid explorers who’re willing to camp and carry their own gear I like a comfortable adventure, which means a warm bed and luggage transfers. I decided to use a company called Peak tours and luckily for me one of my cycling buddies Jo decided she’d join me on my trip.

    We trained as much as we could, which for me, working Mon-Fri was usually restricted to weekends! But I go to the gym during the week and over the months we increased our distances, would ride Saturday and Sunday and find as many hills as we could on our routes. September came around all too quickly and I felt I’d over eaten and undertrained as we arrived in Portsmouth for the ferry to Caen.france 1

    14 days, 874 miles and 65,533ft climbing later…We had an awesome trip there were mountains that I was dreading, as I’m built for descending not ascending, but to my surprise I loved them!! Sometimes we’d be climbing up for miles but they were long gradual climbs with switchbacks and just the odd short steep section. The descents were breathtaking! I even managed to do Mount Ventoux, which believe me were words I never thought would pass my lips.france 2

    I embraced every minute of my trip, even the dark moments when tiredness and my sense of humor was left on the last hill. I’m not super fit, or the fastest cyclist, I’m just an ordinary middle aged women who loves cycling and I feel so lucky every time I swing my leg over “ Doris” ( my bike ) and ride off for 5 or 500 miles, every pedal stroke to me is the start of an adventure.

    In my next blog entry I’ll give you my top tips for doing a supported cycling adventure.

    Ade

  • Get Pickled!

    When it comes to being healthy, the hardest part is eating healthy and making something that actually tastes nice!

    Not only can healthy eating be boring but it’s also expensive and you always find that the vegetables and salads you buy end up getting thrown away because they’ve gone out of date by the time you’ve come to using them, but there is a solution!

    Pickled veggies are simple to make, delicious to eat, will liven up all sorts of dishes, are fat free and pickling makes food that usually lasts only 3 or 4 days, last –up to a few months!. It brings a whole new level of scrumptiousness to a boring vegetable, and you can add extra flavours too such as garlic, chilli flakes, coriander seeds etc. You can buy frozen bags of vegetables, which are picked in their prime, for around £1.00 from most supermakerts and get enough to fill a few containters. To make a simple but effective pickling liquor just

    • 500ml water
    • 250ml white wine vinegarImage-1
    • 125ml sugar

    Into a sauce pan and bring to the boil.

    Grab a sealable container and but your frozen vegetables inside, then pour over the hot pickling liquor and close the container. That’s it! That’s all the hard work done!

    All you need to do is leave it overnight and it’s ready.

    They’re really great to have in a salad with steak, chicken or prawns, even better if you replace the
    salad for noodles. You can even cut the vegetables into little matchstick like shapes and have them on their own as a snack!

    Here’s a recipe a idea that you can try out at home!

     

    Ingrediants:

    • 250g lean flank steak or chicken
    • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds (optional)
    • 250g medium noodles
    • 3 teaspoons of olive oil
    • 1 red or white onion
    • 2 cloves of garlic
    • small piece of fresh ginger
    • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 1 lime
    • 1 fresh red chilli

    For this recipe we're going to use Steak. Slice the steaks into finger-sized strips and season with salt and pepper. With the coriander seeds pound them in a pestle and mortar, or bash with the bottom of a sauce pan, until fine. Sprinkle over the steak so they stick to it and give it a lovely, fragrant flavour (remember this is optional).

    Drop the noodles into a pan of boiling salted water and cook until just tender. Drain and return to the pan. Cover to keep warm. Peel and finely slice the onion, garlic and ginger. Heat up and large frying pan, or a wok, and pour in the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and cook until the onions have softened slightly. Add the seasoned steaks to the pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Chuck in the pickled vegetable and cook for a further 2 mminutes. Pour in the soy sauce and toss in the pan until everything is well coated, then serve with the noodles. Cut the lime and squeeze over, and finely slice the chilli and sprinkle over the top.

    Nutritional guidelines Per 340grams of pickled vegetable.

    Calories 42
    Fat 0.26
    Carbs 9.27
    Protien 1.68

  • Our top tips for riding in autumn and winter

     

    DRAFTWA1

    According to the FLABinati Rule #22 "A FLAB out cycling in any weather is badass"

    So if you think the end of the summer means the end of cycling, then you could not be more wrong!

    Autumn and winter offers a completely new challenge which, trust us, you’ll thrive under and it’s a shame to let all that good work over the year, go to seed! So if you want to join the Fat Lads and be badass, then here are our top tips to keep you cycling through autumn and winter.

     

    The right kit!

    Lads Long SLeeve Buttertubs Jacksey

    Lads windproof cycling jacksey

    You’ll need to wrap up warm for early morning and evening rides and you’ll need the correct thermal, windproof and waterproof layers.

    Its not just as easy as throwing on an extra jumper , you need gear which wicks away sweat as you’ll feel the cold and damp. You also need to make sure you are visible, especially at night, with bright colours, high vis and reflectivity.

    Check out our collection at https://fatladattheback.com

    Get something in the diary!

    This is essential for getting you out of the house and onto the bike. If you don’t get it written down and organized you’ll just keep putting it off because of a bit of cold weather!

    Bright light                                                                                                     

                                                                                   Lasses reflective long sleeve jersey

                         lasses ref

    The stronger and brighter the better. These will help other road users notice you and make sure you can see the road and what’s coming. And don’t leave it until it's dark to turn them on, as soon as the light starts to fade, light up! Good front and back lights are expensive but they will potentially save your life, so do your research and invest wisely. Always make sure you have spare set of batteries with you. Remember that it's not just about being seen, it's also about being able to see! There is a lot of confidence and comfort from being able to see as much from your bike as you could from a car.

    Mudguards!

    A mudguard is a must for comfort and general cycling etiquette! You’re going to be riding in wet and potentially muddy conditions, if you don’t have a mudguard, dirt is going to spray up all over your back and soak your backside and possibly even worse (depending on how much you like the person behind you), it’s also going to cover them in the same mess!

     

    FLABinati #Rule22!

    Enough said!

  • The Down South Sportive by Fat Lad In Charge Richard Bye

    Down South Sportive Fat Lad At The Back 18

    I had a great day in Leighton Buzzard on Saturday 3rd September, putting the finish touches to our October event, the Down South Sportive. The day started well in our B&B with a smashing breakfast of Eggs Benedict Fat Lad Style - with an extra sausage!IMG_8545 2

    Although I’d never cycled in the area before, I had heard lots of good things about it from our Flambassador Big Al Little, who used to live down there, so I was looking forward to it.

    The routes have been planned by our event organisers Event Cycling and 3 of their team accompanied me on the ride.

    FullSizeRender 10

    Compared to what I am used to, the terrain is fairly gentle but the countryside is none the less beautiful and as we climbed out of the flat lowlands and up the gradual ascents towards the top of the Beacon, the scenery below expanded like a giant mosaic basin, with multi shades of gold and green.

    Bison Hill is renown in the local area and it’s certainly a hill, but nothing much to worry about as it rises upwards, quite steep in places but over in a relatively short distance. Not long after Bison Hill we arrived at Flamsted, which as well as having 3 great looking pubs, also has it's own high street defibrillator.

    FullSizeRender 12

    A fair amount of the route is on single track, traffic free roads, which wind through ancient woodlands and in many places the trees have grown up and over both sides of the road and form a canopy of green over your head.

    Down South Fat Lad At The Back Sportive 9

    There are numerous quaint little villages on the way with their quirky brick houses and ancient white washed cottages, country pubs, village shops, greens and cricket grounds and of course tea rooms. My companions had their favourite and we stopped off at the Hub for an orange drizzle deliciousness!

    IMG_8595

    The locals were a friendly bunch with lots of interest and conversation when we stopped for photos and some lovely fellow cyclists along the way. I have to admit to feeling a little bit of satisfaction as I overtook this fellow in his Sky gear - even if he was on a cross bike. FullSizeRender 11

    Ivanhoe beacon makes a spectacular location for our lunch stop with great views, before the pleasant undulating decent back home for the 25 and 50 milers and for the 75 milers, onwards to the gorgeous village of Aldbury and beyond for a little more!

    Down South Fat Lad At The Back Sportive 1

    This is a very different ride to our Up North Sportive in May, which makes for a great contrast in my opinion, particularly as I think it should appeal to the more novice rider who might have been a bit daunted by our Yorkshire hills. Rather conveniently coinciding with our 3rd birthday this is a nice gentle ride which promises to be a very different but nonetheless cracking event.

    http://fatladattheback.com/sportive

  • THE MARTINI CONNOLLY FAT LADS AT THE BACK ITALIAN TOUR IN AID OF THE ALZHEIMERS SOCIETY - HOMEWARD BOUND

    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_22

    HOMEWARD BOUND:

    1.YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT MEN WITH BIG NOSES? BIG HANDKERCHIEFS!:
    I could have been kinder when selecting Andy's tour name. But you know me now. I was never going to pass up the opportunity to allow my imagination to run riot to name a 6 foot tall and skinny pallid ginger haired freckled Irish man in Italy. I could have added big nosed but in Italy his hooter is de rigueur and the sign of Man.
    2.A DEAL IS A DEAL:
    Allow me to introduce Carlo Papini the owner of our bicycle shop. What a top bloke. When we arrived at lunchtime to drop off our bikes, he had his wife, children and mother there to greet and thank us for our business. Along with his cleaned out beige Lancia City Car to give us a lift to the airport lest we missed our flight, even though he repeatedly emphasised how I had had his kecks off with the hire price of the bikes and that he was loosing money on the deal (€70 each for 4 days).

    His tourist chart of prices supported his argument: Carbon Road Bike - €50 per day.

    Another reason why G man should buy an iphone, I was able to remind Carlo of the price we agreed in writing only 4 weeks ago. Even then he made a last ditch effort and punched 3 x €80 in to the card machine.
    “Oh No Carlo. Don't let us fall out now, after all we have been through together! You want to see us next year don't you?!”
    He agreed and punched in €210 and we remained friends.

     

    3.THE STING AND THE SPOKE:

    Tbf we had been through a lot together in the 4 days. As soon as my Cervelo steed hit the mountains coming in to Castelnuovo de Garfagnana a spoke snapped. G Man’s Parkpre's handlebar tape had come away and we managed to put it back together with the beige surgical tape from the first aid bag we brought. Although this served a purpose it didn't do much for the aesthetics of his bike.
    Lest any readers are disappointed by the fact that we had a first aid kit and that maybe we were actually adult enough to be responsible, don't get too giddy. True to form it was crap and may just have coped if one of us got stung by a nettle, or a wasp.
    Andy had had a wasp in his helmet on our training run the Saturday before we came and it had stung him twice, so we were alive to that particular risk. Gotta say, seeing him flap around frantically slapping his helmet like Rob on an Amsterdam's putana's culo is not the most unfunny sight I have beheld. Yelping in pain. Go back to aforesaid Putana for analogy. So the spoke broke and I emailed Carlo, who drove up the following evening to drop us a new wheel and a roll of bar tape off. A cynic would say he was scared of losing our business on that particular bike. I say he was God.
    We left the broken wheel by the front door of our house. Next to the drying gussets of our cycle shorts from the ride the day before from Pisa. He exclaimed repeatedly how beautiful my father's village is and how it was a pleasure to have driven around the area for an evening. It gives you readers a better picture in your mind's eye of just how beautiful it is, if a Tuscana cyclist compliments your stomping ground. It also reminds Rob and I how lucky we are to have our Martino and his ancestors.

     

    4. MR LONG:
    When we walked into Carlo’s shop on Wednesday morning he looked at Rob and I and scrunched his nose up and was clearly thinking ‘why have you two shortarses asked for a 56 frame bike!’ Then he saw the traffic cone of G Man's head come into view behind us. Ahhhhh! Mr Long! He exclaimed. Nodding his head at us and understanding everything. MR LONG? GHINGER?

     

    5. FIVE FEET EIGHT INCHES:
    Since I last checked, somebody must have sneaked in to my bed and shaved an inch off my feet. I would have sworn on everything I hold dear I was 5’ 9” (except my children's health as that is too precious to ever gamble with. You don't believe me then I ain't that bothered to put their lives on the table to persuade you). Last week I had Sylvia in the office measure me for Carlo's bike fitting service. No matter how many times I changed my stance or how many times I told her to change her technique I was definitely 5’8”. For days my confidence took a kick in the goolies. My self esteem recovered however when Rob pointed out a very silver silver lining. My **** to Height ratio was now a less embarassing stat than before. I will take that spoonful of sugar to make that medicine of hard life go down easier.

     

    6. WE DID IT, WE FREAKING WELL DID IT:
    We smashed our target cycling stats to pieces, and had nothing more to prove to ourselves, let alone any would be charity giver, hoping we would fail so they didn't have to back up their promise of hard cash. Rob and G Man can always look me straight in the retinas knowing until the last breath leaves my body, that they have my upmost Bro fist-punching-heart-man-hug-respect-love. So to celebrate we went out ‘on the piss’, eating pizza on a rooftop terazza at 2am and drinking Nastro Azurro whilst gossiping about the locals was much more important than what time we had to set off for the plane in the morning.

     

    7. THE LAST TRAIN:
    It was a particularly stressful morning as we were preparing to return to the UK or at least as much as we could be stressed. Ok. Maybe across the 3 of us it was a bit stressful. We got ready, packed our bags and tidied the house as best 3 blokes can and trundled to the train station. G Man was extremely anxious, preparing his culo for scrutiny at the airport and I realised that the lazy Italians only work half days on Saturdays, so the trains we thought would run, we're not running. We needed to get to the airport and I was becoming a little concerned.
    The train we needed no longer came to our station, so we lost 30 minutes and instead caught the Pullman coach to the nearest train station on the line to Lucca. Another 40 minutes lost. On the train to Lucca the guard confirmed that the next connecting train from Lucca to Pisa arrived after our plane departed.
    G Man experienced a moment of clarity. He suggested I contact Carlo and warn him we may arrive to drop off our bikes after. Being Italian he would have ordinarily closed doors at 12:50 and gone for his siesta. No problem Paolo. I will wait for you. I told him how we must rush to the airport as the gate closed at 130pm. No problem Paolo. I will be your taxi.
    G Man’s anxiety levels were now off the scale, what with his acting classes playing out in his head at passport control.
    Me? As tour leader I was feeling less than responsible and wondering if maybe I should have been stricter.
    Rob? He was totally not arsed.

     

    8. BEWARE FALSE PROPHETS:
    When we arrived at Lucca station we needed a cab to be there waiting for us, otherwise Rob, Conno and I would be staying in Italy for another week. But we needed a large people carrier cab coz it had also to accommodate our 3 bikes.
    We came out of the station and saw a mini people carrier. Trumpeting from the heavens. Hallelujah!
    The greatest trick of the devil was convincing Man he does not exist.
    Hi. Pisa airport.
    Sure.
    Great.  We have 3 bikes?
    Oh no, no, no, no.
    It was the only cab in the piazza. Siesta time was right upon us.
    Why not?
    No room. No room. No room.
    But you can fold down one of the back seats.
    No, no, no, no, no.
    Come on? We are late for a plane! We will miss our plane!
    No, no, no, no.
    Can you ring one of your mates.
    Yes. [But made no effort - No, no, no, no.]
    I took hold of the situation by talking the universal language of green.
    We will pay you an extra €50!
    No, no, no, no.
    You're kidding me! I have a booking! Perleaze!
    As if! G Man was at breaking point and needed an outlet for his anxiety and was about to go all Old Trafford on this Italian ass. The poor man, but, believe in the Lord and he shall appear. Alexander sang from heaven. Rob held Conno back from panning in Beelzebub's face and pointed behind us.

    Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah
    Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

    There, driving towards us was Marco in his Ford Transit minitaxi.
    No problem boys! Come on. You are worried you may miss your flight. I will get you there. No problem. Relax my friends. You have nothing to worry about.

    There may have been times when I have struggled to accept that God exists - On Tuesday 26.7.16 you ask Paolo Martini does God exist and I call you a mug, with all due respect. On Saturday 31.7.16, you ask Paolo Martini and you get a different answer.

     

    9. KEVIN SPACEY. PASS IT ON. FAVOURITE MOVIE. GOD WALKS AMONGST US:
    i. Gianluca - Member of Cycling Club Garfagnano.
    Whilst cycling from Lucca to Castelnuovo on Wednesday, Rob was ahead and was unwittingly powering in to a 1 km tunnel that turned in to a dual carriageway inside.
    I was 20 yards behind him on the slip road when I had a sudden sense of dread in my gut. Conno a further 20 yards behind me had picked up a puncture and was shouting STOOOOP. I heard a panicked shout from below me. Stoooop!!!!! I looked down to my left and saw Gianluca frantically waving shouting Stop! No! Danger! I screamed up to Rob STOOOOOP! He could not have heard me. He did. He looked behind and saw me cutting my throat with my finger and Conno now at a stop and 75 yards behind and thank God, he came to a halt 10 yards from the tunnel entrance.
    As the 3 of us walked down tight against the road barriers of the slip road to meet Gianluca and thank him, a juggernaut powered past, not more than a foot away from us and blowing his horn in annoyance at the idiot cyclists on the slip road. It was so loud it made your heart jump out of your body. I know, I know! Had Conno not got his puncture, had Gianluca not been directly below me and not shouted, you would be listening to the tragic story on the National News of the British cyclist who got splattered inside the tunnel by the juggernaut. I know.
    ii. The coach driver who gave us a free ride home when we were lost and nearly broken.
    iii. The transit van driving taxi man at Lucca train station.
    iv. Carlo Papini.
    v. The laughing waitress.
    vi. Paolo. The dad of the son we climbed up to Passo Dello Radici with on Thursday.
    vii. Federico. The son of the dad we climbed up to Passo dello Radici with on Thursday.Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_21

    The exact same faces looking back at you. How could Federico do that climb on a full suspension mountain bike with flat pedals? Not possible. And 5 miles after Casone, when the gradient had increased to a sphincter tightening average of 13% he rode beside me wanting to know about us and our exploits. A young boy of 22, having the breath and more impressively the self confidence and social graces to enter a dialogue with a pigeon speaking 2nd generation Italian. I was broken, my legs gone and Conno and Rob were 10 yards ahead, then 15, then 20, then 30. But as I concentrated on his questions and thought even harder on my replies I stopped thinking about the ferocious burn in my legs. As we joined them he rode off to join his dad ahead of us and they waved us goodbye.
    viii. Hans from Germany. Who joined us for those few miles after Casone before we met Paolo and Federico. Hans was pot bellied and celebrating his 62nd birthday. His present? His wife waiting at the top of Passo dello Radici in their motorhome so he could ride the classic and bucket list giro to Passo Dello Radici. Seeing Hans churning out the revolutions up the ever increasing gradients empowered us 3 jokers for cyclists.
    ix. Franco. Cycling club member of Club Alpi Apuani. At 55 years old, handsome and rugged, with less than 15% bodyfat, bronzato and gleaming white team kit completto, and a wonderfully warm smile, he rode with us for 20 kms or so, showing us the way to Massa train station on our last night of cycling. I forgot to add this route to my Stava stats. When he asked where we had ridden from that day he pushed out his bottom lip, nodded his head and pronounced “Che Bello Giro! Bravo! Siete Forte!”. He knew the road well. No doubt having ridden it all his life. I told him we were hungover on beer, Grappa, Limoncello and Sambucca and a 2am finish. He was impressed. As proud as punch I told him how that day we rode the giro to Passo Dello Radicci. “Porca Miseria!!!” he exclaimed Which loosely translates as **** ME!!! He looked us up and down “Una BELLA vacanza!” His respect for us was palpable. By the way, I told him, we carried on and climbed the next mountain to Abetone. Roughly translated he replied **** OFF, YOU ARE KIDDING! GET! NO WAY! YOU 3 ARE **** LUNATICS.

     

    When Rob had come to fix Andy's inner tube on Thursday, he looked puzzled. He could not find the puncture.

     

    10. PISA AIRPORT:

    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_23
    The Italian passport control guard was conscientiously checking the passport of the 5th person before Andy. He took the passport offered by the 4th person, studied it, TWICE, and passed it back. He took hold of the 3rd persons passport, read it for 5 seconds, passed it back. He took the 2nd persons passport, checked his computer screen. The 26 year old Italian in the queue before Andy dropped his papers, the guard scorned. Andy looked like he was about to faint, or vault the barrier and make a dash for the plane. The guard took the young mans passport, tapped his computer, looked at the lad, nodded and let him through. Andy moved to the front with tiny baby steps, so clenched were his buttock cheeks. The guard looked at his face, smiled warmly and waved him through declining to take from Andy's quavering hand his passport. As I came to the guard, he checked my passport, chuckled and returned it.Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_24

    Blighty. Here we come.

     

    11. BELIEVE IN LOVE:
    Cherish those close to you. Cherish your family. Cherish your friends. Propagate and cultivate those relationships that mean something to you.

     

    12    : 3 TOOLS:
    I bid my farewells, gave and received man hugs of love and went to find left luggage in the hope of finding my biking tools. I asked the affable chap at the desk if he could find my left luggage and he responded that he would try. He asked me what it was? And then my jaw dropped. I pointed at his hands. He had my three cool tools in his hands. I asked if I could take his photograph because the tale I had to tell must be heard. He laughed and agreed.Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_25

     

     

    POST SCRIPT:

    Well maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who'd out drew ya
    And it's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not someone who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

    Paolo, Rob and Conno are raising money for the Alzheimers Society.IMG_1317

    If you've
    enjoying Paolo's bog you can donate a couple of quid here:

  • Just like riding a bike

    I’ve been walking like John Wayne this week.Chris 4

    Really.

    People have commented on my distinctive gait – not to be confused with my distinctive gate. Why am I strolling like a cowboy who’s misplaced his chaps? The answer’s simple: I’ve been trying to regain my fitness level.

    It’s amazing how quickly your fitness can go. Have a few weeks out of the saddle and Hey Presto! you’ve no stamina left. To be fair, I’ve a good excuse for not cycling in a while – the birth of my son, Sam. As anyone who has children will know, a new-born baby can take over your life – little things like an exercising regime can go out the window. So it was with cycling. As a result of our new arrival, this Fat Lad is now considerably fatter than he was a few weeks ago. Late nights, no sleep and too much takeaway food have made sure of that.

    Finally this week, as my waistline began to visibly bulge, I decided it was time to get back in the saddle. I’ll be honest with you, it wasn’t easy – hence the John Wayne impression. Hills that I’d whizzed up with ease a few weeks before now seemed to be mini Everests! Even the flat took it out of me. I’m embarrassed to say that my first post-baby ride consisted of more breaks than actual pedalling. There I was in my full Fat Lad kit – including my favourite Bobby Dazzler shirt – being overtaken by kids on bikes with stabilisers. Not a good look.

    The next day I threw myself into the ride again. A longer route this time. Despite my padded shorts I developed the fore-mentioned cowboy’s distinctive stance. Several hours later, when I entered the house, my other half announced that I was walking like I had just filled my nappy. An image far too close to home at the moment to be funny.

    A few days passed without a cycle. My partner enquired why I hadn’t been out on my bike.

    “Feeling a bit tired,” I moaned. “I think I’ll leave it for a bit.”

    She wasn’t impressed.

    “Is that the attitude we’re going to teach our son, eh? If it’s hard, give up?”

    That was all I needed – I was Lycra’d within minutes. It wasn’t long before I was out struggling on the same hills as earlier in the week. They were still hard, but slightly easier than the last time I tried. Fitness is like that. I got back from my ride still walking like John Wayne, but I didn’t care. This was the walk of a man who didn’t give up and that’s important.

    In the years to come I want my son to understand that perseverance is crucial. I want him to come to cycling events and see me, struggling at the back, but not giving up. Who knows, perhaps he’ll be a mini cyclist himself?

                “Hurry up Dad!” he’ll shout, speeding past me. “You look like you’ve filled your nappy.”

                “No, I don’t!” I’ll insist. “I look like John Wayne!”

                “Who’s John Wayne?” Sam will cry.

    And there, in that moment, we see the Fat Lad circle of life.

    Chris McGuire is a writer and FLAB MAMIL. He’s grateful that Lycra can stretch to fit his new (slightly fatter) waistline.  

  • THE MARTINI CONNOLLY FAT LADS AT THE BACK ITALIAN TOUR IN AID OF THE ALZHEIMERS SOCIETY Day 3

    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_16

    DAY 3:

    1. LAY IN:

    I had thought about waking us earlier, but had to allow time for my body to recover as best it could and I did feel as if I have been hit by a train, plus I also needed time for the alcohol to drain out. Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_14

    2. TRULY SPECTACULAR:

    What panoramas we enjoyed, the scenery in the Italian mountains is breathtaking and I still can’t look at this photo without feeling sick and getting a flashback to how I felt when I came around the corner and saw the 750 feet sheer drop at the side of the road. My sphincter tightened like a chicken strokes grip!

    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_15

    3. LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL:

    IMG_1449We didn't factor in the tunnelsI And I ain't talking British tunnels, like the Wall
    asey tunnel under the Mersey with its poncey wide lanes, painted white walls, full illumination with ventilation fans every 100 meters.

    These tunnels are rough hewn from the rock, large ‘boulders’ jut out to the side of your head and can easily knock you off your bike if you dare get too close to the side.

    Barely wide enough for 2 cars to pass, let alone the huge juggernauts laden with marble slabs. Pitch black, save for the wholly inadequate, intermittent, tiny, dim lights every 30 yards and with a mine of potholes that of course you couldn’t see.  Each one became a chicken run, our sole purpose, just to get through alive!
    4. THE ABYSS:

    The first tunnel was enough to make you not want to do it again. 125m long but as it got dark, it got light again. That was followed by a quick 75m - listen out for lorries and then a sprint to the light. Then we came to the mouth of the top-most tunnel. At 1125m long, it just disappeared into an abyss. Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_13

    Conno, whose bottom was unpredictable from the previous night's drinking, needed some encouragement and thankfully Rob came to the rescue producing his £2.50 Aldi flashing hand torch from his saddle bag. The size of a 50 pence piece and with 0.001 lumens, we had light. Rob The Saviour. Yippee. We will live!  Our preparation is the stuff of legend and so we went for it and individually we prayed to each of our Gods for Mercy.

    5. IL TRUMPETO:

    Rob mastered the art of the cycling fart. It requires technique, timing and supreme control and serves as a thermal slap to the face to the person tailgating you. Nevertheless, you have to be surreptitious. Rob would slow down a tad so the G Man was inches from his back wheel and then in a snap, he’d raise his ‘culo' and come to a fixed ridged position, torso parallel to the road. The mastery comes from IL TRUMPETO being released at precisely the same moment! Any delay and Conno would see the raised buttocks and takes evasive action.

    Perfectly executed it serves 3 purposes:

    1. Rocket propulsion. In the higher echelons of our sport it is all about fine margins. That extra blast of air in Conno's face gives your bike discernible forward thrust.
    2. Childish satisfaction.
    3. It proved a tremendous motivational tool for the team. When u are really down and nearly out wondering from where you are possibly going to find the energy to cover the distance to the next hair pin IL TRUMPETO followed by “Oh! For ***** sake!!" Makes u properly belly laugh on your bike, your morale lifts and you beat the next 5 kms. Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_12

    6. THE BEAUTIFUL CAMEO’S:

    We met some wonderful people, the stuff of Tarantino movies and perhaps the subject of a blog on its own. In fact this has been a real theme of our trip. From the waitress who properly got the giggles because I ordered 3 "bears" instead of 3 steaks on the bone. The Canadian couples preparing for their daughters' wedding in Tuscany. I asked for a photo, to which they responded "a group". I chastised them saying I don't know how they do things in Vancouver but we weren't suggesting any ambitious sexual positions and then as I put my arms around them I apologised and told them to prepare for ‘Smell of Man’. And then my favourite. The Old Bloke Guarding the Pier at Forte de Marmi as if his life depended on it. He sprang from nowhere like a bridge troll, to stop us in our tracks. Apoplectic at the thought that we were actually going to cycle on to his pier. Only 5'4. (just a bit smaller than Rob) and about 70 with his beige pants, belted up to just a few inches below his nipples he was getting all Sopranos with the towering 6’ tall G Man. We pulled Andy away and left the geezer to guard his footpath. Respect due, he wasn't backing down. We discussed storming him at full pelt on our bikes, BMX Bandits style but decided we didn't fancy mixing it with him and his palls who would have probably shown up on their mobility scooters.  We gave him some northern hard knock looks and pedalled on, dignity intact.

    7. WE SALUTE THE BUS DRIVER:

    Having left the house at 12:30pm instead of 9am we ran out of sun. Despite 40 miles and 5,000 feet Conno was all deflated that we had missed out on the double figure stats of the previous day and the goon was even questioning whether we had earnt  our dinner!

    With the last train long gone, we approached the bus driver at Lucca station. He was just about to leave and confirmed that he WAS going to our town, Castelnuovo Di Garfagnana. Ticket?

    No!

    They don't take credit cards, so Rob ran to the ticket booth which of course was shut. We looked at him like 3 lost 6 yr old boys. Then he told his mate to put the bikes in the lock up and us to jump aboard. It was pitch black when we arrived in Castelnuovo Di Garfagnana and we still needed to get to the house, but thankfully, we are not worried as Rob had his light!Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_11

  • THE MARTINI CONNOLLY FAT LADS AT THE BACK ITALIAN TOUR IN AID OF THE ALZHEIMERS SOCIETY Day 2

    DAY 2:      Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_9  1. DEAR LORD HELP US:

    33 miles and we had climbed 8,500 feet and 2 mountains. You’d think you’d pray for the descents but in fact, you resent them because you know the pain that's going to follow. We stopped for ice cream in the ski resort of Abettone, knowing that we still had a further 45 miles to do and 3 hours to do them in. Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_5

    2. SHORT BACK AND SIDES:

    Rob has become increasingly concerned with his chaffing. Something about the salt content in his er… shorts! I have no sympathy as he has brought it on himself. At 43 he has never ‘male’ groomed. A troop of gorillas could happily hide 'there' for years without detection. I on the other hand have always partook, not for the hygiene but for the aesthetics and because in the mirror my **** always looks a good couple of inches longer with a short back and sides. Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_2

    3. NO CHANCE:

    Go back to my first script. Rob saying 4,000 feet of climbing on consecutive days was too much to ask. If you would have said to me I could do what I have done, I would tell you NO CHANCE. If you would have said that my bro’, with his maturing derby (male pregnant tummy) could do what he has done, I would have said there’s more likelihood of him stopping a pig, running thro his little Iti bow legs.  If u would have said that Conno could do it, I would have spat Prosecco in your face.

    But, we did do it.

    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_1

    Here are the Strava Stats:

     81.4 miles.

    7.25 hrs in the saddle.

    6,637 calories burned.

    16,344 feet climbed!!!

     Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_3

    4. THERE ARE MOUNTAINS AND THEN THERE ARE ITALIAN MOUNTAINS:

    As Conno said, it’s pointless trying to describe what we did to people who were not beside us, living the sheer pain.  The first 20 miles was a mountain climb, every turn of the pedal hurt, every single rotation was an effort. For 20 miles. We didn't just climb one mountain, but frickin 2!! And I ain't talking the pathetic hills we call mountains in Blighty.  I am talking proper mountains with ski lifts on the top and everything. Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_4

    5. MANCHESTER TO LIVERPOOL:

    After the ascent we did 30 miles, pure downhill clocking up speeds of 40mph. Braking like billio into the corners and frankly crapping ourselves that we we're going to smash in to the stone walls which keep the landslides in check.

    30 non stop minutes of pulling on the brakes takes it toll and at the bottom I felt like I had white finger. I haven’t felt vibrations in my in my left hand like that since I was 16!  Imagine, hurtling down a mountain at break neck speed, never pedalling once, for 30 miles, that’s the same distance as Manchester to Liverpool.

    And then think, to come down you’ve gotta go up.

    6. RESPECT TO THE GHINGER MAN:

    I cannot write enough about the love, admiration and respect Rob and I have for the Ghinger Man. What an inspiration he is and boy, can he cycle! The man has rhythm, he climbs like a goat, he’s a natural even though he’s never ridden a big boy racing bike before, let alone with cleats.

    He beats me, hands down and I’ve been riding bikes all my life.

    Let’s talk about his training - 3 weeks. Let me say that again, the man did 3 weeks training for this and is living proof that human beings can achieve ANYTHING when we set our mind to it. Think of all the bullshit excuses you have come up why you couldn’t do something. There are a million reasons why G Man could have said no to Rob and me and lots of them were genuinely good reasons and we would have understood. But no, G Man is more than that, “Life is for living” he said and he grasped it and HE DID IT!

    Next time you think of how difficult something is and you’re about to come up with an excuse, just think of G Man and DO IT!

    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_63 WEEKS I tell you!

     

    7. PREPARATION PREVENTS PISS POOR PERFORMANCE?

    So, to last night and the local bar, owned by Mirko the Memory Man.  A few pints, a bottle of wine (shared), a Limoncello digestivo, some Grappa, another cheeky 1am pint and some 2am Sambucca later and we were ready to boogie woogie all night long. Yes Sir!

    The mention of a beach party at Forte di Marme, being held by the Italian guy who owns QPR was more than appealing. Safe to say it was a good job Mirko’s Mini Cooper S Works does not have 6 seats as undoubtedly he would have driven us and his brother and bezzie along the narrow road (think of the road in the Italian Job and make it smaller) like a crazy motherflipper!

    8. HANDS OFF THE SAUSAGE:

    But I have to say, the fact that Mirko’s phone was full of numbers of local lap dancers and ‘such like’ was off putting to us at all. Honestly! In addition to the fact that I / we object on moral and fidelity grounds, Rob was also keen to point out on Wednesday that despite the giddiness of being away from our wives and sleeping alone for a few days, certain er…… ‘self massage activities’ were absolutely forbidden lest we lose the umff needed the next day to get up the mountain.

    9. PASSPORT UPDATE:

    I’ve just been told that UPS has a technical problem and they cannot get Conno’s passport to us until Monday. I will tell Conno tomorrow. What's the point of him worrying about his acting abilities now!?

    Fat Lad At The Back Alzheimers Society Martini_8

    Paolo, Rob and Conno are raising money for the Alzheimers Society.

    If you're enjoying Paolo's bog you can donate a couple of quid here:

  • THE MARTINI CONNOLLY FAT LADS AT THE BACK ITALIAN TOUR IN AID OF THE ALZHEIMERS SOCIETY Day 1

    IMG_1304

    DAY 1:

    THE FLIGHT:

    1. Always prepare for a curve ball at the airport, especially when it's 3 blokes who ordinarily have women, organising their every move.

    NO TOOLS BUT YOUR MATES:

    2. Our first airport mishap was security confiscating my 3 cool tools. Tbf they didn't adopt a ‘computer says no’ attitude and told me they would pop them in lost property and they should be there on our return.

    CHECK YOUR PASSPORT:

    3. Whatever you do, DON’T take your son’s passport instead of your own.

    Being a ghinger, Conno ordinarily has a pale complexion, however the pallor of his skin was Lil-lets white and his freckles shone out like a million tiny suns. He had brought his 12 yr old son's passport.

    “I've done all that training for nothing.” said Conno.  3 weeks in his garden can hardly be described as ‘all that’, but respect to him!

    DIVERSION TACTICS:

    4. Realising there wasn't another flight for days, drastic measures were called for. We were 30 feet from passport control, Conno mentioned Midnight Express. To hell with it we thought we were last in the queue and the staff wanted us on the plane. We rapidly put in place a number of diversion tactics. Rob stared at his flip flops, Conno dropped his paperwork on the floor at the last minute and I notified the woman on the desk that a girl had just told us to tell them she had to go for a quick poo, so please could they wait for 5 minutes. Of course the girl had said toilet but I got an uncomfortable laugh out of the attendant!IMG_1304

    FORGET ACTING LESSONS:

    5. You could not script 3 more guilty looking geezers. It could have been a cut scene from Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, the looks on our faces were that of slapstick panic / horror. But in no time, we are speeding up the tarmac and Rob was discussing the chances of a Guantamano Bay experience for Conno at Italian passport control.
    Tough decision which of the passport controllers was least conscientious; which queue to go in? Massimo looked particularly not arsed. Dio bless him! He took Conno’s 12 year old son’s passport, checked the photo and the details and then handed it back.IMG_1305

    IT’S HOT IN PISA:

    6. Add that to the list under hopeless preparation.

    Other than my spoke breaking, the ride to my Dad’s house went without incident and it must be said Conno is a demon; a veritable Stephen Roach. Apart from the fact that he was at the back for the whole ride, save the monster climb at the end, where he took all the glory.IMG_1328

    ALWAYS POP THE BONNET BEFORE YOU TRY TO STEAL A CAR:

    7. After 63 miles and it turns out 5,400 feet of climbing, we arrived home, starving and around 4,726 calories lighter! A quick shower and we got into Dad's Opel Estate with the intention of heading out for supper. It was as dead as a Dodo! No surprise, with dirt an inch thick on the windows, obscuring every view it was clear that the car had been insitu, in the field for the last 12 months.

    Rob thought his Salford van hire experience was sufficient that once the car was on the road he’d be able to bump start it, so for an hour, the three of us pushed and pushed the ‘tank’ out of the wet field, in our flip flops.

    What an effort and then, Rob managed to steer the car into a tree, tbf he was going backwards and it actually turned out to be a good thing because otherwise the car would have dropped into the ditch 30 feet below. It all seemed a good and sensible idea at the time.

    We were wondering how we were going to move the car so our cousin could get past in the morning to drive to work and so I rang a pal who popped round with some jump leads. Undoubtably we should have started with this idea in the first place but all my blood was in my legs, not my brain. As I popped the bonnet I saw that somebody had disengaged the battery. This is the finest bit of car mechanics I have ever produced and a couple of minutes later we were mobile and on our way to dinner and the biggest steaks you could wish for.

    IMG_1319 NEVER ADMIT ANYTHING/DON’T TELL MARTINO:

    8."Make sure that plonker does not drive my car” my Dad said. “It has no insurance, no MOT and no brakes.” By my calculations that's about 12 penalty points.
    Unlawful taking of a motor-vehicle, maybe a three month prison sentence? And also the slightest possibility of drink-driving on the way home. But, who drove? And were they drunk?IMG_1318

     

    Paolo, Rob and Conno are raising money for The Alzheimers Society.

    You can donate here:

    https://www.justgiving.com/Susan-Martini1?utm_source=Sharethis&utm_medium=fundraisingpage&utm_content=Susan-Martini1&utm_campaign=pfp-email

     

  • THE MARTINI CONNOLLY FAT LADS AT THE BACK ITALIAN TOUR in aid of THE ALZHEIMERS SOCIETY 27.7.16

    IMG_1302

    CHALLENGE:

    Paolo Martini, Brother Roberto Martini and lifelong best friend Andrew (Conno) Connolly are currently cycling the mountains of northern Tuscany for 4 days in aid of the Alzheimers Society.

    Follow their hilarious antics (which are mostly, nothing to do with cycling) here!

    STATS:

    Combined age - 138 years

    Combined ‘overweight’ - 5 stones

    Combined training regime - 9 weeks.

    Conno was only told about it 3 weeks ago.

    Conno has never ridden a road bike or worn cycling shoes with cleats before.

    Over the 4 days the three amigos plan to ride 255 miles and climb over 21,000 feet.

    INTERESTING FACTS:

    21,000 feet is 6,000 feet more than Mont Blanc, 500 feet more than Mount Kilimanjaro and  8,000 feet short of the summit of Everest.

    COMMENTS FROM THE LADS ON HEARING THE ROUTE:

    Rob: (the serious cyclist of the group)

    "Are u mad? They're crazy horse shoe figures them! Go to north wales and do a 4000 ft ride which is enough to turn ur d*ck & b*lls inside out, then think about doubling it, then think about doing it again the very next day. I don’t think that’s happening”

    Conno:

    “I’ve contacted Easyjet for a refund on my flights.”

    Paolo:

    “To be fair to Rob we did climb 4,000 feet last Sunday over the Horse Shoe pass near Llangollen and he has a point! My gonads are still like chestnuts. Little chestnuts.”

    Still not impressed, read on.  They 3 reckon they will be drunk on wine and Peroni for at least 2/5ths of the route. So please give generously.

    https://www.justgiving.com/Susan-Martini1?utm_source=Sharethis&utm_medium=fundraisingpage&utm_content=Susan-Martini1&utm_campaign=pfp-email

    Sponsored by; Uber Taxis Italia. ItaliaRail. AnalCare.co.uk

     

    A NOTE FROM THE TEAM LEADER Paolo Martini

    First, just watch this video for 2 minutes and you will get a feel of what we are trying to achieve. 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8a2-ah1V50

    Just £5 will do.

    The lads on the video are ex pro’s, as skinny as flip and are cycling with support. Rob, Conno and I only have each others backsides to keep us inspired and motivated.

    And just think, we’re doing this ride NOW as you're reading this. 

    Useful facts:

    This is one of THE classic all Italian mountain rides

    San Pelligrino is at the top of my Dad’s mountain

    There is a saint in a glass coffin which is very nice to see

    It is 16 miles all up hill from my Dad’s house

    After San Pelligrino we have a further 69 miles to cycle

    10 of those miles are uphill

    Yesterday we cycled from Pisa to my Dad’s house, which is 56 miles and nearly 4,000 feet climb. That’s 400 feet higher than Mt Snowdon. 

    In truth we don’t think doing the San Pelligrino will be the biggest challenge. We think that will come tomorrow when we wake up at 6:30 am and have to get back on our bikes and ride up and over the L'uomo Morto Alpi Apuane. I dread to think how my body will feel when my mobile telephone alarm goes off. 

    Check it out on the net. This climb is1,000 feet higher and10 miles longer (86 miles) than San Pelligrino. Half way is the exclusive resort of Forte Dei Marme and we will be able to se my Dad’s house across the valley. 

    We have selected this route because we take in the quarry of Carrara, from where Michelangelo selected his marble for David, undoubtedly the most famous sculpture in the history of mankind. We’ll be in the saddle for 10 hours and we may run out of daylight so we reserve the right to catch the train home or as near to home as we can get. 

    On Saturday we’re back on our bikes for the ride back to Pisa, another 56 miles and perversely yet another 2,000 feet of climbing. How unfair is that?!

    So come on guys. Support me. and if you know anybody that has got a few quid forward them this link

    https://www.justgiving.com/Susan-Martini1?utm_source=Sharethis&utm_medium=fundraisingpage&utm_content=Susan-Martini1&utm_campaign=pfp-email

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