Velusso founder James Bowtell tackles The 21 Challenge

This July, Velusso founder and director James Bowtell is taking on his latest challenge – The 21. We spoke to him before he set off to join the other riders to find out more about the challenge, and to see how preparation has gone ahead of the big ride.

James Bowtell and The 21

Not everyone knows what The 21 is, possibly because the very thought of it turns the legs of some to jelly, yet it still entices plenty to throw their leg over the saddle and start a three week slog to never forget. The task is to ride the 21 stages of 2019’s Tour de France, just one day ahead of the professionals; totalling 3490km, 30 mountains and a general sense of ‘what are we doing!”

So, here is the reason why. The challenge is supporting some amazing causes, it’s a personal challenge and the start of a new sports event project I’m working on with Matt Prior, another one of the riders. It should be good fun, great to meet the other riders that are taking part and an experience of a lifetime. The 21 is also an opportunity to show amateur riders it’s possible to tackle the same routes as the pros…but we’ll have to see if that proves true!

Training has been far from ideal, I’ve spent the majority of this year in a car travelling to and from Brugges, however whilst in Belgium I managed to ride the Tour of Flanders Fan Ride and the last 150km of Paris Roubaix. In a last ditch attempt to get some fitness I spent 4 days in Mallorca, however a crash on Day 1 due to a snapped chain saw me back at my laptop. At least the power is there!

Thankfully I shall not be doing all of this alone, there are 5 main riders doing the full challenge and then up to 65 others joining for various blocks throughout the tour, to keep me pushing on throughout each and every mile.

At hand is also the guidance of Velusso Travel and Events Manager, Reeta, providing on the ground support and helped by Becky Frewing from ONE PRO; who are the main organisers with the planning of the event.

There is so much to look forward to at an event such as this, I can’t wait to start suffering with Matt and laughing our way through the pain. I’m hoping to raise as much money as possible for a charity close to me and then I’m off on holiday with my girlfriend after we finish the tour. So I’m looking forward to a proper holiday.

It will be a special occasion, one which will challenge me in a variety of ways, though right now the biggest worry is starting the tour weighing 86 kilos.

I’m lucky to be riding a Factor 02 (thank you to John Bailey), although this was a last minute change following the crash on my Pinarello Dogma. I’m pretty sure the 02 will serve me better in the mountains.

Approaching the eve of this incredible challenge, it is good to remember when my father signed me up for the London to Brighton charity ride in 2006. I then used to ride to help my fitness for football. Cycling’s addictive, so I moved to Belgium to race in my late teens before then setting the Race Across Europe world record while at university. Cycling’s been in my life for years, although I’m loving the casual and social side of it now…. and as I wrote that it just kicked in that I’m riding the Tour.

James joins the 21 Challenge on stage 4, from Reims to Nancy covering 213.5km. Good luck to him and the rest of the team! We’ll be tracking progress closely.

Find out more about the challenge here.