Although I have only been cycling for the last 2 years, I jumped at the chance to get involved with this project – cycle to Monte Carlo…what a challenge! To be completely honest, my initial reason was the cycling, however as the ride developed, I have got as much enjoyment from the fundraising as I have from the cycling. To raise around £10k for 2 excellent charities has given me and the team an enormous amount of satisfaction and has made all the hard work worthwhile.
I arrived at Chester Street in Wrexham on Day 1 with a mix of excitement and nervousness. I had no idea what the next 9 days was going to bring, what demands it was going to put on my body, legs and backside in particular! I was pleasantly surprised to see such a great turn out of people to see us all off. A real testament to the amount of support we have all received throughout this process, from during training, to the actual event itself.
So, we are ready to go…very professionally, we cycle back up the road so we can do our ride past the waving crowd for photo’s etc. and promptly 2 team members, who shall remain anonymous, fall off their bikes (1 has a good argument that he was “taken out”). You couldn’t write it! So we re-composed ourselves, mainly from the laughter and the 2 casualties brushed themselves down and got back on their bikes! And we were off!
The first 2 days in the UK were a mix of hot sunshine and rain…usual UK weather, rain jacket on… rain jacket off… rain jacket on again and so on… but we eventually reached the port to catch the ferry in good time. How we managed to get 4 grown men into that cabin I will never know – apart from the lack of sleep, it was a good thing we only had 3 hours in the cabin before we landed and were straight up and out on the next leg of our adventure in France! Sadly we parted company with Barry after the first day in France as he diverted to his place of work in Paris. I was definitely going to miss him as the responsibility of the navigation fell firmly onto my shoulders and it was always good to have a second opinion because the planned route pre-loaded on the Garmin had already caused several detours on the first day! The first 2/3 days in France were long days of cycling through endless farmers crop fields, some of which we stopped and sampled – or deep thick forests. There was no real sign of life in Northern France even the villages were deserted and shops were closed – we even joked about a zombie apocalypse at one point…it was eerie!
It was amazing how the body adapted, my main concern over this ride was the ability to ride 100+ miles one day, then to get up the next morning and do it again, and again etc. After 4 days, I felt remarkably well. A few aches for the first 20 minutes on the bike each morning until I loosened up, then I was back in the zone again! Anyway the days flew by in France. Before we knew it we were through Vichy and Lyon and the Alps loomed large!
The last 3 days were by far my favourite part of the journey – the climbs were as I expected, the hairpin bends winding up and up to as much as 4000 feet elevation were the stuff that dreams (or in some cases, nightmares) were made of! We never quite reached the dizzy heights of 50,000 feet as reported in the Leader! J The scenery however was breath-taking! I can’t do it justice by trying to describe it, but I could hardly believe I was actually seeing the sights first hand, it was like something off the TV. Whilst the climbs were tough, the descents were a lot of fun. Credit to the whole team, each of whom battled through their own personal challenges to get up the climbs, it was a credit to all of them!
Before we knew it, we were high fiving and congratulating each other…we had arrived in Monte Carlo…what an adventure it had been. Again there was mixed emotions, relief that we had made it to our destination and a little sadness that it was all over! Just for good measure, we decided to cycle into a fifth country so we cycled another 10 miles and crossed the border into Italy to tick another box before we put our bikes into the mini bus for the final time!
The whole experience was amazing. It has genuinely been my pleasure to be part of this team – I can honestly say that there were moments when people frustrated me, and no doubt times when I frustrated them, but when all was said and done at the end of the day we got off the bikes, went for something to eat and any tension was forgotten and we had a great laugh. The support vehicle did just that, support us, and for that we were all grateful. Driving ahead to find us food, drink etc. Barry & Bob, we couldn’t have done it without you! Thanks!
I don’t want to single out anybody’s individual performance, as everyone did brilliantly, but a special word to my room-mate for the duration of the trip, Paul “Cookie” Cooke. As the most senior member of the team at 62 years young, Paul’s steely determination and sheer bloody mindedness meant that Paul refused to take any easy options – no cutting corners, no stopping to push, no getting in the van early and generally giving all of us a good run for our money. As far as I could see, Paul trained harder than any of us, and all his hard work definitely paid off. So Well done Paul! It was a pleasure to train and ride with you!
Finally, I can only echo the same question put by Richard in his final blog….WHERE NEXT?