This is the first time I have cycled this distance per day, let alone cycle day after day. As the only sexagenarian cycling with younger men, I saw this as a challenge !!! I have always been up for the challenge no matter what I have turned my hand to. My mum used to say “If a jobs worth doing, it’s worth doing well ”
This all began with me doing a spin class with Richard and Mike when they were training for LEJOG. I didn’t have a road bike then, I only had a couple of mountain bikes and no interest in road cycling, let alone buying a road bike. I was more interested in running half marathons & 10k’s!! That was until my ankles gave out. Then the road bike became an interest. When I wandered into a bike shop and came out with my first road bike in May 2014… I then contacted Richard and Mike and went out on an evening ride, meeting Gary for the first time. I remember attempting to climb Hope mountain with the boys and saying to Mike, how do you get up there so easy …. But the seed was sown…. Look what you have encouraged me to do Mike!!! What monster have you created?
I must say that when I looked at all the guys cycling on this trip I did wonder how we would get on together, as we are all managers and directors in our own fields of work.. But we did, we pressed on together and gelled very well, supported by two guys who did a sterling job.
Our first day was 108 miles to Gloucester and I’ve never ridden past 90 miles, so it was a first for me. Day one and I discovered my glasses had been crushed in the back of the mini bus and were beyond repair. This meant I had to use my sunglasses to read (they are prescription glasses ). Sat indoors trying to read and check my phone I earned various nicknames including Stevie Wonder and Roy Orbison !
On day 2 from Gloucester to the port 94 miles and now I am running on adrenaline. The end of day 2 sitting in the minibus waiting to board the late night ferry, I’m pooped and ready for my bed. Bed arrived in the form of a cabin to share with 3 other guys and I’m in the top bunk for just 3 hours when we are awoken and we are in France !!! We hit the road about 5 am with France fast asleep (the north of France appeared to be asleep for 2 days !!! ). Our support crew were pulling their hair out looking for croissant and coffee – none to be found – France was closed and we ended up in a Turkish kebab house of all places…for our first lunch in France.
Later that day we said our goodbyes to Barry who was to cycle on to his office in Paris. I am so grateful for the unending encouragement which he gave to myself and my fellow cyclists, especially me as I was flagging at one point…
The next highlight for me was riding through France and arriving in the Central Massiff!!!! an understatement if ever… My dear me I couldn’t believe my eyes… We’ve got to climb that lot???? The Alps were very pretty, cycling through Grenoble was a sight to behold, but reality was about to hit….the first climb was breathtaking in more ways than one.. But we all made it to the top and the ride down was very welcome only to find, what comes down goes up and up, and up, and up.
It was hard work but so rewarding..I tried to keep up with Gary and Steve but to no avail, but I gave it everything and when I reached the top I had to be lifted off my bike before I keeled over…I had nothing left in the tank. How was I going to carry on? I asked myself. But I had come away with some great advice from my dear wife about fuelling the body. I gave myself a few moments to recover and took my gels and drinks and hey presto I’m good to go. I had to remind myself to take a gel every hour and keep my body fed and watered as I rode. I did experience a full-on fatigue in my legs and had to have a tow off our support bus for five minutes, again this introduced more energy into my legs and I was good to go again.
The climbs in the Alps were one after another or so it seemed I had to keep stopping to take pictures as the scenery was breathtaking and so was the incline… Our last day in the Alps was yet another new experience, a thunderstorm on the top of the mountain. By this time I was last man up the mountain and the heat was getting to me, so as I stopped to drink and rest a minute, so the boys got further away from my sight until I couldn’t see anyone ahead for miles and I was truly on my own, except for Bob and Barry keeping an eye on me in the minibus to make sure I was good to go and I didn’t need any help. Eventually I was caught up in the storm and this was my lowest moment of the trip until I spotted the minibus in a lay-by up the road. With the rain hammering down I stopped for a couple of Mars bars and a marathon bar. That did perk me up. Eventually I reached a roundabout and was busy looking for a signpost for Gap when I heard shouts of Allez, Allez, Allez and clapping. My buddy’s waiting for me with a coffee and it’s the end of our last day!!!!
Our final day was an easy ride on the legs but a very emotional end to our trip.. We were all hugging and high 5s for our accomplishments. It was tremendous to finish and have a beer in Monte Carlo together. Then a quick ride over the border to Italy to get our 5 countries in..
I can truly say it was amazing to cycle with everyone of these guys they gave me so so much encouragement as well as taking the mickey out of me for being the elder statesman …
Richard – thank you for inviting me. Mike for your encouragement and a target to aim for. Gary for putting up with my snoring and your constant encouragement. Steve for you support at the back of the group and also your encouragement to me. I must also thank Barry and Bob our support team especially for going shopping for my Sudocrem and sardines!!! Till the next time Au revoir…