My little adventure started approximately four years ago when I made a decision to try and `get and keep fit` as opposed to having `got and kept fat`. So I dusted off a very old rusty mountain bike and hit the roads for the first time in many a year. Ten miles later very puffed out and with a face like a beetroot I bizarrely thought, “I enjoyed that.”
After a year of regularly dragging that old mountain bike around I bought a cheap racing bike for £150 and thought, “Look out Brad.” (I`ve always been a bit over optimistic). Another year later and a more expensive Specialised bike recently purchased I continued training with renewed enthusiasm. ddd
In early 2012 a group of friends started planning London2Paris which I could not be included in due to a family holiday (the truth was that my wife said “go at your own peril” common sense being the better part of valour I chose our family holiday). I was over the moon when on their return everyone was up for the next stage Paris2Geneva 2013, I was definitely going this time.
Having signed up for the Paris2Geneva Adventure I needed a charity to raise money for and it appeared to be an easy choice as 16 years ago our daughter Megan was born with both kidneys malformed and also a heart defect, she was born in University College Hospital London and transferred immediately to Great Ormond Streets` neo natal ICU. Despite the amazing care she received and her determination to live she died only 13 days old. I decided that GOSH would be my worthy cause.
Shortly after this decision I visited an old friend of mine (Emmas` uncle Paul), we did some catching up and I asked after Mark and Lynn and he told me about Emmas` Bubble Trust. When I got home I looked up their website and my decision was made, I had really wanted to be able make a positive impact and here was my opportunity to help with something so very worthwhile, and reading about Emmas` Army on the website especially touched me.
Our training started in earnest around the spring of 2013 with plenty of miles under our belt and a great diet to match, I can only say we must have peaked too soon as when August arrived I was 10 pounds over my target weight and dreading the infamous Col de la Faucille, an imposing Tour de France challenge of 23 miles of hill climbs at 5-11%. I have also since discovered that McFlurries are not part of the professional cyclists dietary requirements.
September 8th 2013
And so to France………………
Day 1: London St Pancras to Paris (Eurostar)
Our bikes safely packed in the support vehicles there was nothing else to do but sit back and relax and enjoy the train ride as we speed our way through the French countryside, nothing to do that is unless you are me and decide to fret the whole way there about my now non-existent fitness and ability to meet this challenge. We arrived safely and unpacked cases and bikes, carrying out all the last minute checks like have I brought enough chamois cream (sore bum cream to the uninitiated).
Day 2: Paris – Sens (87 miles)
Well it sort of started off ok, we had to cycle 5 miles to the Eiffel Tower and within 1 miles zee French saboteurs had removed all zee road signs and we were lost, using our fluent French language skills of very slowly and loudly saying `Eyefull Tower` many times over we were kindly directed by a Parisian fluent in `pidgin` French and eventually found the start point, a land mark that I grant you would be easy for anyone to miss. We had a lovely day of gentle undulating French countryside with no other mishaps. Woo Hoo!
Day 3: Sens- Semur en Auxois (85 miles)
Another day started in nervous anticipation, the team I am cycling with is made up of myself plus 6 very fit cyclists of which I don’t consider myself in the same league, I was determined to keep up though and gave it my best shot. Not a bad effort at all even if I say so myself. The more experienced of them offered some great cycling advice which in hindsight I probably took too literally. It has become apparent that hills are my nemesis and where I always fall behind, I was told to find a comfortable gear, get my breathing and heart rate manageable for the distance and just `head down` and keep turning the pedals. I perhaps took the metaphorically spoken advice of `head down` too seriously and after about a mile climbing a particular hill rode straight into a huge red road-sign with an almighty clang. After some considerable laughter at my misfortune my colleagues advice was revised to “ride head down but do look up from time to time to see where you`re bl**dy going!” this little incident was swiftly followed by me being chased up the road by a huge white Alsatian dog with teeth like a grizzly, not my best day.
Day 4: Semur en Auxois – Lons le Saunier (98 miles)
`The Big One`. A delicious 100 miles of rolling French countryside to be revered and enjoyed in the glorious sunshine, it was not to be, the weather was horrible; bleak, windy and sheet rain for most of the day, and to top it all I tore my calf muscle during the morning hill section. I`m not for one moment making this out to be a hellish adventure, far from it, we had plenty of laughs although frequent comments of “look out for that road sign Graham wore thin.”
Day 5: Lons le Saunier – Geneva (should`ve been 70 miles, we`ll come to that)
7:00 am start, quick breakfast, deep breath and oh my God, half a mile into the day there was a mile and a half long 13% gradient `Mount Everest` of a hill to climb, compared to this where I cycle it`s as flat as a mill pond, I gave it my best shot but two thirds of the way up I swallowed my pride and had to stop, the shame of it! Fortunately I wasn’t the only one. At 37 miles into the ride we approached the foot of the Jura Mountains, as I mentioned before 23 miles of climbing at 5-11% gradient in 2 stages. The first stage of approx 12 miles to the food station was the hardest especially as at 2 miles before the break station someone had pointed our route marker the wrong way and some of us did an extra 6 miles uphill the wrong way, now totally lost our support vehicle found us and got us back on track and we completed Le Col de la Faucille with no stopping (apart from our un-scheduled diversion) which was my goal, we reached the peak with no other dramas and freewheeled our way down in an exhilarating (and somewhat scary) sprint down into Geneva.
If I were to sum up in a few words my whole experience of this great adventure it would have to be that I have been blown away by the support I have received and how interested everybody was about Emmas` Bubble Trust and their desire to help. I have to give enormous thanks to Kaye (my wife) for the effort she put into raising money (she did the real hard work), without her we wouldn’t have raised half what we did.
I loved most of the ride and learned much about myself, I am truly grateful to Emma’s Bubble Trust for giving me this opportunity.