It’s a hill, get over it! Was the great line espoused by a comedian on the first evening of our challenge, to ride 540km in four days whilst taking on the mighty Mont Ventoux – the Beast of Provence, for Macmillan Cancer Support Jersey.
As you can imagine, the riders, 45 of us from Jersey, were a little apprehensive prior to commencing the first day of the journey the following day. Banter was a logical mechanism to offset the nervousness many of us felt, especially those, like me, who had never taken part in a multi-day cycling event – the Macmillan virgins – as we were called by the more experienced cyclists within the group.
So, what were we doing and why were we nervous?
Well, I signed up to cycle from Bologna to Rome, roughly 500km over five days, but circumstances as they are, and to ensure that the event could happen, it became a ‘bucket list’ ride for many. Instead of Italy, we were in France. We were now cycling a greater distance, 540 km, over a condensed number of days, four. Great.
This was all planned to take on ‘undulating’ routes, from Lyon to Marseille, for an epic shared purpose, to raise essential funds for Macmillan Cancer Support Jersey. For me, it was also about a very personal challenge, whilst honouring the memory of my Mother, Joan, who died from cancer in 2011.
I won’t bore you with a day by day, hill by hill account. In summary we cycled:
- Day 1 – Lyon to Valence – 142km and 1,594 metres of climbing – Low point, a blow out before the start which took my rear wheel out of contention. The highlight was completing the ride on Tim Barnes’ spare rear wheel – thanks Tim!
- Day 2 – Valence to Avignon – 139km and 1,189 metres of climbing – a so called ‘recovery day’. The highlights were the stunning views and Roman, Arc de Triomphe, in Orange – a truly stunning view to behold.
- Day 3 – the big one – Avignon to Mont Ventoux and back – 156km and 2,512 metres of climbing. Low point, in the nervousness of the start I forgot to wear my heart monitor. Highlight, riding for 51km to arrive at Bedouin, then pushing, churning and grinding up Mont Ventoux for 21km of what felt like diagonal cycling or full resistance with the wind at times. Getting to the summit in 2 hours and 28 minutes of agony in the lower back – the legs were fine – then the sheer elation at getting there, being met by friends and soaking up the amazing view from what felt like the top of Europe! The next 85km was challenging but remarkably fast given the cycling over the prior days and morning – a relief!
- Day 4 – Avignon to Marseille – 103km and 838m of climbing – A run in the sun at speed with less pressure and finally a coffee stop! How best to describe cycling in Marseille? We survived being the highlight.
So, we achieved our shared ambition: To safely cycle up Ventoux and the surrounding areas, over four days, and were incredibly fortunate with the weather. At times the camaraderie was amazing, and I have to thank my friends for encouraging me to take part, many of whom were also Macmillan Virgins – thank you.
The signage laid out every day ahead of our challenge by Discover Adventure was so effective it allayed my fear of getting lost. Duncan the mechanic saved the day with my rear wheel and kept us fuelled each lunchtime. Exceptional praise must go to both the team at Macmillan – Steph and Lauren – whose tenacity and capability meant we got to take part and if it were not for the support of Nobby, Dan and Nick, without whom, nobody would have made it safely to the end – thank you to you all – Your positive energy at the pit stops was immense!
My greatest gratitude however must go to each end every person who supported my challenge, my family for the time permitted to train and my fundraising support as, whilst we have had our personal challenges to complete this ride, they pale into utter insignificance when you consider the daily challenges people face, who are diagnosed with or undergoing treatment for cancer, whether in their lives or those of their loved ones, the critical work that Macmillan Cancer Support Jersey provide to support so many people in Jersey must be the winner from our endeavours.
I have asked that my fund-raising page remains live to Friday 8th October and once more, thank anyone who can share any money, to support this essential service:
- Chris Clark – Bologna to Rome Cycle Challenge – Macmillan Cancer Support (Jersey) (macmillanjersey.com)
It was epic. Thank you to each and every person who took part and cheered us all on, provided support throughout the trip or donated essential funds for Macmillan.