Road to Geneva charity bike ride raises over £17,000
July 3, 2014
Having successfully completed the 351 mile route I can now confirm that the road to Geneva is both long and mountainous!
The trip was amazing and between our group of 18 riders we raised over £17,000 for the charity. Kerman & Co and some of our clients were by far the biggest contributors to that wonderful total so I would like to thank you and share with you some of the highlights of the trip:
25 June – I drove to Gatwick where I met some of my fellow cyclists before hopping a plane to Luxembourg. We were met at the airport and stayed at a nearby Ibis Budget hotel. This sponsored cycling lark seemed pretty easy.
26 June – Up early and re-united with my bike. Lots of fettling and preparation before leaving the hotel at 8.00am for the 84 mile ride into Nancy. The route was largely flat with only around 2500 ft of gain. The weather was fine and everyone was excited but keeping a sensible riding pace given this was very much a warm up day. Not as hard as some of my training rides so this sponsored cycling lark really was looking pretty easy.
27 June – Up early and felt a little stiff. The ride was 100 miles from Nancy to Belfort including an awesome cat 1 climb. The weather was set fair. The route was largely flat at the start with a cat 4 climb of about 4 miles long at around 50 miles. Myself and 4 other riders blasted the first 25 miles at an average speed of around 21 miles per hour. After about 20 miles I was beginning to wish I had bubble wrapped my backside as that new carbon fibre saddle seemed harder than the day before. After lunch we started the cat 1 climb to the top of Ballon D’Alsace (a Tour stage in 2005). The climb is around 22 miles long with the real kick in the last 10km where it climbs 2500 ft. I can honestly say I pushed deep into the red to get to the top after 70 miles at pace and with a constant gradient of around 8%. I overhauled everyone and amazingly got to the top first, a feat that won me the ‘King of the Mountains’ jersey at the daily awards that evening. One up for the over 40’s! Needless to say after a climb like that you need to rehydrate with a beer or two (the only clinically proven rehydration drink) which of course we did whilst waiting for the rest of our group to catch up.
With every up comes a down and in this case it was 20 miles of downhill with hairpin bends and amazing scenery. When we pulled in to the Ibis Budget hotel I knew that had been the toughest and most amazing day of cycling that I had every enjoyed. My legs felt locked up but the beer was cold. This sponsored cycling lark was no longer easy but my goodness it was rewarding!
28 June – I woke up and could barely move. The weather forecast was for storms. The route was from Belfort to Pontarlier – approximately 82 miles and was to take in a cat 2 climb of around 14k followed almost immediately by a cat 3 climb of 6km, a cat 5 and another cat 3. Surprisingly my backside was no longer objecting to the idea of another day in the saddle. In fact it felt absolutely fine. I took this as a good sign and soon a group of 4 of us had broken off the front and really pushed on at the cat 2 climb. One of our number was an Iron Man coach, one was a regular at running ultra marathons (50 miles in the mountains), one was a 30 year old fitness freak and then there was me – a mid 40’s desk surfer. It occurred to me more and more that I was keeping the wrong company and maybe getting ideas above my station – the problem with being a bit competitive I fear! However my legs felt good and I showed them all the way up the cat 2. By the time we hit the cat 3, I was no longer pushing from the front but I was still there (just) but I don’t mind telling you I was very glad to see the lunch stop at 60 miles in.
After lunch of a mere 3000 calories we headed on but by this time the rain had come over and we had to back things down to stay safe. We were getting cold and wet but considered ourselves lucky to have gone so long into the trip without any rain. The group bunched back up to help each other out if necessary and after an hour or so the weather eased up leaving us 6 miles from the hotel, in a bar in stunning countryside with a few warming rays of sunshine breaking through. This sponsored cycling lark was tougher in the rain but still amazing!
29 June – the final day and the biggest yet. Pontarlier into Geneva which promised 93 miles and 9000 ft of climbing mostly from 50 miles in. The weather looked pretty bad so we delayed leaving the hotel for an hour or so in the hope the weather forecast would come good and things would improve around lunchtime. By now the only part of me that wasn’t aching was my earlobe (left hand side) but the thought of the huge day ahead was energising.
I swapped out my front wheel for one with a smaller rim to avoid being caught on the mountains by the increasing cross winds and we set off around 9.00am. Everyone was treating the first part of the day with respect knowing there were cat 1 and 2 climbs in close succession after 50 miles.
Incredibly the promised break in the weather appeared right on cue so that by the time we stopped for lunch at Saint Claude, the sun was coming out. The views from our lunch stop were stunning but ominously all roads went upwards. After another 3000 calorie lunch we were immediately into the climbs. Once again 4 of us pushed ahead at our own pace. The cat 1 ran for 11 miles and kicked up 2600 ft although the gradient was much more varied than the climb on day 2. This allowed us some respite and changes of pace, which made the climb feel much less severe than Ballon D’Alsace. We hit the top after around an hour and a half and then dropped into the next valley where we picked up the cat 2 for 5 miles. By this time the legs were feeling it but we all knew that the top meant a 20 mile downhill run into Geneva and one of the best views of the lake you could possibly hope for.
The weather was still holding and one hour later we pulled into the bar at the top of the Col (yes – there is a theme here!). A couple of well-earned cold ones and we started the descent into Geneva. The weather was now closing in and no-one was keen to ride the downhill without brakes in the wet. Luck was with us however and it stayed dry for what was the fastest descent I have ever done. Previous best downhill speed was around 43 mph. I moved that up to around 45 mph although one of our more nutty contingent hit 55.1 mph which means he either drank too much beer at the top or he is truly insane!
As it happened the weather held off until we got to the valley floor and then it broke in a biblical way. Thunder, lightening, hail storms and torrents running down the roads. If anything that made the conclusion of our adventure all the more sweet. I have never ridden in weather like it but then again I had never ridden mountains before so it seemed fitting that we should end our trip with something so extreme and so beautiful. I will never forget those last 10 miles, soaked, freezing cold but with a wonderful sense of satisfaction.
Thanks to all who sponsored me.