As I sat in the icy Alpine stream trying to numb the pain, the line from Top Gun kept playing through my head.
“Had my mouth written cheques my body could not cash?”
It was the end of Day 1 and I was struggling to get to grips with the thought of Day 2.
Day 2 had 3 big cols – Col de Aravis, Col de Saisie, Cormet du Roselend. 100 kms and 3000 meters of climbing!
This was surely going to be the real test and we still had five more days with no break after that. It was a beautiful clear morning as we set off from St-Jean-de-Sixt. The scenery was straight from a postcard, with Beaufort cows grazing in Alpine pastures framed by steep granite mountains. It is easy to see why some of France’s best cheese is from this area – this must be cow nirvana.
The Aravis is a spectacular climb and it was more than apparent that everyone was being more cautious after the heroics of the day before. A quick refuel with our support team of Chris, Chris and Barry and then we were off again on the pretty descent into Flumet. Once again we all regrouped – I felt this was another nod to our newfound respect for the task ahead. As a team we had a better chance of making it.
As we headed south towards the Tarantaise I was now in unchartered territory. I had not ridden any of this before, just viewed the gradient stats on the internet! The village of Hauteluce was the next stop, just over the Col de Saisie. We found Andy’s parents and Cam’s Dad waiting for us. Now, if you are reading this as a fellow rider from our Tour – you already understand the lofty heights in which Chris, Chris and Barry are held.
If you took the talents of the former Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, and combined them with the best traits of Mary Poppins and your Granny, you are half way there. Imagine old movies with people lost in the desert seeing mirages of an oasis in the distance. Well Chris, Chris and Barry delivered the water every time!
Ham, cheese, mustard and mayo sandwiches, peanuts, bananas, coke, water, chocolate – they kept us on the road. We were tired, smelly, extra-stupid with fatigue, relentless with requests and needy for attention. Grovelling thanks from the team of riders would never be enough. Maybe if they knew that I still hope they will be around the corner every time I am tired on a bike (in fact, every time I am on a bike) that might be some solace to me.
The descent to Beaufort was fun – not too steep but fast enough to raise the pulse. By now we were on the sunny side of the hill and the town of Beaufort felt hot and breathless – well I did anyway. A nervous coke at a cafe and it was time to solve this problem once and for all.
You start the climb in a steep gully behind the village. The shade it offered was welcome as we started the 20km climb to the top. It was here we figured out if you could keep talking then you weren’t breathing too hard which meant you were likely to keep a better pace than riding too fast like the previous day.
Was that the “Eureka” moment of the tour? Well maybe. The stronger riders were all of a sudden very interested in the wellbeing of the weaker riders – the rest of the week selflessly pacing some of them to the top of a Col becoming a common sight. We took our time for the 12 kms ride to the lake and what a view it was. Two kms on the flat and then six more steep ones to the Col.
On the second steep km I realised I had the energy in the tank to easily ride to the top and I started to relax. Short of injury, I thought I was going to love every minute of this week. And I did. Chris, Chris and Barry were at the top with food and patience. A quick photo stop and we began the descent to Bourg-St-Maurice.
Wow it was fast and fun and everything the Alps can offer you on a road bike descent. This was one of the top 3 descents of the week!
A great hotel and an even better meal. Luckily we were ignorant to the fact that the further south we went so too did the standard of hotel. But that was also some of the adventure and the reason that during the Tour I snored once or twice for the first time on my life!
We had a great tour and the thought that kept us all going was that we were raising much-needed funds for a fantastic charity. We knew that if we kept going we would be making a real difference. We were all so prod to raise so much money from our fabulous supporters and be able to give the KD-UK charity a brilliant start.
Hopefully our story can inspire more people to take up the challenge and do something amazing for KD-UK.