Friday this week was World Cancer Day, which gave a timely reminder on why I and The Tour 21 Team are riding all stages of the Tour de France – to raise £1,000,000 for Cure Leukaemia to find the cure for Blood Cancer.
Many of the Team, including myself, have been directly affected by blood cancers and the day gave myself and Geoff Thomas the opportunity to tell our stories and raise awareness of our fundraising activities with BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester Drive Time presenter, Tammy Gooding. Click on Tammy’s picture to hear the whole show from World Cancer Day, to hear Geoff Fast forward to 2:39:00, for myself I am right at the end at 3:40:00. This was a great opportunity for us to talk about our training and the Tour 21 ride, about Cure Leukaemia, and gave me the chance to talk a little bit about Simon and how he is helping me on my journey.
I received so many messages afterwards from friends giving me their support and saying how well our stories came over. This gave me the motivation to get out there again and continue with my training and fundraising efforts. Training this month has moved to hills, there is nothing in the UK that will compare to the mountains of the Alps and the Pyrenees, especially around Bromsgrove, so its a case of doing the best I can with what we have. I knew my training on Saturday would be tough, but also I had a little extra motivation, it was the birthday of my father, John. He died in 2013 having led a life of wonderful achievements, Local Football League Referee, Member of Wocestershire Council, The Manager of the Nat West Bank in, would you believe, Moscow in the era of Margeret Thatcher and Mickhail Gorbachev. Without doubt he would have had some wise words to spur me on. (Or on another day he might have told me to just sit down and enjoy a glass of wine).
V-Sprint have a couple of Hill Challenges, a number of loops around the hills to the North West and North East of the town. On Wednesday I did just the original or ‘Old’ loops, and on Saturday joined ‘Old’ and ‘New’ together – 50 miles with 5500 feet of climbing. To put this in to perspective on a normal 100 mile ride we do about the same amount of climbing, so would normally only expect 2500 – 3000 ft of climbing in 50 miles.
Andy and I spent Saturday morning with my Grandson Finley at the park with his friend Louis and his dad Loz, so didn’t start riding until 2:00pm. As I set out for the ‘Old’ loops, Andy was repairing his bike following a mechanical issue earlier in the week. An hour in to my ride Andy set out for the ‘New’ loops. He’s not that keen on hills so only covering half the distance and elevation suited him. Our intention was that on route I would catch him and we would finish with a coffee at Bayleys in Bromsgrove. However with the wind the route was tougher than I had expected, Andy was back at Bayleys and I still had 12 miles to ride and the biggest climb of St Kenelms pass in Clent to complete. Worse than that IT WAS DARK!! I had prepared incase I lost the light of the day so had lights, so going up St Kenelms wasn’t too much of a problem, but descending down the lanes it was much harder needing full concentration. A little bit of drizzle, strong winds and dark roads were not ideal conditions when my body was tired from all that climbing.
The last hill is Windwood Heath Road, only a short climb of 0.6 miles, but rises 350ft in that distance. Much of the hill is 8-10%, some big sections of 16-18% and at one point reaching 33%. Not the best hill in daylight and the dry, but at night, in the wet, it would have been near impossible so I chose to skip this one for safety. (Andy had been trying to call me to tell me not to do the last 3 hills as he felt conditions were too bad). Earlier in the week I had been to see World Kick Boxing champion ‘Kash the Flash’ Gill giving a talk at South and City College Birmingham. He spoke about having desire and discipline to succeed, how you need to understand it takes hard work to get where you want to be, you won’t always suceed first time. Desire is more important than skill, if you have skill but no desire, when you fail you will give up – with desire to suceed you learn and try again. With that in mind I’ve learnt by my mistake, I need to start earlier to finish in daylight – Next time I will go up Windwood Heath Road.
The only bonus of the route is a nice 3 mile downhill section into Bromsgrove at the end, but by the time I got there I didn’t feel like a coffee having been out in the wind and rain for 4 hours. I left Andy to his beer to get home and clean my bike down for the next ride. Andy said doing the last 3 hills was ‘stupid’ and I’d have to learn to put safety first on some rides, but added that he had no worries now about my mental approach. “If you are willing to continue to ride hills in the dark, wind and rain in training,” he said, “On those tough mountain days in France you’ll have the mental strength to keep going”.
That’s easy for him to say, I on the other hand am not so sure – Stage 12 to Alp D’Huez is DOUBLE the distance at 100 miles and DOUBLE the climbing at 11,000 ft and it’s not the only day we will face statistics like that on The Tour.
Days like World Cancer Day are so important to drive us forward, it gives us the time to remember those, like Simon, who were unable to win their fight; Shows how much Cancer surviviours like Geoff, having been through the dark times, now give back by raising funds to help others; It gives the opportunity to thank charities like Cure Leukaemia who do so much to help cancer suffers and continue to drive inovation and research.