My ride today was dedicated to Simon, a wonderful idea from a wonderful friend, Fiona. Simon was always in my mind from the very day I signed up to ride in the Tour 21, and to make sure I rode a day in his name makes everything I have had to do so far worth it 10 times over. Throughout the day I received hugs from my team mates, messages of support and so many donations to Cure Leukaemia with the message ‘For Simon’. He unfortunately didn’t get a second chance, but thanks to Cure Leukaemia many children are now growing up in to teenagers and adults because of their work with TAP nurses, it makes me so proud to think that in Simons name even more children, and families, will get the chance to see the world and life full of experiences.
Our day yesterday started without another rider, out of respect for Niall’s family I didn’t want to say anything straight away, but on a decent on Stage 16 he came round a corner to find a car in his path, taking avoiding action he went off the road and down a bank. We stopped to help him back up but when we got to him it was clear he had broken his shoulder and is currently in hospital. Fortunately broken bones will mend, but as with Geoff, Allan and Luke I cannot find the words to tell him how disappointed I am for him. I know how much this ride means to me, and each of those four have their own special reason for taking part, the chance for them to ride in to Paris being snatched away from them is cruel.
However we ride on, each of those four would be the first to say that the ride is more important than any of us, that £1,000,000 target is the most important thing and we are hopefully inspiring people to donate by what we do. The route today would have 4 Climbs, Andy would be somewhere having flown in last night. The first climb was the Col D’Aspin and I have to say my favourite so far. A steady but steep climb for 12 km. At first there was tree cover, which provided some shade from the sun, but then the trees were gone and we had views across the valley to the other mountains, in front you could trace the road climbing up in to the distance as we got to the top, looking left we could see the road we had just climbed snaking down in to the valley. In the Alps you mainly see grey rock, but here the different shades of green were wonderful, this was certainly the right day to dedicate the ride to Simon, my favourite mountain climb ever.
At the bottom of the climb Andy was on the corner, a quick hello and I was in to the second climb, the Hourquette D’Ancizan. This was my sort of climb, a steady 4-5% throughout most of it and I was in a rhythm spinning my legs taking in the views thinking how lucky I was to be here doing this. Half way up 2 mules were stood in the middle of the road. Stubborn is the right description for them, they wouldn’t move fore us, wouldn’t move for the cars beeping their horns, they just stood there wagging their tails whilst we all weaved past them. The first half of the climb was in a wooded area, the second opened up so we could see the road twisting upwards in front of us, the clanging of bells from the cows grazing amongst wild horses in the open fields next to us. Along way to the top but it was soon over and it was lunch time, the stop was just below the summit so each rider made the 150 meter trip to the top and back down before stopping, in the heat we were all grabbing as much shade as we could.
After Lunch it was a tricky descent with all of us taking it easy with Niall’s accident fresh in our minds, we all took it a little slower than we had been doing elsewhere. A short trio through the valley and we were in to the Col De Val Louron-Azet. This was a hard one, in places like the Col du Granon, especially through the village of Azet, some of the gradients there must have been 25%, a lot of the climb 10-15%. As with previous mountains there were cyclist trying to conquer the gradients but having to stop for a rest, but today more than any other Simon’s mum was not going to stop, the message on the road at the top told everyone why #ForSimon chalked on the road by Andy.
As we stopped for a rest at the top of the 3rd climb of the day we looked over the valley to the mountain opposite and could see the airfield where the stage would finish, only a kilometre or two away. The road however with the descent and climb meant it was 15 kilometres of riding left. We could see the road winding through the valley, dropping 1500 feet, to climb back up 1500 feet on the final climb up to the town of Peyragudes. The Tour stage will finish on the airport runway, but we rode up the road to the town before joining the runway at the top. The opening scene of the James Bond film ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ was filmed here, I think every little boy watches and dreams of being the super spy James Bond, so how fitting to finish my ride for Simon here.