When we left the Alps a week ago, our next stage to St-Étienne, in the Loire Valley, felt deflated. After days climbing or concentrating on descents it was a flat stage with only a couple of climbs so nothing to get excited about. Although as it turned out there were some wonderful views as we rode down the Valley to Grenoble and then on the flat land towards Leon, with the wonderous mountains behind us. Today however, despite completing our last Mountain stage yesterday, the atmosphere was different, we were excited heading north towards Paris, only today and tomorrow’s stages to complete before we get to cycle around the streets of the Capital of France and the infamous finish straight of the Champs-Élysées.

We rode as a group, the Pyrenees gradually fading in to the distance behind us. The Pyrennes were so beautiful to ride through, green all around us, the gradients were tougher and the descents more technical, but everywhere you looked the view was fantastic. Today the views were just as good but with a different perspective, back amongst the fields of crops, sunflowers and sweetcorn, riding through small French villages and towns, all of which had decorated the verges with Tour De France themed Flags and bikes ready for the Tour to reach them next week.

I’m not saying today was easy, it was hot and a slight headwind all the way, but when I uploaded my Strava, on every segment, except for 6, I was in the top 10 women riders to have ever ridden the segment, on 9 segments I got the Crown – The fastest woman. This was down to the group not me, over the last 3 weeks we have all become better cyclists and got to know how we each ride so when we get the chance we can ride like the best of the best. Our Ride leaders have helped us along the way, there to give us encouragement when we need it, push us a little harder when they knew we could do more, and making sure we took it easy when they could see we were pushing it too hard, Hayden, Steve, Peter and Ride Director Andy are the unsung hero’s of the ride, whilst all of our friends send messages of support to us and the camera crews concentrate their efforts on promoting us and Cure Leukaemia, they are riding every mile with us, but have the added pressure of keeping us safe and they have done that, unlike us, with a group of family and friends constantly sending messages of support, we all know that we could not have done any of this without them.

That could also be said about our support team from ISE who since we arrived in France have provided lead cars and motorcycle outriders. They were out again today as we came to roundabouts or junctions closing the road so we could ride through un hindered. Either as a group or if we were on our own, on a climb or a descent, they have been ever present to make sure we are safe. Today as a group I think there job was a little easier, every so often a motorbike would zoom past us, and the black ISE car with its flashing lights on top leading the way for us, at the next junction the fluorescent jacketed rider would be stood there stopping the traffic waving us through, and the van behind us with more flashing lights, warning the drivers coming up behind of our presence. In the mountains there job was much harder, having to spread themselves across many miles to make sure every rider, from the fastest to slowest was protected and given the same treatment at each junction. There English was as good as my French, which is not much, but with smiles and waves, showing me pictures they had taken on their phones, they have been brilliant.

Our support team were out again today, at strategic points to make sure we had enough water, which in the heat was so important, and at lunch time they would prepare wraps, pasta, salads, cake all carefully thought out to make sure it would give us energy and replace the lost salts and fluids from the miles we have just completed. But it was not only that, our washing, any little bits we may need from a supermarket, massages and mechanical support – which I needed again last night to check out my gears which weren’t quite right when I got to the top of the Hautacam. Making sure we could concentrate on the ride they have been ever present taking away all the stresses we might have, I have enjoyed the ride so much more because of their help and support.

I must not forget the Camera Crew either, with there motorcycle riders, who scared us by popping up when you least expect them, stuck a camera in my face at the end of the toughest mountain rides, snuck up behind me to take pictures when I didn’t know they were there. Every so often I would hear the buzz of the drone above, knowing that I would be soon seeing another magnificent image. Life is about the memories you make and everyone of those pictures will be something to look back on in the years to come, pictures to show Finley to inspire him in life, picture to remind me of what a fantastic time I have had and the friendships I have made. As the days have zipped by, to have those memories will be very special for me.

Riding north today, down hill to start then some lumps, a couple of Category 4 climbs, it was a good opportunity to think about all the help Cure Leukaemia have provided us on our journey, as we joined up in Copenhagen on the first stage, eager to get going but nervous about the ride ahead, I knew there would be support, but I didn’t appreciate how much there would be. I am riding towards Paris having completed 19 of the 21 stages now, I have turned the pedals on each mile but only because of team work, on and off the bike.

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