One week ago the Tour 21 Team followed the same route as the Tour De France professional teams did today. On the Saturday night as we travelled to Paris I felt the same as Jonas Vingegaard must have felt on his Journey in to Paris – I had done it! I’d achieved what I set out to do, there was just one stage to go, still a hard ride but a ceremonial ride. Tomorrow I wouldn’t have to worry if it would be too long, too hot or too hilly, how much energy would I have to save for the next day, how long the transfer would be to the hotel after the ride, I’d just be riding my bike celebrating our teams achievement.
The ride itself was straight forward, only one hill of concern a 300 meter 18% climb which 8 months ago would have been at my limit and at the limit of my team mates. We comfortably rode to the top and continued through the streets of Paris towards the centre. Then the ultimate for every cyclist, riding up the Champs Elysees up towards the Arc D’Triomphe at the end of the Tour De France. As we rode up to the Arc, the Champs Elysees was being prepared for the final stage for The Tour finale a week later, all the way up we could see the French flags on each side of the road, with one giant flag in the Archway. Our team of lead cars and motorbikes, still with us, marshalled the traffic and cleared the road for us which made it feel even more special. After that we weaved down to the River Seine and across to the Eiffel Tower. A large inflatable banner across the road marked the end of the ride and the start of our celebrations amongst family and friends with hugs, champagne, cheers and smiles from everyone.
On the Saturday night Andy had taken a message from an old friend Debbie who had told a friend of hers about my adventure, and they wanted to make a ‘substantial’ donation, with my total just under £30,000 this was a welcome boost, the one thing I most wanted to achieve on this ride was to hit my fundraising target. It would not be until Tuesday that I found out what that donation was. Enough to smash my target from a lady who had set up a charity called Se7en Signs Of Hope after losing her husband Mike from Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in 2018. Kerry’s gesture summed up my journey of the last 8 months, meeting people who had unfortunately in some way been affected by Leukaemia, but their thoughts were not of their own sadness, but of how they could help others.
My only disappointment was not meeting one of those people on the finish line in Paris. Liv the daughter of one of the team, has Leukaemia, but had come to Paris to welcome us, I had a jersey she had designed to have a photo with her on the finish line. But the cruelty of Leukaemia had struck again, she was in hospital. Thankfully she is ok and I managed a photo, wearing her jersey under the Eiffel tower with her sister.
Wednesday was another surprise, at the Ewe and Lamb a small celebration had been organised for Family and friends from V-Sprint to welcome me back. Geoff came along and is now hoping to enlist another V-Sprint member in to a future team (I think he has a strong candidate already). The question I was asked most was would I do it again, the problem with that would be how could it be bettered, I have had the most wonderful time, shared my experienced with amazing new friends, seen France (and Denmark and Belgium and Switzerland), climbed the high mountain passes in the Alps and Pyrenees and ridden in to Paris. I’ve seen the French countryside, towns, villages and cities and enjoyed every pedal stroke. A second ride could not be better than the journey I have just undertaken. But .. never say never.
For now I will move aside for the 2023 team, they have a hard year of training and fundraising in front of them, and an even harder 3 weeks in France. My message to them is that they will have the experience of a life time, a message that was given to me by previous riders, a message that was absolutely right.
After a week off the bike, some easy rides in the next week, I will be back in training soon. After winning my age group in the Cambridgeshire Grand Fondo, I qualified for the World Grand Fondo Championships in Trento. Today I booked flights and hotel having put in my entry last week. A shorter ride this time, but a ride in which I will need to be at my best, but what better training could I have had than riding the route of the worlds most famous bike race !