When I set out to raise a few pounds for Caring Matters Now with a cycling holiday in the Alps, I didn’t know what to expect. Yes, I knew it would be very hard and yes, I knew that the climbing would be long and sustained, but I hadn’t realised how spectacular the alpine scenery would be, or how hard even the downhill sections would be.
My grandson, Max, has CMN, so when I booked to go on this cycling holiday that takes in some of the most famous Tour de France mountain cols, it made lots of sense to use it to also help raise funds for the charity.
We started the ride in Cuneo, in Italy and over the course of the next six days we rode an average of 43 miles a day, before finishing on the summit of Alpe d’Huez, one of the most famous and iconic Tour climbs there is.
Before getting there, we rode over the summits of the Col de la Lombarde, Col de la Bonette, which at 8,907 feet is the highest road in Europe, the Col de Vars, the Col de I’zoard, the Col de Lautaret, the Col du Galibier, and the Col de la Telegraphe. On the last day we rode the wonderful Col de la Croix de Fer, which entailed riding a 20 mile climb from the hotel door to the summit. Then, after a long descent, including a short climb, followed that with the iconic ‘21 bends’ of Alpe d’Huez. This last climb was by far the steepest of the week, which, while averaging a 10% gradient over its 8 mile length, there were ramps of 13% along the way and if that wasn’t hard enough, the sun was beating down all afternoon.
To arrive at the Tour de France finishing line on the summit after a full week of cycling which totalled around 260 miles, with 37,000 feet of climbing, was an amazing achieving, particularly as I was doing this in celebration of my 60th birthday. Some people of my age might settle for the beach!
Obviously the uphill sections were hard and sustained and apart from one or two rests to take on drinks and food, I did manage to ride every last inch of every climb, which is something I am really proud of. But the downhill sections were the real surprise. Going downhill in the Alps you can quickly get up to speeds of over 40 miles an hour without too much trouble, but the concentration required to negotiate the dozens of switchback bends, oncoming traffic and cyclists coming up, and generally making sure that I did not go over the edge and take the ‘quick way’ into the valley, was very tiring in itself!
What a ride and what a brilliant way to raise money for research into CMN. I hope that you like the pictures.
My ride in numbers:
37,000 – The number of feet ridden uphill
8,907 – Height of the Col de la Bonette in feet, the highest road in Europe
780 – Approximate number of pounds raised for Caring Matters Now
260 – The total mileage of the ride
119 – The number of minutes to ride to the summit of Alpe d’Huez
8 – Number of Tour de France cols climbed
0 – Punctures or crashes