It wasn’t long after arriving in Nice in July 2013 that we were planning the next ride. We’d organised a group of 25 cyclists and got them from Thonon on the shores of Lake Geneva to Nice, via the infamous Route des Grandes Alpes. Between us, we’d raised more than £31,000, made new friends, developed outrageous chafing and lost many pounds but had had a fantastic experience through stunning scenery. It just had to be repeated.
So, here we are, coming up for 3 years later and we’re in the final months before we set off again. So far, we have 26 riders confirmed, a number that’s likely to rise, with a common goal – to ride from Chamonix to Venice and raise funds for our now-established charity, KD-UK. This time, it’s harder without doubt – longer, steeper and a bigger jump into the unknown. Over 1,000 kms and more than 20,000 metres of climbing, just on the main ascents. Some of the days are monsters, more than 170 kms with well over 3,000 metres of climbing, taking us through the Swiss and Italian Alps, through the Dolomites and onto Venice.
Why Chamonix to Venice? We’d considered the Pyrenees, Bordeaux to Barcelona, but the logistics of getting to and from weren’t ideal. Then we saw that the Haute Route sportive had introduced an option from Venice to Geneva, better for us with many of the riders living in Chamonix. Some blatant plagiarism with a small modification of the route and Chamonix to Venice was born. It wasn’t until we looked closer into the detail though that we realised this is step beyond the Route des Grandes Alpes.
Now, I’m no athlete. Those that know me can testify to that (or just look at me in lycra…). The body of a knitting needle shoved through an orange, as someone once said. I do love cycling, but won’t ever claim to be any good at it. I’ve got the mental strength of a jelly and the physical endurance of, erm, somebody without much physical endurance. The ticker’s had a few issues recently and I’ve found out that I have some sort of blood sugar paradox. I’ll be 46 when we set off from Chamonix. Or put it another way, a grumpy old man with a growing list of excuses why this is a massive challenge.
As of January 2016, I was 15 stone 4 (97.3 kgs). Actually, a bit more, but when you cut out the Christmas lagers and kebab chasers, that’s what I was. Before the Festive period, I had started a bit of turbo training (my bike fixed on a magnetic resistance thing) and swimming, but it had all gone to pot.
You can probably guess that road cycling in Chamonix during the winter is “limited”. However, we have the mountains so the training began, mostly through ski-touring (walking uphill on skis with “skins” stuck to the base). I’ve been leaving the house at 06h00 to tour up the slopes at les Houches, in the pitch black with a head-torch, reaching the top in daylight. Payback is getting the first descent back to the car park, sometimes in unbashed fresh powder, making it all worthwhile. The only other form of exercise has been sitting on the turbo again, an hour or so at a time, watching films and some of my old Metallica and Megadeth gigs on DVD…
So, with just over 4 months to go to the ride, I am down to 14 stone dead, having lost 18 lbs, just over 8 kgs. There’s a way to go but, for the first time, I’ve been able to get out onto the road. Believe me, the turbo is no substitute and the relatively flat ride from Servoz to Cluses and back was a real struggle. The next few months are going to have to involve as much time out on the road I can spare, with plenty of climbing when the cols are open. It all culminates in the Etape du Tour on the 10th July, which a few of the riders are doing, an epic route across 4 major cols, Mégève to Morzine. It will be a real test before the ride itself, I hope you will follow my progress and that of the other riders until then.