Four unforgettable moments

Things can’t always be perfect!

An unforgettable moment : CCC Appennini 2017, stage 5.

Sometimes when the road is blocked to cars, cyclists can get through. Sometimes if we can’t get through I know that we will not be able to get to our hotel on our bikes : four-wheel transport will be the only way. Such was the case on this day. I had to take a chance. And so began the most impressive ‘adventure” I have ever taken CCC riders through. We all finished the stage safely, if a little later than scheduled, after having to walk around a 6 metre-high wall of tree-trunk debris following a catastrophic avalanche several months before. It took most of us 45 minutes of walking/climbing through woods, bike on back! This is an honest confession, of which I am still not that proud, and of course with hindsight I should have known about this obstacle beforehand. I have gotten wiser, I think/hope since! Even with the best planning though, as an organiser, I am always ready to try and deal in the best, and above all the safest, way, with The Unexpected.

An unforgettable moment : CCC Northern Alps 2016, stage 10.

Sometimes it’s not all about the bike. Well not directly, anyway. One of the best bits of bike riding is, as we know, being able to eat so much and not feel guilty about it. We used to put on roadside banquets for CCC riders, who then alas found it quite hard to get back on the bike and spent the next two hours climbing a “mountain of digestion”, as well as the tarmac kind! The Yawning Hour, we used to call it.

But when you know that it’s all pretty much downhill to the end of the event, and you have just been pointed to a little wood cabin in the middle of an endless forest, and been told that this is where we eat, chances are it will be good. Tartiflette was the menu. Just about the #1 menu of choice for a cyclist, after Italian pasta, maybe! But here there was no electricity inside the gloomy cabin; no gas. Only a grumpy French cook who was deep into SLOW Food with his wood-fired oven and in no mood to be ‘advised’ by tourists about maybe trying to hurry things up just a little. With head-torch strapped onto his forehead semi-covered by long, sweaty hair, he nevertheless finally produced three huge trays of the Very Best Tartiflette I, and most of the group, had ever tasted. Despite taking more than 45mins for it to arrive on our table, the setting ( in the very sunny garden) and the great company, very conscious that this was pretty much the Last Lunch together, meant that this was one “Feed Stop” none of us will ever forget!!

An unforgettable moment : CCC Dolomites 2014, stage 2.

Getting into the “CCC scale” of things takes a few days for most. My role on these first days often centres around reassuring riders that they have not come to the wrong party! Worrying new body-sensations; new eating habits, both in content and timing; and a disturbed sleeping pattern all work way on the mind of the rider, chipping at any self-confidance he/she might have started with!

So when I can see that I will not be bringing in the last riders before daylight deserts us, I worry more for the riders morale than for anything else. I actually enjoy the adventure of coming in in the dark, even though I am thinking about all I have to do once at the hotel and all the time I will NOT have to do that! I am also especially thankful to my staff at these moment for their professionalism and voted attitude to the event.

In the photo below I had just warned the riders ( Chris Shelton, far left, has since come back countless times to these events!) of the long descent to follow, the disappearing daylight and the rather long climb still to come. This incredible vista, our first, of the Dolomites, was the perfect backdrop for this rather daunting revelation to ‘my’ riders : this was going to be a late finish. “You have the ability to finish this stage, you just got to find that within you( The mountains will help you, fear not!)” We all finished, of course!

An unforgettable moment : CCC West Pyrenees 2017, stage 6.

Another “adventure” moment….On the Queen Stage, just when things didn’t need to be any harder than the well+ 6,000ms to climb. It was raining,in fact it was trying to snow and eventually did snow when we had thankfully reached our beds. Morale was not the best in the peloton of nail-hardy CCC riders. It’s a trap I have fallen into before : the risk of wanting to take roads that not even the Michelin mappers are that fussed about including on a map, and where Google goggle-eye for sure doesn’t dare go. Trouble is, they are often the BEST ones to ride! I’d plotted what I thought was the ‘right’ road, which was a remote enough way to climb the Col de Beyrede, and so that’s the line we all had on our little screens. I was with three other riders when our line forked left just where I was expecting it to fork right….I knew there were quite a few riders ahead. And no one was coming back. Tarmac quit us almost immediately. It got steep. It rained even harder. Back wheels span if you pushed too hard. Gravel was loose in places. It stayed steep. There were few bends. Straight up. For nearly 10kms. At 10% and more. Without tarmac. We were being filmed and amazingly, thanks to the audacity of the film crew, they took this road too and got some great shots of us. I loved it, but most didn’t. More reason to hate me. Then to forgive me. Then to love me another day. With time! Some did say “best climb of the event” though. We took the tarmac version in 2018. I just didn’t dare throw this one at them again!