Here is the latest update from the riders:
Day 9: Oulx to Annecy 140km
After yesterday afternoon's heroic slog up to Oulx high in the Alps, today has essentially been a long downhill run to Annecy in France, with one "collette" of 960m to surmount on the way - "collette" in French means "little hill" - it wasn't! There is an old curse "I wish you death by a thousand cuts". We now understand it is actually referring to the hairpins or switchbacks cut into the mountains we have been cycling up. The last part of the ride was along a beautiful cycle path by the side of lake Annecy, the only problem being that our "aggressive" young cyclists, fired up by their hill conquering climbs through Italy, were determined to drive all other traffic off the route - roller bladers, children on stabilisers and trikes and young mothers with prams (not true of course, but I am sure some of them were thinking of it). Needless to say both the riders and the "resters" went for a swim in the lake - it was very fresh, some might even say cold, but delightful; we all finally managed to achieve a normal body temperature for the first time in 10 days. Andy Coles and his family took a break from their holiday to meet us at our picnic lunch stop - their support was much appreciated by everyone.
So we have now left Italy behind and are well into France. Memories of Italy include:
- lots of real hills climbed in ridiculous heat
- hitting the proverbial wall on a number of occasions
- Tanmay hitting an actual wall several times (and nearly a bus)
- amazing ice cream (sorry to keep on going on about it, but it was that good)
- leathery old cyclists "promenading" up and down the flat coast around Viareggio dressed in tight see through Lycra shorts (old men in thongs - yuk!)
Finally, thanks to Mike, I am back on my own bike; I am in cyclists' heaven again (and my aches and pains are less). I owe Mike a lifetime of favours for getting it to a cycle shop for me.
A few ride facts:
- estimated calories we will burn on the ride: 630,000, equivalent to 12,600 Jaffa cakes
- estimated water consumption 1,260 litres or approaching 10,000 cups of KPMG machine coffee
- this has been the hottest period in Italy for fifty years with average daytime temperatures of well over 40 degrees centigrade (105 Fahrenheit)
- ice cream consumption: unmeasured, but clearly a world record (unofficial)
- a total of approximately 25 million wheel revolutions for all the bicycle wheels involved in the ride over the course of the ride
Some key things they have learned:-it's possible to drink 6 lts of water and cycle for 6 hours without the need for a loo stop
- snickers bars are not a sensible fuel to keep in your cycle pocket in temperatures above 35 degrees.
- never believe an Italian who tells you the left hand route is less hilly
- it is pOssible to hit a metal speed barrier at 15 miles an hour without injury but not recommended
-Cycling up hill is easier if your brake isn't stuck on your back wheel
-Garmins European satnav package doesn't include Greece (are they ahead of the times?).
-ice cream makes an idea fuel regardless of flavour
-Italian and Greek police take different views to cyclists. The Greeks will make you get off your bike and walk through the tunnels. The Italians will give you a police escort.
-chamois cream is essential to avoid saddle sores.
Day 6: Perugia to Lucca (240km)
The morning riders have discovered 'GACK'. GACK is an inflight energy/carbohydrate powder that tastes awful but seems to give you that extra 10% on the final killer hills of the day. From one team member having a small stash, the rest of the group has now procured kilos of the stuff and morale has soared. The "Gack fuelled" group motored out of Perugia and dropped 30kms before arriving at a lake on the lookout for Cliff, our support vehicle driver. Cliff had found a delightful spot in "the town" but unfortunately it turned out to be 32kms away. We did find a cafe which was perfect, apart from a hard to spot bicycle trap that took out three of the group. After a few caffeine boosting lattes and the excitement of watching an assortment of other early morning cyclists meet their doom on the bicycle trap, an epic 130km journey to Lucca commenced. Due to the blistering pace and the heat, a number of bike tyres finally gave up and exploded en route (nothing to do with running them at too high pressure of course), but we pulled into Siena (at the top of a very steep hill!) to hand over the baton to the afternoon crew, just in time to see Andy Murray not quite getting over the line. Bad luck Andy - our advice is "try some Gack"!
The second group of afternoon riders started their ride from Siena after a sandwich lunch in the Piazza Di Campo. We contemplated a quick re-run of the Palio on bicycles, rather than horses, but decided we could not afford any more run ins with the carabinieri - they might start to recognise us. 20km in to the ride one of the team again had a "heat attack" dealt with by pouring ice cold water over them, thanks to some kind residents. The heat and hills combination on this ride really are a killer. We then pushed on to San Gimigniano with the aim of going to the claimed "Best ice cream shop in the world" - Oliver was keen to get one rivalling the height of one of the old towers in San Gimigniano (known as the first Skyscrapers in the World). We did not manage the tower, but the ice cream was incredible (water melon, melon and grapefruit) and Tan had a stunning iced coffee (with ice cream in it of course). By now with the late start, heat delays and "carb" stop we were running for a late finish into Lucca so we had to light up again; fortunately we were now on the flat and got a "train" running in the group which even HTC Columbia would have been proud of and got to the hotel just before 10pm. I am still riding the "Boris alike" spare bike and following my Quixotic quest for a bike shop to repair my Titanium charger. I cannot claim to have fallen in love with the spare bike, but when one goes through tough times one does start to build a certain affinity with it. We have passed loads of bike shops but just never have the time to stop. Our challenges are mounting: navigation, heat, hills, time and sleep!
Day 7: Lucca to Ovada (260km)
Swap over day when the afternoon and morning rides switch over to try and balance the heat. This meant the morning ride was done by the group who came in late the night before - a very tired start. As well as the heat, we are now finding just getting enough rest is challenging. We quickly hit our first hill, fortunately still in the cool. We then covered a very quick 60km to reach the Mediterranean coast at last and a stop at Paradise Cafe - Oliver declared Putney to be more like Paradise, as the food is better! Chat on the road generally consists of talking about what food we have just had or might soon have, but one member of the team (no names mentioned) is already looking forward to the full English breakfast on the ferry a week from now. Oliver and i also discussed our next challenge; I suggested the Arctic, but we quickly realised that something more in keeping with our ability is appropriate. Perhaps a two day expedition up Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh? With the heat mounting we hit some serious hills in the early afternoon and as this was a long day we again started running very late, so the afternoon ride did not get off until 3.15pm. We had a picnic lunch on the sea front much to the consternation of a local policeman (again!) who told us it was against civic regulations to picnic; he was very sympathetic though (probably because he was riding a bike as well) and having told us he clearly felt he had done his duty and cycled off to leave us in peace. Found a bike shop in Ovada - unfortunately it was closed but it looks very good and so hopefully I can get my bike repaired tomorrow. Meandrew has also learnt that "Strada Panamorica" means a route which is steeper, longer and not as well surfaced as the alternative. With all the hills and improved navigation we are going to change his name to Goldy (Grand Old Duke of York) - he might not have 10,000 men but the fighting spirit of the group is the equivalent as we battle our ongoing challenges (heat, hills, time, sleep, navigation and now mechanical break downs as the bikes begin to suffer from being pushed to the extreme).
From the off on Day 7 Cliff was having van troubles and had to be rescued by the Italian AA. The afternoon riders and their minibus were therefore backup support for the morning riders on the road and eventually caught them up only 6 hours into the ride. Cliff made a reappearance with a revitalised van, and was lucky to escape a road rage incident from an "under-gacked" Mike. The afternoon group set off for a scenic (and hilly) ride along the coast to Genoa. After being slowed by the Genoan rush hour, we then hit our K2 (we've nearly conquered all the World's highest peaks now) followed by a 20km descent hitting a top speed of just under 80kmph.
We are now half way through our challenge and all of us have cycled well over 700km, with some brave souls having done even more. We have been riding 6 hours at a time in 40 degree heat and have aches & pains a plenty in all sorts of places and more to come. We did all realise this would be a challenge, but I think we have all genuinely underestimated just how difficult it would be. If you have not yet shown your supporting in sponsoring us, it would be hugely morale boosting.
Day 8: Ovada to Oulx 207km
Last night was not the best hotel we've had - all sweaty truckers, no air con and lots of noise, but some of us are so tired we can now sleep anywhere. Meandrew is back on form and took us five times around the roundabout outside the hotel before we set off - he said it was a warm up, but we think he was looking for the way. We then very quickly hit a nasty hill with a killer gradient, which soon then became a gravelled track. Plenty of wheel spin and flints flying and inevitably some damaged tyres, though Oliver's only came to light after the fast hairpin decent - lucky to avoid a blow out. We had a chat with a wizened old Italian local (all suntan and shorts) who suggested we needed to go one route ("up and down, great for cycling"), until we explained the total of our trip and he then suggested the other route ("plano" - flat); it still ended in a high gradient, gravel track (don't they build proper roads in Italy?!). Heat was starting to cut in and slow us down on the remaining hills, and when we got to the next stop a nameless individual found out he had ridden the last 25km with his brake on (I thought he was slow!). I was also met with news that the other group had managed to get my bike fixed - cannot wait to try it out again tomorrow, goodbye "Boris". The last part of the morning ride was another high speed "train" which really upped the pace to a steady 35kph and got us to the lunch stop on time just before 1pm.
The afternoon ride was a drag through Turin with the traffic and then a long steady climb into the Alps for the night's stop in Ovada. This is the first day for a while we have been more or less on schedule. We note that the Tour de France has a rest day today - we started at the same time, but we don't have rest days on this challenge! To misquote Martin Sheen "Rest days are for wimps" (can I have a rest day, please!). Sadly today we lose the contingent riding with us through Italy (Stefano "the Valiant Italian", Tanmay - what can I say, other than we will miss him and everything that goes with him greatly, and Max). We have been joined by Josie for the rest of the trip to London - she does not know what she has let herself in for yet.
Day 4 - Petacciato to Ascoli Piceno (203km 2,633m vertical climbing). Alleluia! I am finally back on my own saddle. A component broke two days ago, so I have been riding on a borrowed saddle; it's not the same, so a bit sore! It's like being back in my favourite armchair. The day's first group of riders came in to lunch looking like they had finally had to do a bit of hard work, though claims of having just cycled up the face of the Eiger were greeted with some scepticism, (especially as they managed to fit in yet another swim stop, just to cool off of course!). This set us back a bit on group two's start time. True to form Meandrew led us out on a short (possibly unneccessary??) climb, followed by an immediate descent of the worst I have ever been down - the bike felt like it would cartwheel over the top of my head. We are now in the Appenines and having to ride some proper hills (mountains?!) - this really does feel like a serious challenge. One of the morning group who had valiantly decided to try and ride the whole day had to abandon, which delayed us further. We then hit a road closure and had to divert using a white, gravelled mountain track (our very own taste of the Strada Bianchi) which was impossible to ride all the way due to wheelspin on the steep ascents and fine gravel and white dust - a couple of us had small tumbles and the one hybrid rider in the group developed "hybrid hatred" amongst the core "roadies" as he managed to ride the whole way! As a consequence of these delays we ended up not arriving at our destination until 10.30pm. This made for a very exciting finish as it was a hairpin descent into Ascoli where we only had limited lights between us. The van made a valiant effort to light the way for us from behind with his lights on full beam, though Oliver at the back was convinced he was in a scene from "Duel" as the van was so close on his rear wheel. An experience not to be repeated, if possible. No time for ice creams! We have been exciting the locals on our passage through Umbria - one bar where the clientele consisted of a hugely overweight teenager, a dwarf and bunch of wizened old peasants were fired up for our arrival by the van driver and were hugely disappointed when we flew past at high speed rather than stopping. The riders were disappointed that no one was holding out a cold beer to grab as we passed in true Tour de France style.
Day 5 -Ascoli Piceno to Perugia (170km 3,820m climb). A slightly shorter day to cope with all the climbing. The morning group set us up well for the day with a 15km 1,000m climb. It was a valiant effort, even if the road surface was marble smooth and the gradient steady (you can tell I am not riding in that group!). They had another run in with the Carabinieri who were not happy about them riding through a tunnel and made them walk. We went supermarket shopping in Norcia where Anneli nearly caused a riot by buying all their bread despite the queue of locals behind her, though as usual charmed her way through it all (I've left out all the parking tickets we have avoided due to her persuasive skills). We also took all their bananas, any fans of banana sandwiches in Norcia would have had a sorry weekend. Just before the lunch changeover group one hit a few mechanical issues so further delays for the group two ride. Even more delays when my gear cable broke and the mechanical whizzes could not fix it. As it is unfixable i am now riding a borrowed bike; it's one up from a Boris Bike but without the snazzy paint job - at least I have been able to transfer my saddle to it, but I now feel like Don Quixote on a quest for a bike shop Who may be able to fix my bike. Not surprisingly Meandrew again made sure in the first two kilometres of our ride, one and a half of them were done In a circle ending up on a roadwork site where despite his best persuasive powers with the bulldozer driver, he would not let us through (we learnt the Italian phrase for "it's more than my job's worth mate!"). We then had an afternoon of rolling Tuscan hills - a hard, but steady pace, only impeded by buses suddenly stopping in front of us with no warning and local drivers deciding it will be easier to turn right through the middle of a group of cyclists, rather than behind us. We also had another puncture which gave Cliff (van driver) the opportunity to lead us in a roadside Pilates stretching session, much to the amusement of the residents of the house we had stopped outside. Cliff is also known as Peter for his likeness to Peter Stringfellow or Susan, due to his roadside "vending" skills. When we got to Perugia it was to find that the hotel had expected us the night before; this gave Meandrew the opportunity to give us another scenic 5km tour to find the alternative which had been booked for us.
In July 2012, a very special bike challenge will be taking place in aid of KPMG’s People Charity Barnardo’s. An intrepid group of cyclists will be setting out with their best pedal forward on the KPMG Olympia to London bike ride.
This challenge is not for the faint hearted with participants having to cycle at least 150 km a day. The bike ride is split into 4 legs with some KPMG staff doing the full expedition and cycling all the way from Greece to London (1500 miles in total!); others will be doing a half a leg from Bari-Turin or Turin to London, or joining the grand finale from Paris to London.
Participants will be pushing themselves to the max in order to raise money for Barnardo’s. Please support them by making a donation and help to support disadvantaged children and young people across the UK.
Barnardo’s works with over 180,000 children, young people and their families, each year. We run 800 community projects across the UK, with services including counselling for children who have been abused, fostering and adoption, vocational training and support work with disability and exclusion groups. Here are a few examples of how your donation will make a difference:
£5 - would buy a kettle for a Mum and baby living in bed and breakfast accommodation so she can heat baby food properly
£10 - will pay for an emergency wash and personal care kit for a young person who is homeless.
£15 - could help provide a bus fare to get to Barnardo’s, and then a first meal, to a young girl escaping sexual exploitation
£25- pays for 2 hours of play for a terminally ill child
£30 - will light up the world for an autistic child. This gift provides lights for a multi-sensory room, where disabled and autistic children can enjoy stimulating sound, touch & light experiences
£50 - pays for a day out at a place like the zoo for a young carer and their friend.
£100 – provides two frightened or abused children with a safe roof over their heads for two weeks.
Thanks for taking the time to visit my JustGiving page.
Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity and make sure Gift Aid is reclaimed on every eligible donation by a UK taxpayer. So it’s the most efficient way to donate - I raise more, whilst saving time and cutting costs for the charity.
So please dig deep and donate now.