Well it's all over, I made it and I'm still very much in one piece. It was an amazing, memorable and emotional day that I'll never forget. All the piccies can be seen here:
I ended up doing 340kms, ride time just over 14 hours, average speed 24km/h, for all you analytical types you can get all the intimate details of my ride including heart rates, temperature, altitudes, on these links:
Thankyou so much to everyone who made this day so achievable;
Martin and Bernie in the support vehicle, you guys were just awesome and made this thing possible, thanks for dealing with my wet socks etc and for the great piccies. (keep scrolling down to see Bernie's account of the day)
Thanks to Derek, Carolyn and Kevin for helping to 'drag' me home in the last couple of hours, I really needed you!! Carolyn must get extra thanks for all her support in my training, maginificent sandwiches and letting me fulfill my goals!
Thanks to the fans on the way including the whole Harding family as well as the waitress in Switzerland who wanted my autograph!!!
Thankyou Deirdre for giving my girls, Lotti and Matilda, such a great day and helping them to be part of the adventure.
Thankyou to the all those of you who welcomed me home at the end, it was a lovely surprise.
Finally, a big thankyou to all of you who generously donated dosh, I'm warning you now that I've already got bigger and better plans for next year so I will be hassling you again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was expecting to have to write a lengthy report about the ride but Bernie in the support vehicle has done it for me! Here is Bernie's version of events:
I thought I would just drop you an email to let your readers know just how difficult your ride yesterday really was.
For anybody that lives near the French Alps, you would have woken up to what can only be described as awful weather!!!!
At 0300 you set off from Bellentre and just about the moment you put your bum on the saddle it started to rain. Martin and I drove behind you in total darkness towards the Col Petit St Bernard, just after La Rosiere the fog came down. The fog was a real ‘pea-souper’, it was cold and damp and when you finally arrived at the Col at 0515 on schedule the temperature was 3C and very unpleasant to say the least. A quick stop a few additions of clothing for the descent into La Thuile and it was off again.
The fog cleared soon after the start of the descent and one was able to take in some of the views, although at the speed you were going down the mountain I’m not sure what you saw. One brief glimpse of Mt Blanc as we made our way into Pre St Didier was actually the only time we saw the mountain all day.
A quick stop outside Aosta for coffee and it was time for the next slog up to the Col Grand St Bernard. About halfway up a strong head wind began to blow the temperature began to drop and than the drizzle and rain began. About 2 kilometres from the top the mist rolled in, the rain was persistent and then it began to snow. You finally arrived at the top, again on schedule, the temperature was 1C, it was windy, snowing and very cold.
Again after another quick cup of coffee and a change of clothing you were ready for the descent into Martigny. As Martin & I got back into the very warm car I can only imagine your thoughts as you braved the elements once again. Again on the descent the fog lifted but the rain persisted and it must have been a wet and miserable time for the hour or so it took you to complete.
At the roundabout just outside Martigny it was another stop to change into dry clothing, have sandwich and try and get ready for the next ascent. It was a great moment when you said that we had just completed the stage of last year's Tour de France from Martigny to Bourg St Maurice in reverse. At this time you had just completed about half of the ride and you were looking up at the steep ascent to the Col de la Forclaz.
The rain eased off for most of the assent but it’s a long old slog up there at the best of times, never mind the fact that you had already completed 170 kilometres. At the top, once again on schedule, another quick stop for coffee and off again towards the Col des Montets and this was when the rain really started. By the time you got to Chamonix it was throwing it down and it was really miserable to be driving in it never mind riding a bike.
It was an awful detour around the main road from Chamonix through all these little villages with unexpected assents and descents on narrow and very badly damaged roads. Eventually we negotiated our down to La Fayet. Sorry about the 2 or 3 wrong turnings!!!
Due to the detour you were slightly behind schedule as you faced the final climb to St Gervais and Megeve. It must have been hard with the rain starting again and not really stopping till near Ugine. The scheduled stop in Megeve you decided to cancel as you were really pumped up and wanted to get back on schedule and complete the ride. Not sure about that Kryptonite in your blood though.
It must have been a big boost for you when you met up with Carolyn & Derek to ride with back home, and it must have been a huge relief and surprise when you did make it back to Bellentre at 1930.
I will leave you to come up with the statistics of the ride. But for the record the temperature we recorded in the car were from 1C to a very brief tropical 14C, but the majority of the ride was at an average of 5C to 8C and with the wind chill factor it was even lower.
I have already donated to the charity but I am going to donate some more today, and hope all your readers will also donate generously. Because your determination and mental toughness to complete such a gruelling ride in such adverse weather deserves it.
Mate, Ali will have been looking down and would have been proud of you.
Well done John and I was proud to be of assistance.
Update 17th June
A MASSIVE THANKYOU to all of you who have supported me in this crazy thing. I'm resigned to the fact that I'll get wet on saturday but it won't dampen my resolve!! I'm eating and sleeping lots this week and I'm as prepared as I can be. My next update will be to let you know how I got on. Never too late to donate, cheers, John.
Update 15th June
Not long to go now, weather forecast for Saturday not looking great but we're sticking to the Saturday plan. Start and Finish will be at the Cafe du Commerce in the metropolis of Bellentre. Very exciting to see the £2k mark passed, must dash, bit more training to be done!!
Update 9th June
Click on 'photos' and you'll see my schedule for any of you that are in this part of the world and are able to join me. Bernie Simpson will be the 'chief of communications' in the support vehicle. You can ring him on 0680202911 to find out exactly where we are on the day. Weather conditions and how I'm feeling could change these times by an hour or two.
Update 8th June
Revised date for the ride is SATURDAY 19TH JUNE. A bad weather forecast is the only thing that could change this. I'll be starting at 3am from my home village, Bellentre, close to Bourg St Maurice. I'll be doing my best to finish by 8pm (ish!!!!!). I'm sure there will be a bit of a get together at the end, will keep you posted as to where you can join us for a beer. Training is still going well, ready as I'll ever be!
Update 31st May
Have ridden 225 kms the other day, with 4000m of climbing and felt good, if a little sore. That's more or less two thirds of what I'll have to do in just 17 days time. Feeling confident and really looking forward to the day, especially the banter with Bernie and Martin in the support car. Just found out that the road from Flumet to Ugine will be closed, detour will put a few more kms and metres on the challenge, but what's another hill on top of what I've undertaken!!
Update 12th May
Training going really well, all on schedule. Need to get a couple of 200km+ rides in in the next few weeks to keep everything on track. Provisional date for the ride is Thursday 17th June. This could change a couple of days either way due to weather conditions. For those of you based in France I would love you to come and join me for the last few hours! From Megève to home I'm expecting to be very tired and much slower than my normal speeds!! Any company from that point on is going to help me enormously as my body starts to give up! Let me know if you'd like to join in and I'll give you more details.
In June this year I will be attempting to ride my bike around Mont Blanc, no big deal you might think, but here are the details:
I'll be starting in Bourg St Maurice, France, travelling over the Col du Petit St Bernard into Italy, down to Aosta, over the Col du Grand St Bernard, down to Martigny in Switzerland, over the Col de Forclaz, back into France over the Col des Montets, through Chamonix, onwards and upwards to Megeve, Ugine, Albertville, Moutiers and eventually back to Bourg.
Total distance 330km, over 6000m of climbing and I'M GOING TO DO IT IN A DAY!!!!
To put the ride into context, it's roughly equivalent to 2 mountainous Tour de France stages in one day.
Some of you will know that I compete each year in the Etape du Tour, this challenge will be like doing 2 of those in a day.
I'll set off in the early hours with the headlights of a support vehicle showing me the way, my target is to get back home before nightfall. I'm estimating a ride time of around 15 hours with just brief stops for 'comfort' breaks and a quick stretch. I'll be eating and drinking on the move if Martin Rowe in the support vehicle can keep up with me!
The memory of my good friend Ali Rainback who we lost in 2008 has inspired me to do this ride. He and I had always planned to do something like this together and we were both passionate about finding an appropriate children's charity that would benefit.
I wanted to come up with a big challenge which would well and truly earn any sponsorship money.
Please give generously!!
Lots of updates and information to follow,