Wednesday, 27 June 2012


Smiddy Pyrenees' Challenge Day 4
East Coast Mediterranean to Ax-Les-Thermes
Distance: 172.6
Ascending: 2634 metres
Descending: 1833 metres
Ride time: 7hrs 20min
Avr speed: 23.4
Temperature: 38 degrees
Max 73.6km/h

The temperature is creeping up each day
Again another day has surpassed the previous day in levels of suffering and enjoyment! After just 4 hours sleep I was up and ready to leave by 5:30 with the rest of the riders to our starting point at Argeles-Sur-Mur, which is a famous beachside holiday destination with a 7km sandy beach. It took us spot on 3 hours driving to get there and by the time we arrived and unpacked the bikes, then dunked our toes into the Mediterranean, it was already 10am and the heat of the sun was horrible and promised -and it did- to make our day even tougher. Because of the mild heatstroke suffered by a few of the riders yesterday all of us were concerned by todays even hotter conditions. Progressively each day has become warmer and warmer until today when it maxed out at 38 degrees, although the Garmin devices on our bikes were picking up the road heat as well and telling us at 2pm that it was 44 degrees! Not one of the 12 riders out there today would disagree. Shit it was hot and we all at some stage, over the past 4 days, and again today, had to continually remind ourselves as to why we are out here and subjecting our bodies to this form of slow torture.

And on that note I am reminded of our little mate Declan and the battle with cancer that he and his family are taking on right now as we speak. Philip today said to me, "Sharky do you have any pep talks planned for today?" I didn't but again we needed something to spur us on, so once again I reminded Phil about Declan. That was all we needed. I would like to share with you the email that Marty and Dallas sent to the Smiddy crew doing the Pyrenees' Challenge.

Hi there Sharky, Rowan and all you guys doing this ride for such a great cause. Thanks for the kind words, thoughts and prayers in your blog, it sure did put a smile on the little guys face. It meant a great deal to us. Declan will fight this with all his strength and everyone's prayers are sure to pull him through. None of us realise the enormity of what you take on when you choose to do a Smiddy Challenge, be it big or small, as I am sure you now all know. None of who choose to do these rides realise the impact cancer has on us all until you are faced with the epidemic first hand with close friends and family members. But one thing that you are doing and those who have ridden any of the Smiddy Challenges, raised money, baked a cake, washed our riding gear, made our lunches, or volunteered in any way, shape or form for the Smiddy movement, is creating a huge family of support for all of us that have been involved. The money you raise and work you do is working and this might one day save someone very close to you. So keep up the great work and the fight for cures. Stay safe on your journey and help each other out when it gets tough.

Love, thoughts and best wishes to all.

From Declan and the Hegarty family.

I asked Marty's permission to include his email into my blog and he was more than happy for me to do that. I guess I wanted to let you guys know, who support Smiddy, that what we are doing, is making a difference, and Marty and Dallas's email is testament to that. So thank you all once again for your support. It is now after 12am and I need to do the highlights of the day before I crash.

Highlights of the day

100km's of climbing!
From sea level to our first Col of the day at just over 1500 metres was Col Louis. The first 60kms was very gradual, with the remaining 40km's varying from 4 to 10%. But quite amazing to think that you can climb for that long. It was very draining physically and extremely challenging mentally, as most of it had to be done in single file due to the traffic being quite bad and taking all sorts of risks to get past the riders.

The view and lunch from Col Louis was stunning and yummy
What a relief to reach the top and have a break from being in the sun. The group needed 4 waters stops to get to this point. Most of us went though 6 to 8 bidons of fluid in 100km's. Did I mention it was hot? Lunch was in a park that overlooked the extremely impressive jaw dropping view. You could look down and see the last 10km's of road that snaked it's way up this point, very impressive stuff and we were all chuffed to have made it. Neil and Anna spoilt us rotten with an array of food for lunch that keep even the hungriest of the riders content. Graeme was back in the peleton once again after swapping with Neil.

The second climb up to 1915 metres
After lunch we descended back down to 1400 metres and then began a 30km gradual climb up to Col Du Puymorens at 1915 metres. The group always splinters on any of the longer climbs and we always regroup at the top, where the faster riders (usually Rowan and Adam) are waiting, along with our support crew, to cheer each rider in. There is an amazing team spirit within the group and it really shines through on these massive climbs. Again it was stinking hot but half way up a stroke of luck gave us a reprieve. The first clouds that we have seen for 5 days rolled in and instantly shut out the sun and the temperature dropped by 5 degrees. We could not have been happier! That last half of the climb was a pleasure and I even stopped twice to take photos and record a video diary for a special lady back home.

Final descent rocks like no other!
At the top of the Col Du Puymorens we regrouped, took the obligatory photo under the altitude sign and then pushed off for the remaining 27km's to our hotel stay at Ax-Les-Thermes. We were at an altitude of close to 2000 metres so we knew we were in for a great descent. This will be my 5th time either in the Pyrenees and the French or Swiss Alps. All those times I have seen and experienced some pretty amazing descents and climbs, but I can honestly say that the descent we did this afternoon was up there with 'The Best' I have ever done. The road surface was perfect, the gradient not super steep, there was no road kill or live cattle littering the roads, and the bends you did not need to brake for, except for a few switch backs. To give you an idea how fast and relatively safe it was, the lead group was able to average 60km's an hour for 27km's! Six of us were racing each other down this descent and I can tell you that my heart rate was higher coming down today than it has been all week on any of the climbs! That was part to riding hard and part to sheer excitement and adrenalin surging through my body. On arriving at our Hotel I wished that we could have bottled the energy felt by the entire group of 12 riders. I was so happy that I was hugging all the riders and whooping for joy. My excitement was shared by each and everyone of the riders. After the past 4 days of over 12000 metres of climbing, that descent was our reward and we had earned it!

The huddle lead Panda Kat
As the only girl left standing in the peloton due to poor Anna having to sit out today with her injury, Katrina was given the honour of taking the huddle. She did a great job and you could literally feel the positive energy within the group as it was done immediately on finishing the descent. Just on Katrina, she has really come into her own on this trip with regards to he strength on the climbs and her amazing confidence now on the descents. She is no longer crapping her pants but enjoying the experience of going fast downhill!

Jimmy joins Contador
At the start of the ride Jimmy made a beeline for a pharmacy he spotted 10km's into the ride. Luckily the French lady spoke English and he did not have to resort to contorting his face and body into miming what was wrong with him. Two packets were destroyed in just the one day. Resulting in Jimmy back to his usual strong self up the climbs and smashing each descent. He could not have been happier but if drugged tested would have been locked up for sure!

The joy of an air-conditioned Super market:
60km's into today's ride we made one stop at a supermarket. The riders were in seventh heaven at the choice of food, but mainly the coolness of the aircon was lapped up by all and sundry. At one point I spotted one of the riders sticking his head in the freezer section and oohing and aahing in sheer ecstasy. It doesn't take much! Katrina shouted the group ice-creams, and Bad was seen smuggling a second one to eat as he was riding up the climb. But commonsense eventually prevailed when his sun-fried mind eventually told him it may melt before then, like in the first 3 minutes out of the store. Phil also got in trouble for sitting on a comfortable fold out chair that was clearly for sale and a sweaty bottom on it was not going to help the store to sell it.

A show of love through a sticky shower
Billy thought he was doing the right thing when he rode past a very hot Phillip on the first climb during a patch where the gradient was 10%. Billy pulled out a water bottle and sprayed the back of Phil's neck as he rode past. Unfortunately for Phil, Billy had reached for the wrong bottle that contained gatorade! It was a nice thought though!

French Brunette - ooooh la la!
At the start of the ride today a French brunette, heading for the beach and dressed appropriately with next to nothing on, was spotted by all the males in the group. Resulting in the ride nearly ended there and then as the whole peloton narrowly missed the traffic as we were going through a roundabout. Katrina, of course was oblivious to it all and wondered what all the fuss was about. I of course saw nothing as I have eyes for one lady only!

Anna runs last Col
Anna may not be able to ride her bike at the moment but her injury still allows her to run. On the final climb today she asked to be dropped an hour from the top and ran the last 10km's up hill. She ran like a trooper and beat all the riders to the top to become Queen of the mountain. Nice stuff Anna!

Drivers are crazy worldwide towards cyclists
We saw so many near misses today with motorists trying to get around us rather than wait a few seconds. They had no excuse as we were single file on any roads that were narrow or had no shoulder. My memories from past visits to France had always been of patient courtesy drivers, but maybe that is changing in a country famous for it's cycling?

Jimmy is doing an Ironman
Today while pacing Jimmy up the last climb of the day for 12km's we shook on a deal that we made. In exchange for me training and competing in a downhill mountain bike race (that is Jimmy's main sport, or was before meeting Anna) Jimmy agreed that he would complete an Ironman event in some exotic location around the world. I made it official through this blog so that he sticks to it. Same for me for that matter.

Bad and his hair dryer
I roomed with Johnny Bad Boy last night. I am quietly blogging away, as I fell asleep at 12:30am last night while at the keyboard and trying desperately to finish this prior to our 8:15 roll out time. Anyway he emerges from the toilet and informs me that it was handy having the hair dryer so close to the toilet as he was able to dry his washed cycling clothes while going about his business. Great feature hey?

Sharky's last very quick words as he wants to have breakfast and get this posted!
Thank you to Michael who read out the blog last night and handled the ribbing I gave him well. THank you to Neil and Anna for your amazing support out on the road yesterday, especially on the climbs and continually checking on the riders. Your presence was most appreciated, not to mention the water and the food you guys kept shoving down our throats. And once again thank you to all the riders for showing such amazing fortitude to get through such another tough day in such extremely hot conditions. You guys are learning your lessons well and it was so pleasing to see you all looking after not just yourselves with nutrition and hydration but looking out for your fellow riders.

Sharky could not be prouder!

157km day to finish with. See this blog for the full report tomorrow.

Take care everyone and gidday to my physio Rob. No I am not doing my shoulder exercises!


No comments:

Post a Comment