Friday, 28 June 2013


COLS CLIMBED: Col de la Placette at 588 metres and Alp D'Huez at 1850 metres


Distance: 120 km's
Average: 20.1 km/h
Climbing: 2495 metres
Riding time: 5hr 58min
Temp Min: 10 degrees
Temp Max: 24 degrees

Here I am sitting atop of Alpe-D'Huez, a few hours after we crested one of the most famous mountains in France. Sharky has asked me to write my first blog in more than seven years - why he couldn't ask me during last month's Midi Smiddy I'll never know. But the Shark has done such a great job keeping our supporters and donors updated on Smiddy's travels in France I can't help feel like he deserves a break from typing to the wee hours of the morning. If it gives him just a few more hours to dream of the new lady in his life I'll feel like I've played my part in a blossoming relationship.

I must thank Mick Harris for ditching co-author duties this evening. The big man was asked to join me in tonights blog but he so politely declined pointing out Seinfeld was only written by one man. Mick, I googled it and Seinfeld was co-authored by Larry David - shame on you.

The lads woke this morning with serious excitement. Today would be our queen stage - Alpe D'Huez. It's a climb on top of every cyclists bucket list. Steeped in legend, it has been a regular stage finish in the Tour de France since 1976. 13.8km at an average gradient of 7.9%. 21 hairpins named after every Tour de France stage winner. I was tingling just thinking about it.

As I looked across the breakfast table Jimmy was forlorn. What's wrong I asked. 'Hilltop finish' he replied. He had to repeat it a few times so I could understand his Scottish accent but finally I realised his disappointment. There would be no descent to reward todays climb to Alpe D'Huez. He was a broken man even before we started.

As we mingled on the lawn prior to departure I took a moment to take in the feeling in the group. Every Smiddy ride is an amazing experience. This is no different - forging new friendships, strengthening old ones and for some lucky ones, the bond of brotherhood grows stronger.

Some riders are new to the sport, others with decades in their legs but the camaraderie is always a special thing. Mick Harris was on the lawn talking big - he would take himself to a new level of purgatory on the famed slopes of Alpe DHuez. Dan Salter was trying to puncture proof his wheels - 3 punctures in 2 days was not a bad start. There was plenty of encouraging words for the big day ahead. Graeme and Neil would be our leaders in the peloton today - Eric the Eel was driving the sag wagon. The man from Alabama would be missed.

As we rolled out today I thought a lot about young Declan Hegarty - we'd only just heard the news of his passing and I wanted to dedicate my ride today to this champion young man. It's the stories like Ducks and the personal stories of the 1000+ Smiddy riders we've had through our annual events that inspire us to keep the pedals turning. To this group I tip my cap - close to $100K raised for cancer research - amazing effort!

The banter was high over the early k's as we knew the road took us to Alpe DHuez. The temperatures have been brisk every morning and it's never long before the call for a pee stop goes out - mostly from JJ who has the bladder of a 60 year old man.

We knocked over the early ks with ease and I must acknowledge the bike handling skills of one Shark and Jimmy on the descent of Col de la Placette - one keen driver thought to play chicken with the boys whilst overtaking another vehicle. Scary stuff but good skills to stay upright men.

It has to be said Sharky appears to be missing his new love interest - he speaks of her so glowingly. Each day as the scenery and landscape amazes us Sharky can be heard throughout the peloton like a homesick puppy saying 'I wish Alyssa was here to see this' or 'the only thing that could improve this right now is being on a tandem bike with Alyssa'. Sharky its a pleasure to see you so happy.

The road to the start of the Alpe DHuez climb was a long, hard uphill slog - I dont know how these pro cyclist ride like they do. Dan Salter got his 9th puncture for the tour and the boys appreciated the rest stop. Our fearless leader Graeme was clearly not impressed and duly time trialled the remaining riders to the base of Alpe DHuez sitting on 45k+ for the 10km stretch.

After a short break to strip off clothing and load up on nutrition the climb was on! The peloton was split immediately as riders made their climbing strategy known immediately. Graeme quickly disappeared up the road to a new PB. Behind, the battle for survival was on and each and everyone of us settled into a rhythm.

For me there wasn't a pedal stroke over those 14ks I didn't think of Declan and his family. Everytime I felt like backing off or stopping I thought of Duck. He had no choice but to fight like hell through his treatment. I thought of his dad Marty, mum Dallas and uncle Tony - all friendships forged through Smiddy. I couldn't imagine their grief right now. It sure put the pain of the climb into perspective.

One by one as we crested these famed slopes we celebrated each others achievement. Our last man across the line was Mark Anthony. He deserved a special cheer - it has been a long held dream to ride Alpe DHuez and today he did it. He got a hug from every man in the peloton and we were so proud to see him get there.

As the sun set over Alpe DHuez we toasted a great day's ride. Someone told me once to celebrate the milestones in life and I felt this was a good one to put on life's timeline. The day couldn't have been done in better company and I look forward to another day in the saddle with this great group of people.

Thanks for your wonderful support for our journey and you'll have Sharky back on duty tomorrow night. See you for my next blog in another seven years.


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