Cycle to Cannes: Day Four

Tue 10 March 2015, 2:34 pm

Feeling so tired; it's relentless this year, but then, Day Four is acknowledged to be one of the toughest, as we get in among the mountains. It tests us, physically; it's the day when bodies start to give feedback on the punishment they've been getting. And all the aches, pains and strains make it harder-going mentally, and the 4.30am starts become a real grind, so we all work to stay positive, with great support from ride captains and each other.

Carol Aimers, one of the longest-serving members of the support crew, presents a cake to event founder, Peter Murray, for the 10th anniversary of C2C. Photography by Matt Alexander.

It couldn't last. The bike behaved immaculately until the afternoon of Day Three – exactly halfway – when the gears started slipping. Nigel got to work between stages and Bob continued overnight, replacing cables. It has improved but it is still slipping around. Will I get through the hilly stages? 

New bike, same routine: Nigel gets to work on Day Three

We start off pre-dawn, the weather is mild compared to yesterday's start, and it’s very quiet, except when horses decide to gallop along the perimeter of their field, racing us.

It is the right time to ride in open country, as we enjoy a 360-degree sky – on one side, moody dark blues and greys with the moon, and the other roseate, in varying intensity of pinks and oranges, as the sun comes up. Matthew's going to need his sunglasses today: hope he has found them.

 

 

Straight onto the second stage; the hills are only small but we are taking them at what feels like a brutal pace, in fairly good form as we come in 10 minutes early for an extraordinary lunch in the sun. Well, there is nothing so extraordinary about the ham baguette, but we are being asked to eat at 10.30am with the sun on our faces. I retire to the bus with food for later, after a snooze. 

 

Le pee pee 

 

 

At the end of stage four, we’re at St Quentin Fallavier, for wonderful cakes, which are eagerly anticipated by the riders. They are made by Carol Aimers, one of two longest-serving members of the crew. This year there’s a spectacular red cake to mark the 10th Cycle to MIPIM, immaculately produced in Broadgate Estates' Cycle to MIPIM livery. It’s presented to event founder Peter Murray, by Willmott Dixon who sponsor the Originals, the team who took part in the first event. Peter talks about the event and how it has grown over the past 10 years. Apparently, in the earliest days, they camped… when the campsites were open. John Rudge, in charge of accommodation, had mapped out all the sites but hadn't realised it was out of season...

Then it’s stage five, and the hill - the longest hill I've ever climbed. Even Brendon Walsh has to stop half way up, with breathing problems. There is one crash though, which leaves one of the original C2C riders, Christopher Coombe of Linklaters, with a nasty lump on the hand. It may signal the end of the ride; we hope it won’t but there’s no point in taking risks.

 

 

Annabel Sutherland of Savills is the benchmark for newbies – they’re all talking in awe about her first Cycle to MIPIM last year, much of it with a broken finger. But this is a woman who is accustomed to a challenge, such as reaching the peak of Kilimanjaro or making it all the way to Cannes last year, only the fifth woman to go the whole distance. Oh, and Annabel says she had only started road biking less than a year before and then had three months off with a broken collar bone.

C2C riders, like most of the property industry, are an enlightened bunch, who would consider it beneath themselves to make fun of ‘lady-drivers’ and their sense of direction. So, when the women-led peloton takes the wrong route, we’re all quick to accept that it was the bloke on a motorbike who keeps leading them astray. Then it happens a second time...

 

Women C2C riders include Lucy Taylor, in pink, and the famouse moto, Moustache. Photography by Matt Alexander.

At the end of stage five, we stop for pizza in Hauterives – as the total capacity of the restaurant is 18 covers, we share it out. Unfortunately, having hobbled over to the paramedics to check on Brendon, I am late to the feast: the locusts are swarming. I grab a slice but it's knocked by someone behind and the ham slops onto the ground. I devour a piece of warm crust - I'll take anything that isn't sugar, oats or banana.

The paramaedics, by the way, have slipped an oxygen mask on Brendon and are enthusing about the restorative powers of vodka-infused oxygen. "It was brilliant when we went skiing." In a medical emergency, these are the guys you want. Actually, they seem quite happy to have something to do, as there are actually very few serious injuries, which is down to great road management and the discipline of the peloton. 

The Originals – the team of riders who all took part in the first C2C – swear by the medicinal qualities of brandy, for warmth, for team spirit – or just for the hell of it. They prove their theories at the little bar in Hauterives.

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