The last day of our ride was something that we had dreamed of since the route was published. 60 miles downhill to Nice and then a pleasant ride along the coast to Monte Carlo. My determination to ride the last day had driven me through the Alps, through the windy plains of northern France and through the agonies of hours on the bike.
We woke later than usual, or at least we were allowed a slight lie in. Packing and arranging the logistics of luggage to go back to London or to stay for the RendezVous. A more relaxed breakfast and then we were off.
The ride was not simply all that it had promised, it was more. After the horror of Alpine descents the more gradual and less precarious road to Nice was a joy to ride, tucked low over the handle bars and moving at speeds that challenged the little Sunday morning traffic that there was. Sheer bliss. We negotiate Nice and rode along the Promenade des Anglais. A couple of near accidents as riders eyes were averted from the road ahead by sights that they saw on the beach. A cold drink over looking the port and then on and along the coast road to Beaulieu sur Mer for a last relaxing lunch.
We paused at 3pm to remember the events of 10 years ago; those that had lost their lives and those whose lives have been affected since then by the war on terror that was the response to the attacks on the WTC. The ride was raising money for Combat Stress and on so many occasions, the start on 3 September the anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, the visit to the cemeteries of the Somme and now, the anniversary of 9/11, we were reminded of what service men and women had had to endure at the request of their country for the good of others. Our pain and suffering were nothing in comparison. This had helped many of us drive forwards.
After lunch we rode together for the last six miles of our journey. A 5% gradient up a long tunnel into Monte Carlo was a last kick from the road to weary but now buoyant cyclists. I found a degree of fitness outweighing any exhaustion and climbed with ease. At last the sight of the principality. Monaco Ville, the port and its floating gin palaces, the Hermitage and then the Casino. Dead on the arranged time of 4pm we rode in to applause from waiting supporters. It was over and the ending was emotional. The next day the Reactions daily newsletter carried a picture of me hugging a broker. Something, somewhere, had changed for ever.
After saying farewell to my riding companions and packing my bike away, I checked into the Hermitage (a little more luxurious than the hotels were visited en route) showered changed and rushed to my first appointment. Over fifty appointments followed over the next three days. Dinners lunches and breakfasts as well as drinks parties punctuated meeting every half hour without respite. An endurance feat in itself. Yet, I felt able to cope and never tired or stiff. My only physical complaint is numbness in my hands following gripping my brakes in the Alpine descents. A week before my 54th birthday, I had completed the most arduous physical challenge of my life and done sop successfully.
I could not have done it without the support of all of the team who rode or drove in support.
The team was:
Andrew Bradley - Unicredit. A friend of the club not from the market but an excellent rider, supporter and companion.
Neo Combarro - Lockton. An awesome rider and athlete. His rendition of "Bread of Heaven" as he passed me on a col will haunt me forever.
Roddy Caxton-Spencer - Besso Insurance Group. An inspiration.
Rick Welsh - Aspen. Charming, strong and ever supportive. He helped me conquer the cols.
Dave Davies - "The Riddler" - The second oldest rider, Dave's unselfish support over the first few days, got me through the dark times before my fitness kicked in.
Stephen Fletcher - Vectura Underwriting. The oldest but (other than me) the best equipped rider. Strong in the climb.
Michelle Gwynn - Willis. The only woman but stronger and more determined than most of the men.
Ben Galloway - CV Starr. Always cheerful; always fast and strong.
Jamie Stewart - Inteq. Another "ringer". A great rider and hugely supportive every time he sped past me.
Peter Harris - Ride leader, secretary of the LCC without whom nothing would have happened. The true star of the occasion.
Paul Higgins - Gibbs Hartley Cooper. One of the strongest climbers.
Richard Jones - Baker Hughes. A "ringer" and wonderfully cheerful companion.
Geoff Wilkinson - Swiss Re. Light as a grey hound and strong as an ox. The only other rider with the stamina to do the RendezVous as well.
Stuart Maleno - BLG and soon to be Clyde & Co. The youngest rider who rode with determination through a viral complaint.
Richard Norris - Novae. A veteran of many LCC rides who used his experience to inspire.
Clive O'Connell - BLG. The heaviest rider although 9 pounds lighter even after the RendezVous.
Richard Panter - Catlin. A hugely experienced rider who encouraged and cheered me in some dark times.
Darek Pokojowczyk - Mechanic, Evans Cycles. The strongest rider who ensured that all our bikes made it.
Steve Hall - Catlin, Support Driver and cook. His feed stops were gourmet in standard and fuelled the ride.
Gavan Connolly - MLW Associates, Support Driver. The architect of all the support without whom we would not have arrived.
George Labor - Physio. His cheery smile, unquestioning assistance and manipulative hands so often saved the day.
A huge thank you to them all and to those who sponsored and otherwise supported us.