Published by Lyn on 9 March 2011
From the British capital to the south of France in six days. Richard Trillo has this wrap of the last two days of the 1500km Aedas London to Cannes charity ride
Day 5: Chanas to Aix en Provence
After yesterday’s lie-in until 5.45, it’s back to an early start: up at 4.45 and departure at 6am for the first 60km stage which, including some steep climbs out of the Rhône valley, is expected to take 3 hours 13 minutes. At 8.27, though, Bluefin romp into St Marcel les Valence, accompanied by a good showing of other riders. The mood is upbeat: nobody can quite believe how fast they’ve done the stage – must be the Midi sun and rosemary notes in the fresh morning air. There’s been a dramatic setback however – a motorbike escort has been thrown off his bike by a car pulling across in front of him. Our paramedic team are on the scene in seconds and treat him while waiting for an ambulance. He’s been whisked to hospital for a CT scan, but seems OK. His bike is a write-off: it turns up on the trailer towed by the sweeper van.
Lunch is enjoyed in full, warming sunshine in the community centre car park at Visan, shaded by cypress trees. One of our sponsors, David Phillips, has requested photos of their branded grease monkey van, so we grab the DP guys when they roll in from their stage and ask them to pose by the van which they willingly do just before going out again on the first afternoon stage.
After lunch we get the welcome news that London mayor Boris Johnson has confirmed he will ride one of his Barclays cycle hire bikes into Cannes with us on the last stage of the ride tomorrow. Less good is the late arrival of the bus at the end of stage 4, complete with a complement of resting Delancey riders due on the next stage. This is Neil the bus driver’s third time into Isle sur Sorgue, and he’s managed to get lost on both previous occasions. This time he was determined to avoid a repeat performance.
Nick, Richard and I set off in the Renault to find them and bring them back. We find the bus on the wrong side of a low bridge. Then the local gendarmes intervene. After some discussion with our motorbike escorts, the police lead us back through Isle sur Sorgue and, nearly an hour late in the schedule, we hook up with the peloton in the cane fields east of town.
Decision time: it’s too late to continue the ride unaltered. We have a stiff climb up over the Luberon hills (Year in Provence territory) and then a wonderful 17km descent through a gorge to the valley of the Durance. The peloton takes off with lights mounted, and we meet it at an impromptu rendezvous above the picturesque village of Bonnieux, just as the sun is going down. It’s been a tough climb, with blustery head winds and many riders are now exhausted. They don hi-vis gilets and ride down the hairpins of the gorge in the dark. It’s far from ideal and the early night air is bitter, but most riders are too tired and instinctively forgiving to make a fuss, though we feel they have every right: stage 5 on day 5 has been widely touted as the best part of the entire ride, and it would have been a glorious afternoon descent.
At the break before what would have been a miserable stage 6 (now 90 minutes late), the day’s ride is closed: the 35km approach into Aix en Provence is too dangerous to finish in the dark.
It’s a welcome relief to arrive at the hotel, where we’ve organised a drinks reception for riders and crew. The Commonwealth medallist and twice Olympic cyclist Emma Davies is doing the ride into Cannes with us tomorrow, which adds an exciting dash of pizzazz to dinner. After a smooth ride thus far, that was one eventful day.
Day 6: Aix to Cannes
It’s day 6 at last, arrival into Cannes and the day we’ve all been looking forward to since leaving London. We have the relative luxury of another late start too, with a 7am roll out, meaning the wake-up calls don’t hit our dreams until 5.45am.
We have the double Olympian and Commonwealth medallist Emma Davies and her co-director of Cycle Côte d’Azur triathlete Claire Scrutton riding with us today and there’s a thrusting and ebullient mood among the 83 charity riders that looks set to enhance a performance that has consistently outstripped the targets in our riders’ handbook for each stage.
Out in the hills of Provence, though, it’s a very brisk early spring morning, with a gusting headwind blowing at up to 50kph straight into the riders’ faces from the southeast: some are so tired they can hardly talk straight. Team rules are withdrawn for the three stages of this last 171km day, but the deal is that once you start a stage you must complete the ride into Cannes in the afternoon.
The sun is shining into the peloton from the east as they flank the Montagne Ste-Victoire and then snake up over the ridges towards Draguignan and east into the hills near Grasse, France’s perfume capital. With the day finally warming, there’s a couple of serious climbs before the glorious descent south to the Mediterranean and the seafront road that leads into Cannes.
Here, at a pre-arranged rendezvous, a police-escorted Mayor of London is standing by on the roadside with one of his own Barclays cycle hire bikes at the ready to join the peloton as it swoops east along the Croisette. He’s in town to sell London at the annual MIPIM property convention.
It’s a be-suited but very willing and charismatic Boris Johnson who hoves into view at the front of the peloton and comes to a slightly breathless stop in front of our huge red bus outside the Palais des Festivals. A mass of riders, bikes, friends, family, onlookers and press swirls around the square as we organise medals and MIPIM passes – most of our riders are delegates at the MIPIM property convention that opens in the Palais today.
Awash with endorphins, our ecstatic C2C riders need no persuading to cheer in front of the cameras. Hugs, handshakes, the odd tear and several large beers later (thanks to Savills estate agents who have an open house for the riders at their funky café by the seafront) we are well and truly finished. We need to get home, get some sleep and get in the mood to start planning Aedas Cycle to Cannes 2012.
If you’d like to try C2C in March 2012, look at our website.