My last update I was resting just North West of Milan. I have pedalled over 400 miles since and finally conquered the Alps last Thursday and Friday. My twin sister Diggy and my Dad (Mick) have been and gone and I am currently resting 15 Miles East of Grenoble.
My legs feel like they have been hit with a sledgehammer from cycling the two passes that took me over the Alps. My climb officially started at a town called Cesena-Torinese just west of Susa at an altitude of 1358 meters above sea level. The pass is called the Montgenevre pass, which is where I left Italy and arrived into France at 1850 meters.
Of course I had to get climb to 1358 meters first, which took a few days after leaving Turin. Diggy and Dad were instrumental in helping me achieve this, both physically and emotionally. Diggy was chiefly the designated support van driver and was in charge of finding the campsites. My Dad and I were in charge of navigating and procuring provisions for the breakfasts and evening meals. Unfortunately there is now a wanted poster of him in Lidl stores throughout Italy after he tried to pay in Croatian Kunas instead of Euros and set off the fire alarms to aid his escape. Nice try Dad, but I think they were onto you straight away, a regular James Bond me thinks!
In all fairness they both left for the airport completely shattered last Wednesday having suffered the searing heat of Milan, the freezing cold nights and ice at higher altitudes. They were both drenched by torrential rain twice and a falling tree narrowly missed their tents by 15 ft. All in a day's work for my Dad though after hearing some of his Jungle stories in the tent. A hot cup of tea and a few verses of Ging Gang Gooli never fails even in the pouring rain. Oh how we laughed!
Mick no 2 joined me after their departure and he is a real life James Bond! I can't say what his real job is, but let's just say he normally carries a package and is on first name terms with royalty! His bodyguard training came up trumps (oops I gave it away) doing first class surveillance, a recce of the mountain passes and reporting back to me in real time. No campsites to be had, but James, I mean Mike, organised a ski chalet to crash at for a night in a real bed (unfortunately shared).
The following day the second pass began at Briancon at an altitude of 1321 meters. This was the Col Du Lautaret pass which climbs to 2058 meters in 10 miles (the equivalent of participating in 10 spinning classes in a row).
The good news was that once at the top the next 20 miles or so was downhill, the bad news was the pass was blocked at the bottom by a landslide of rock and debris and the road was closed to traffic. Evidently this was no problem for my personal James Bond who organised a boat ride with a local for us and the tandem using the lake at the bottom to go around the landslide (true story). This was quite an achievement as neither the boat skipper or Mike really understood each other, but Mike spoke loudly at him on the telephone and that helped seal the deal!
I had to be at the boat by 2pm and made it with 2 minutes to spare. Mike had a three hour drive around the pass, and we finally met up 15 miles short of Grenoble, at a place called Livet, which is where I stopped after 50 miles of cycling. I was extremely knackered but needed to drive Mike to Lyon airport. What was Lotte's role in all of this? Mainly sleeping and eating cake that the locals keep feeding her!
I am still overwhelmed by the generosity from all of the donations to date and have received some heartfelt messages of support and encouragement. I hope to share some of them shortly. The most memorable moment for me this week was when an Italian cyclist passing the other way, stopped, turned round and caught up with me obviously baffled and wondering what I was up to. We did not understand each other, but I showed him the Italian translation of the purpose of my trip on my phone. He gave me a big Italian man hug, and shared a few tears before cycling off in opposite directions never to meet again. Obviously grief is universal!