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In the last part of Helen Russell’s guest blog, she tells us about the final stages of her Tour de France One Day Ahead Challenge in Paris.
The first day in the Alps featured no less than five categorised climbs, including the 14 kilometre Col d’Allos. On the Massif Central stages the team had battled with the heat, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees and it looked as if that was set to continue in the Alps as we started the first climb in the blazing sun. However, after the third climb the heavens opened and we had to start the climb of the Col d’Allos in thunder, lightning and pouring rain. Once that was conquered we still had a final 6.2 kilometre climb with the rain squelching in our shoes and dripping from our helmets. We were all relieved to cross the stage finish line and try to warm up on the transfer to the hotel.
If we thought the first day in the Alps was hard the following day featured an incredible seven categorised climbs including the 21.7km Hors Category Col du Glandon. The weather was a replay of the previous day with scorching heat in the morning and apocalyptic weather conditions whilst climbing the Glandon. In fact the weather was so bad that we were unable to ride the final climb of the day, the Lacets de Montvernier, due to rock-fall during the storm.
The final two days in the Alps were quite frustrating. The roads of the Col de la Croix de Fer and Glandon intersected each other, which meant that our paths were due to cross with the professionals for the next two days. This meant that many roads, including some on our route, were closed to allow for the professional peloton to pass through. Unfortunately, this meant that we were unable to follow the official route exactly, which was a disappointment to everyone but we were still able to cover the major climbs of the stages. For me one of the best moments of the whole Tour was our final ascent up the iconic Alp d’Huez. I had cycled the mountain before during the Alp d’Huez triathlon and was relieved that this time around I didn’t have to run at the top! I decided to just take the climb easily and soak in the atmosphere. There were hundreds of cyclists attempting the climb, spectators all along the route and music at most of the twenty-one switchbacks. It was already chaos at Dutch Corner where I was squirted with water cannon and then offered beer to pour in my water bottle as an apology! I may have been the joint last rider to reach the top but it was a joy to cross the stage finish line, hand in hand with one of my fellow team mates who had really supported me throughout Le Tour.
The mood was a strange mixture of triumphal and relaxed as we travelled on the team bus from the Alps to Paris. On the start line of the final stage we emulated the pros and cracked open the champagne. Riding into the French capital on closed roads, over the cobbles to the Arc de Triomphe was very emotional, especially when we were greeted by cheers from family and friends waiting under the Arc. We were honoured to have permission to ride as a group down the Champs Elysees and back to the Arc before heading to the Eifel Tower, which was a welcome sight as it marked the end of our journey and the start of the celebrations. The team mate that I was cycling alongside started to say all the names of the people that had been affected by cancer who he had been riding for, which was incredibly moving and at that point the tears started as I thought of my mom, who I lost a number of years ago to breast cancer.
It’s been just over a week since I finished the ride and I am still absolutely shattered. My muscles actually feel alright but I feel weak and fatigued. Luckily I have a couple of weeks off before returning to work so I can just veg out on the sofa. It was a privilege to be part of the One Day Ahead team and help raise over £650,000 for Cure Leukaemia. It’s not too late to donate and help us reach £700,000 which will pay for the development of clinical trials and fund research nurses at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.
It was great to have the support of SportsCover Direct. Prior to Le Tour I did a lot of training overseas, including a team training event in Aspen and the Cure Leukaemia London to Paris ride. I was able to participate knowing that I had cycle event specific travel insurance from a company that specialises in sports cover.
To get a cycling quote from SportsCover Direct click here.
Helen’s Just Giving Page: https://www.justgiving.com/HelenRussell-LeTour.