Just before Christmas last year my brother, Andrew, announced that he was thinking of cycling across the Pyrenees in June for my son, Rich’ and would Pete, my husband, and myself be able to help in any way at all.
In later months he admitted that I could be heard holding my breath from several miles away. He was right. It was one of those moments in life that you would never have envisaged 2 years ago having to think about and I did not want too. My brain shut down and I found it almost impossible to think about. The idea was amazing but why we were doing it was right at the front of my mind. Eventually we looked at it from how Rich’ would look at it and we decided that as it seemed to involve a holiday of sorts – Rich’s favourite past time – that we would go and have one of what was known as “one of mum and Pete’s excellent adventures”. Flights booked, time off arranged and CRY Bear ready: we were now going.
18th June 2010
There was no going back now as long as I could get in the car for the long drive to Folkestone and then through France to Hendaye. The hard part was getting in the car and knowing why we were going but we had always promised to take Rich’ through the Euro Tunnel and armed with his photo we were going to do just that. We set off, and with tears, made the tunnel and the crossing. Then the long drive began for Pete and Andrew.
19th June 2010
We arrived in Hendaye and met the rest of the team. Andrew had said that there was another chap cycling – what none of us knew was that he was from South Africa and only 15. You can never prepare for the feeling that engulfs you when you realise that the other person is only 8 years younger than your son. Tears came: but suddenly we were involved in ‘lugging’ baggage and bikes about and sorting out who was in what room.
After a well-deserved meal we felt that we had known Ian, Alison and Alex for a long time and plans were being made for the next day.
20th June 2010
Breakfast finished and we were ready for the off. Well we would have been, but remembered that my brother is a ‘professional faffer’ so off Pete went to give him a hand with things. The bike being the important item.
Photos taken along Hendaye beachfront and we set off. We were following Alison in her van, helping as the support crew and finding stops to wait at while the boys caught up. We suddenly realised that these boys could pedal furiously and we nearly didn’t make the first photo opportunity of them coming around the beach road.
We had great excitement in the afternoon as we all had to stop to watch the vultures circling on the thermals. Of course we had to do the joke about “do you know the cyclist who was carried away by the vulture?”. It was a lovely day and the scenery was fantastic but whilst wearing our T-shirts for CRY we were always very aware of why we were doing things.
21st June 2010
Andrew had mentioned last night that he’d asked the boys if they would wear their CRY cycling jerseys that had been made for the trip. As the boys came out the front of the hotel nothing could have prepared me for the feelings that swept over. They all looked so smart but right at the front of my mind was the anger that they shouldn’t be wearing them at all. After tears and the first photos of the day we set off for our first day in the mountains.
The scenery changed spectacularly. The hills were becoming larger and we had time to get out our chairs. Or so we thought. Young Alex was turning into a speed freak. We shouted words of encouragement as he flew past and then sat and waited a while for Andrew and Ian, who were pacing themselves for the week. Lots more shouts of encouragement and photos and video and we were off again looking for the next pit stop.
Col de Marie Blanque and the Col d’Aubisque were today’s highlights and they were amazing. We had a game of chicken with a French cement mixer that had forgotten that the mountain roads were also used by cyclists and cars! Just to say that there was a ditch at the side of the road and we used it. Poor Alison, driving behind, had a moment of panic as she thought that we wouldn’t make it.
22nd June 2010
Our time in the Pyrenees was up and we had to go home. Andrew and the boys had to face the prospect that they were two down on the ‘shouting words of encouragement stakes’ and rally their own enthusiasm for the rest of the week. It was a hard day for all concerned. The Col de Tourmalet was the challenge for them and they did it with style.
23rd June 2010
Our first morning back at home. I never realised what an effect that would have upon me. The whole world fell apart and I couldn’t manage to go into work.
What were the boys up to? What was the scenery like? Who would help Alison with ‘supporting’? Most of all, why had we even had to do the trip? These were all questions inside my head. It was one of the most difficult days of my life.
Apparently it was a beautiful day in France and the boys had a massive challenge ahead of them. The Col de Perysourde, Col de Ares and Col de Porte D’Aspet were the challenge.
They managed with their usual style. On arriving at the hotel for the night it was discovered that they would all be sharing in a family room. Who was the adult in charge? We were never sure about that.
24th June 2010
It seems that France does the finest strawberry tarts in the world for lunch; and Alex had the first accident of the trip so far. A spoke had broken on his bike but with a quick repair job completed they all finished today’s ride.
25th June 2010
The last day and both myself and Pete had another ‘down day’ as we were not in France to see Andrew and the boys finish this epic cycle ride. We were also hoping that ‘CRY Bear’ – who had managed to appear in several photos – would be on the bike going across the finish line. It was another very hard day waiting to receive a text from Andrew saying that he had finished.
And finish he did. Some 85 miles later when they originally thought that it was only 65 miles to Cerbere: the last town in France before Spain.
At last we received the long awaited text. Andrew and team had finished. We were so proud of him for completing this epic for Rich’ for CRY. Tears came again but turned to smiles as we found out that CRY Bear had been carefully tied onto the bike and he to had crossed the finish line.
Andrew had cycled 486 miles over 6 days and cycled for duration of 34.5 hours and in the process used up 35,606 calories and lost 5 pounds in weight. I’m glad that we found the strength to go and support Andrew but quickly found my boundaries in that I am not a natural fundraiser as it opened up too much pain and anguish at this time.
I do have to smile now as at the end of the ride my CRY gilet and a cycling jersey were given to Alex to keep. I do wonder if he wears them while cycling around South Africa. I think so and what a fantastic way to perhaps gain further recognition for CRY.
I am so immensely proud of my brother for completing this challenge. To date £3905 has been raised for CRY.
Thank you Andrew.
Wendy (Rich’s Mum)