I am delighted to have raised a total of £5,000 for Coram children’s charity through my efforts on the Cycle to Cannes. McAleer & Rushe and its staff have been tremendous sponsors and I am very grateful for their support.
I signed up for the Cycle to Cannes, last year, because it sounded like a fun way of travelling down to Cannes for the annual MIPIM property conference. I am a rugby man not a cyclist so I submitted my entrance application with naive thoughts of general fitness carrying me along on a cycle through France.
“It is a property event after all,” I thought to myself. I imagined it would be relatively arduous cycling during the day followed by convivial dinners and good wine in the evening. It was only when I turned my attentions to Cycle to Cannes rider’s pack in the New Year that I started to appreciate the supreme challenge involved in this 6 day, 1,500 km cycling event, complete with pro-style rolling road closures, support vehicles and mechanics – a Sunday cycle, this was not!
Looking back, my strongest memory from the trip was the morning of the final day, when we knew we had survived the hardest stages. As the peloton began to climb the mountain range out of Aix en Provence, my great friend from Ballymore, James Brennan, and I began to sing. I don’t know how we managed it without collapsing with a lack of oxygen because for the next 30 minutes of climbing we sang every song in our rugby repertoire. When we reached the summit the group gave us a huge cheer. It was a wonderful moment to savour.
This is one of the great things about cycling; there is a tremendous sense of freedom and adventure. I love that feeling you get when you finish a day and you know you have suffered, but you feel that it was totally worth it. You’ve come out the other side feeling proud of yourself and what you’ve achieved. It is that little bit of pain and suffering that reminds you that you’re alive.
I took great personal satisfaction in being one of only 17 riders who managed to go all the way to Cannes.
There is no secret to my training regime: you need powerful legs and bags of stamina to cycle 1,500kms. I based my training regime around two simple philosophies, ‘intensity’ and ‘time in the saddle’. Each of the nine weekends from 1st January to 12th March was given over to intensive cycle training.
On one of my early training rides I learnt that general rugby fitness and a bit of grit wouldn’t be enough after I was dropped by the peloton and had to take an early train home. This provided a reality check that the only way to build the necessary strength was to spend time going up and down hills at the weekend. And that I had to use the early mornings before work for intense eyeballs out, heart-in-your-mouth stamina training.
By the time it came to start date, I knew there would be guys on the trip with better bikes and more experience. But few would have built up the same training momentum which in turn creates confidence.
The final ingredient is luck. For me, I was concerned that my knees wouldn’t hold up and that my old commuter bike would final give up on me. In the end they were both fine – not even so much as a puncture.
I have heard others’ observations of the rider camaraderie. This is undeniable. Perhaps it is because, like rowing, you must work as a team to really unlock the potential of the individual. Or perhaps it is because these shared experiences that take you to places you least expect and least wish to express.
My advice for what it is worth is if you are ever afforded the opportunity of a place on the Cycle to Cannes seize it and give it your all. I willingly and enjoyably dug deep into my cavalier eight-week preparation but there are other paths. Cycling is real, it has soul and I will be seeking forgiveness from my backside right up until I mount the saddle again on my next Cycle to Cannes campaign.