Planning, training, bikefitting, testing, repairing and fundraising throughout 2019, the Cogs4Cancer group finally parked their boats, slipped on some Lycra and clipped in to ride the 1400km South from Holland to Antibes over 8 days passing through 8 countries as they did so.
The Cogs4Cancer charity has a history that began in 2013 with a small group of cyclists from the Yacht Industry raising money for Cancer Charities after one of their number, Adrien Long was diagnosed with cancer. Under the stewardship of Ben Young the charity grew as did the distance ridden by riders each year. Stars and celebrities lent their support, and I would imagine that the Captains were pretty quick to ask their star guests to buy a band or make a donation 😉
Over the 6 years leading up to the 2019 edition nearly 1,000,000€ had been raised and the goal was to keep the momentum up and raise more, while pushing the limits of what was possible for riders of all levels.
Arriving from all corners of Europe the group met at the Teaching Hotel Bethlehem, Maastricht for a meet-and-greet before the off. It’s quite a hotel, and for me having come fresh off a 10-day, 1200km cycling tour going North from Antibes to Northern France I had barely unpacked one set of bags and cycling kit in time to pack the next.
We woke to dark, cold and rain – our companions for the next 7 days – and made haste to get moving. With over 200km on the menu and a diverse group of rider ability and untested equipment, as one of the captains on the road I urged haste with concern we would hit trouble and be on the road for longer than expected.
The weather may have been low, but spirits were high. We were dry, primed and riding South through the forests and country roads of Holland and Belgium.
Riders who had never ridden more than round the block and had never used gears before found themselves on a ride that even experienced professionals would find rough. Learning how to spit the manure and mud slush that flicked from the forward riders was a game to play, and waving to incredulous drivers was poke-you-in-the-eye cavalry. We were here, we were riding and we were doing it together.
The day wore on and the technical nature of navigating small forest roads and cow paths with drowning Garmins was unforgiving. Eating and drinking to keep up with the ever present cold and rain was a task that needed constant attention – not easy when spitting the mud out of your bidon nozzle or holding the bars with one hand looking for a gel.
We were blessed by the presence of our meal crew David, Lorenzo and Adriana who had traveled from Italy and Sicily to be present and support the riders. Their constant diligence and talent at finding roadside areas to prepare warm meals for us was vital to the ride, and contributed massively to the overall success of the project. Riders climbing off their bikes after 7 hours of riding for the lunch meal before climbing back on for another 5-6 hours are so grateful for the small kindnesses that warmth and food bring.
The first day totaled 12 hours of time on the bikes with the group arriving to the hotel in Luxembourg well after dark. This was the beginning of the Sleep, Eat, Ride, Repeat process the group would come to know as second nature.