Human physiology is an amazing thing, and we are each and every one of us full of surprises.
For example lets take one of the riders who has never ridden a road bike much before, hasn’t really trained and then challenge them to ride across Europe for a charity that changes lives and watch what happens:
1: They break. Their body has no idea what is happening as digestion, tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones go into a type of shock.
2: They tire. The shock of this process sends them into a fatigue that can only be overcome with either rest or an immune system reaction – for some it is illness and for others it is sweating and fevers.
3: They lose weight. Their metabolism speeds up even as their body is in shock and they start using their reserves. This helps them as the reduced weight reduces the physical effort of riding a bike.
4. They adapt. With no time to stop and heal, their body adapts – heart rate drops, muscle mass increases, tendons and ligaments thicken and their lung capacity increases. Appetite increases as does intestinal activity and muscle mitochondria volume. Bike speed increases because of this.
5. They forget. After a week of effort they can no longer remember having doing anything else and cannot imagine ever stopping.
This was a group who had ridden beside boat motors, on boat decks, inside cycling gyms and on the road throughout the year so as to achieve an enormous goal that will forever define the Cos4Cancer charity as the hardest and most unforgettable edition hands-down.
On the road we had become a homogenous, single-minded group who shifted to the side, lined up, spread out or sped up and down with just a gesture or word from someone within the group.
Climbing onto the bike was an automatic gesture, clipping in was instant, and there was no need for a ‘warmup’; everyone in the group could now ride straight up a mountain after breakfast without batting an eyelid.
We had been joined by sponsors Aquila and representatives from the Cancer Charity UK who were fresh and primed, but there is nothing quite like the speed of riders who had now ridden over 1000km together in a week. The uphill speed to the Tende tunnel was a thing of beauty (see Step 4 above) and testament to the human body.
The final kilometers were a blur; Tende, Roya and Sospel merged into one last effort as the miles counted down. From Sospel to Castellar and our first view of the sea! We had done it, the joy was pure as organisers Ben and James took us down into Menton, along the promenade and into Monaco.
Such a massive effort, such a massive relief. Everyone had lived a hundred lives in those 1000km, was fit, lean and proud. Good job guys 🙂
More beers, more dinner and more sleep.