Photo: Wonderful cheese from the Tamie Abbey for lunch.
As the hotel was on the Col de Aravis the climbing started immediately. No warm up, just climb. At 6km it wasn’t too bad. Job done.
Then the best climb I have ever had, the Col des Saisies. It wasn’t the climb, the scenery or the time taken but the person I met on the way up.
I spotted a rider ahead of me with a lower leg support. I had no idea what it was for. As I drew level we started chatting and I asked him about the spout from his water bottle sticking up from his handlebars. He told me he needed it as he was paralysed down his left side. He was pedalling using only his right leg. He’d had a spinal tumor, had multiple operations, spent a year in hospital and time and Stoke Mandeville. It was inspiring to hear his story and witness him climbing the Alps to fulfill one of his ambitions.
I then asked if he was still working. “Yes” he said and explained what he did. That’s when I learnt that I was riding with David Smith, the British Paralympian. That was his job. After hearing his story I thought, shall I tell him mine or not? We had two words in common, “spine” and “cycling”. Let’s be clear, my spinal injury is nothing compared to David’s but I told him about my injury and recovery. I can’t speak for David but I think we bonded over our common experiences and our philosphy of life.
We talked a great deal about the mental impact of physical injury. Both of us understood each other so well when we told our stories about the mental side of recovery. It was so good to talk to someone who knew exactly what it was like. We exchanged some very personal stories that will remain between us. It was cathartic. He was such a gentlemen and a great guy. A chance meeting with a kindred spirit. In fact so great we didn’t even realise we’d reached the summit, so engrossed in our conversation were we. That’s why it was the greatest climb I’ve ever done.
At the summit we both both re-joined our respective groups to go our separate ways.
On the descent I started to think about David some more. I started to well up and my visibility was impaired by the tears in my eyes. Not the safest thing to do when hurtling down a mountain at 60km/h. It was a moment. I knew David would understand. That’s why it was the greatest climb I’ve ever done.
Oh, and after that I climbed the Col la Madeleine, 26km long and 1,500m of climbing.
Year to date
11,383km / 98 rides / 116 km average per ride
113,001m elevation gain (12.7 Everests)