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  Update 17th June 2010
Approaching the end now, only 2 days left on the ride and we are back in England, everyone is tired and looking forward to completion.
Thanks for your interest in our effort for Hope House please enjoy the update on our progress.
Alan Sadler
JGGM Fundraising
Mont Ventoux
ASFNothing prepares you for Mont Ventoux. Put simply it is a freak of geology, a genuinely weird place. Firstly, it stands alone at the south-westernmost tip of the Alps. You can see it for miles because the surrounding terrain is largely flat. It is not particularly high at 6,000 feet but imagine a childs drawing of a mountain and you will get an idea of how steep it is. The top two thousand feet consists of gleaming white limestone rocks, a consequence of soil erosion after the French stripped the mountain of trees to build ships several hundred years ago.
The effect gives the appearance that the mountain is permanently snow capped. Standing alone it is exposed to the full force of the elements with windspeeds measuring  56+ mph more than 240 days a year and the road to the top is closed almost as often as it is open.

The weird mountain attracts even weirder people, mostly clad in Lycra though on the day the GM Fundraising team cycled up it, a bloke with a black fedora hat and a mack was cycling down.
ASFThe Tour De France often features an iconic Ventoux stage, which attracts lovers of cycle racing and a more ghoulish element there to see people push themselves beyond their limits. Infamously, English cycling legend Tom Simpson died ascending Ventoux during a Tour stage in 1967. His memorial stands within sight of the summit and has become a shrine to the man as well as a warning to the unprepared.
Cycling up Ventoux is tough enough but remember the GMF team had to cycle to the beginning of the ascent from Aix-en-Provence, over 50 miles away.
After a quick lunch in Sault, the cyclists set off in three teams. Some had agreed to start as a team then spread out as they built up a rhythm. Others had opted to stay together. The early part of the ascent is through a twisty forest road, more mentally challenging than physical. Once past the treeline, however, the road steepens noticeably and the absence of trees means you can see the road ascending before you with tight hairpin bends. Afterwards a number of riders reflected that it felt like pedalling all the way to the moon.

ASFCyclists can be a bit anal about Ventoux. Some say the hardest route is on the North face rather than the southern route taken by GMF. Others say you should not put your foot to the ground or get off your bike. All we know is that every GMF rider summitted Mont Ventoux safely, some shedding a tear or two at the top where they were astonished to see David Featherstone, Chief Exec of Hope House and his wife Denise. They had paid their own way out just to pay a surprise tribute to the guys on the ride as they summitted Ventoux. It was a fantastic gesture and typical of the genuine high regard the people at Hope House have for everyone at GM Fundraising.

That night, as one of the riders sat at dinner he reflected that he had not found the ascent as difficult as he thought it would be. He had bought into the Ventoux folklore about riders "blowing up" and feared he may do the same. When asked where he had drawn the mental strength from to complete the ascent he simply replied, "I had to. It was for the kids". A comment that sort of sums up the attitude of everyone on the ride.
Best laid plans of mice and men
GazzaThe day after the euphoria of ascending Mont Ventoux, the team arose in Valson to the sight of persistent heavy rain. With 182 miles to cover, Cycling Manager, Iain McInnes had already elected to send out four teams, each covering 45 miles rather than three teams each covering 60 miles. Many of the riders were tired both from the effort expended climbing Ventoux and a succession of evening arrivals at hotels that had offered little time to recover before bed and the inevitable 6am alarm call.
The arrival of rain would undoubtedly slow the cyclists and make for yet another long tough day so Macca decided to try a new formation, six teams each covering 30 miles non-stop. He figured that it would raise the pace and mean that each RV would get back earlier.

With rides of this nature it is actually the ability of the vehicles to pick-up and drop-off the riders that has the biggest impact on managing the size of the teams. If one RV has to drop-off and recover three teams, by the time the last team is underway the first team are ready to be picked up.
ASFThis is because an average rider, cycling at 15 mph, covers thirty miles in two hours. The RV has to drive 60 miles to drop off the last team to start, then has to return 30 miles to pick up the first team. Now ninety miles in two hours might sound easy but each drop requires ten to fifteen minutes to get underway and with rain, roadworks and traffic delays it becomes a very big ask indeed. On Wednesday it was an ask too many.

Team one got away with it, dropping off and picking up virtually on the money. Team two got stuck in traffic outside Lyon on the way to drop off their final team, then had to go search for their second team who had taken a wrong turn, then finally lost fifty minutes trying to find their first team negotiating rush hour traffic.
ASFAll told their first team spent two and a half hours, sat in wet gear, in a grim cafe near Moulins railway station. The team finally got into their hotel in Roanne a little before 9pm. After a very late dinner in town the riders had a team meeting to discuss the next day's strategy. When we chose the month of June to cycle from Rome to Oswestry we could not have known that we would choose the week when France had some of the most devastating floods in decades. The next day we had to get to Orleans, distance of 202 miles and the weather was about to get much, much worse.
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