6 years ago I was on the cusp of 40 and in time honoured fashion wanted to celebrate in a suitable manner (no, not that way, hookers appear chronologically much later in this tale). My Mate Dave had always talked about his Raid Pyrenean adventure, so, with his able logistical support, I decided to take on the major climbs in the Pyrennes, the Tormalet, Aspin, Aubisque etc. I was pretty fit from running and thought that would see me through. After 96 miles in 38C on the first days it was clear that this approach was fundamentally flawed. Over the next week climbs followed, descents were avoided (what’s the point in a hire car unless you’re prepared to use it?) and My Mate Dave’s smiling face, as he leaned out of the window to offer what he maintains to this day were ‘words of encouragement’, was seared into my mind.
Moving on three years, the expensive counseling had stitched my fragile psyche back together and I was ready for the French Alps, Alpe d’Huez, Galibier, Croix de Fer and the rest. But this time My Mate Dave was riding – payback time! An enjoyable week was had cycling squares up Alpe d’Huez while looking down (metaphorically, literally and in every other way) on My Mate Dave several hairpins below. Somehow, despite sneering and gloating on my part (for which I am still proud), our friendship endured.
Fast forward to early 2012 (fast forward into the past? Does that scan?), and My Mate Dave mooted a trip to the Italian Alps to take on some of the legendary Giro climbs – the likes of the Stelvio, Gavia and the reportedly fearsome Mortirolo. I wasn’t really going to say no, was I?
Being both steeped in cycling folk lore and undeniably pretentions, I knew that the key to the whole trip was le metier. Having booked the trip 6 months previously I had plenty of time to organise equipment, body, mind. I thus timed it like a space mission as those never go wrong (apart from Apollo 13 and then Tom Hanks saved the day. Or was it Kevin Bacon?) and before I knew what had happened I emerged from a space/time vortex and was looking down the barrel of T -60 hours with a bike in pieces, skinned knuckles and a barked shin…..