Rush raids the Alps
August 11, 2014 – Peter Rush has featured here before; as a rebel of fashion. But he is also an unwavering rider keen to push himself, quietly, wherever possible.
Here is his account of one such occasion, earlier this summer when he took on the Raid Alpine sportive with Marmot Tours.
Thonon-les-Bains to Antibes. Six days, 31 Alpine cols, 740km, 16,800 metres of climbing. Go!
Raid Alpine, 2014: Prologue
SO I’m sitting in the foyer of a hotel in Antibes awaiting my transfer to the airport not quite recovering from a hangover because it hasn’t set in yet. But it’s in the post; I’m not relishing the flight back to Dublin.
There is something detached about my surroundings; as if I arrived from a dreamworld back to the wrong spot on Earth. How I got here goes back three years when some friends suggested I should ride the Wicklow 100 with them It sounded like a lot. I began training; I would set out towards Roundwood on my hybrid, pannier filled with sandwiches, three litres of water and a ski jacket. The wrong side of 20kg in total.
After a puncture on the Calary Road and subsequent bonk in Newcastle left me riding the Dart back from Greystones I resolved to buy a road bike. The shiny carbon fibre Felt Z6 was a revelation – the hook was well in.
A fortnight later I completed the Wicklow 100, in the now infamous downpour of 2011. On to W200.
With increased range I began to see more fellow riders and learnt to salute in passing, or at least nod to them in deference to our shared toil. Occasionally, some would offer encouragement as they passed me labouring up a climb.
Standing at the top of The Wall one morning, recovering, the brightly-coloured red and purple club swooshed onto the sharp decent with a “well done”, and “you can cross that off the list”. I spotted their colours most weekends after that.
With the 200 completed – despite a mechanical that left me in a single gear – I decided that to improve further I’d better join a club. I discovered the friendly red and purple jerseys belonged to a club close to me. I joined STCC that autumn.
Two years later and 22kg lighter, my wife’s girl-guiding activities allowed me an entire week free to cycle. “Work on your weaknesses,” they say. I went climbing.
A mere seven days ago: I arrive in a rainy Geneva airport and make my way to the appointed café on the lookout for thin people with curious shaped plastic boxes. We are embarking on the Raid Alpine – Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean Sea; Cycling 740km over 31 alpine cols – in total 16,800 meters climbing in six days.
I find three of them with James, both tour organiser and half our support team. We move bags and bikes to the customised black van that was to become a welcoming sight over the week. Two of the three, Matt and Mike, will become my road companions; the third, Bob, is much faster and I will not see much of him – in lycra at least.
At the hotel we grab a quick burger and I meet my steed – it boasts titanium frame, fork and seat post custom built for James, Deda bars and stem and SRAM Force 22 drivetrain. It has a nice saddle too, but I fit my own from the Felt along with my Look pedals. It’s Mavic Aksium wheels are not great for climbing, but they are a robust choice and will handle braking heat better than more exotic, race-oriented hoops. For a brushed, metal bike with chunky handlebars, it looks heavy but is surprisingly light – about 8.5kg. The main draw however is the 11-32 cassette and compact crank. These will save me.
That night we meet the remainder of the group – 19 of us in total. Of those I meet that first night, all of them have some multi-day Alpine or Pyrenean experience. My doom apparently confirmed, I don’t sleep too well.