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Guest blog: My pals the cycling maddies

Written by Fiona June 21 2010

I’ve invited Simon Walton to write about his friends and their madcap cycling for charity adventure.

Simon may be happy to ride bareback on an unpredictable mare, or skate toe-to-toe with some bear of an ice hockey defence-man; but getting him on a bike is another matter.  So he lives in constant awe and envy of those who not only master the art, but put their talent to good fundraising use – like the pair of his cycle of friends who’re taking on L’Etape du Tour – a singularly gruelling prelude to the Tour de France.  Here’s a pair who’re putting their mettle to the pedal.

He writes:

To Your Knees In The Pyrenees

I’m not really comfortable with modes of transport that don’t have support at each corner.  In fact, I often wonder how I manage bi-peddler perambulation (walking) without falling over.  After all, as Scotty often opined, “You canny break the laws of physics,” and, when it comes to the physics of staying upright, I just can’t get around the fact that two wheels in one plane of motion just isn’t enough.

So, you won’t catch me teetering along any cycle path any time soon, far less risking life and limb on some impossibly thin-wheeled contraption, balancing precariously over some mountain pass, with a drop – to certain death – of several thousand meters below.

However, I’ve a couple of fearless, death-defying cyclist friends – who failed their physics exams – who are planning to do just that, and are well on the way to raising £25,000 for charity in the process.

Supporting the MS Society is a worthy cause without much case for argument, but Fraser Tait and David Hunt are going to frankly extraordinary lengths to prove the point.

Wheely bonkers?: Dave and fraser

Now Fraser’s basically an up-market dairy farmer – he owns a posh cheese company in Fife – but his wife, Ashley, sadly contracted MS just over a year ago.  For him, there’s no questioning his motivation for supporting the care and research charity.  For Dave though, it’s a little more of a stretch.

There are not many gradients to be tackled in Dave’s day job.  He runs Castle and Kingdom Chem-Dry, a successful carpet cleaning business, where a nice, smooth, and certainly flat finish is the order of the day.  Maybe the thought of the clean and pristine world of domestic perfection is the foil that persuaded Dave to take up the challenge posed by his equally entrepreneurial associate.

Dave is, not surprisingly, a good friend of Fraser – they’re neighbours, and Fraser was best man at Dave’s wedding.  Dave, however, only really took up cycling about two years ago, and when Fraser suggested they could do something in the saddle to help support MS, the prospect of L’Etape du Tour must have seemed just a bit extreme.  Still, there’s much to be said for friendship, and this is a friendship that’s made of stern stuff.

Let’s put this in perspective.  Dave’s bike needed de-rusting two years ago, before it would even turn a wheel.  Since then, the intrepid pair have built up to training runs of forty and fifty miles – a day – and competed with honours in rides, including the murderously alpine Bealach Beag Cycle Sportive on the Applecross Pensinsula early in May, where the winding roads are an ideal preparation for the switchback trails through the French Pyrenees. (See my recent Bealach Na Ba blog, too!

Ah, yes, did I point out that L’Etape du Tour is a full-blown stage of the Tour de France?  Did I also neglect to mention that it’s 112-miles long, and did I somehow overlook the ever-so-minor point that it involves a thigh-bursting 4,500 meters of stiff climbing thorough the French Pyrenees?  So high is the route that you can see four countries from the final peak at the head of the famous Road to Tourmalet.

I’m breathless just writing about this, but these two guys are contemplating completing this virtually vertical challenge in around nine hours – in the company of 9,000 other competitors, and all in what is continental Europe’s biggest annual charity event.

Around 8,500 enthusiasts take part in the gruelling L’Etape du Tour – where amateur riders tackle a mountainous route from the town of Pau, to the Col du Tourmalet – with a few minor undulations along the way. All of them at an altitude above the peak of Ben Nevis.

Oh, and the weather should be fine as well – L’Etape du Tour takes place on July 18, in the week before the start of the Tour de France – so anything less than 25 degrees centigrade would be considered a blessing.

So far, after originally aiming to raise just £1500, the pair have powered on to over half of their new target of £25,000.  A ceilidh ball, designed just to raise awareness, brought in £10,000, and the funds keep coming.

Now, as I’ve already intimated, I’ll not be joining the pair –for reasons of simple science – I believe I’d fall off, and that’s that.  However, I will be adding my tangible support to these would-be Kings of the Mountains, by signing up at Dave and Fraser’s website, The Road to Tourmalet

You all, who have mastered the concept of balance through conservation of momentum, can cycle along as well – though applications for L’Etape can only be made through organised bodies.  I do suggest you saddle up for the fundraising efforts of the Pyrenean Pair – they deserve support – from all corners.

* A bit about Simon Walton. He does get out now and again.  He’s a bit sporty – and no stranger to the playing field, where he demonstrates an equal lack of ability at a variety of ball, bat and racquet sports.  As a broadcaster, he’s been behind the mic for the BBC and commercial radio, and boasts a brief affair with rock radio in California.  These days, he’s happy writing for publications and public relations, and runs a recession-busting bill killing domestic discount club.


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