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St. Helens Cycle Racing Club


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Rapha Cent Cols Challenge

By Ian Pugh

On 9th June 2014 Bob Pugh & Ian Pugh commenced the amazing brutal Rapha Cent Cols Challenge – Alps (http://centcolschallenge.com/routes/alps). This is Ian’s diary from the ride. An amazing challenge.

Bob & Ian Pugh

Day 1: Crazy first day in the Cent Cols Challenge!!

128 miles cycled, over 16 Cols and a total elevation of 5700m in 30 degrees!!! Had a shocker though with 3 punctures! We started at 7.30am and finished at 9pm!! Probably the hardest day I've ever had on a bike and we've still got 9 days to go! One fella didn't manage his fluids and salt properly and ended up the van for a while whilst he recovered and another two fellas ended up in the van for the last few miles.... Tough tough day! Unbelievable views and roads took your mind of the pain, heat and time though! All the duties are done and we're doing what we can to recover for another 120 miles and god knows how many Cols tomorrow!!

Day 2: Another long day on the bike today!!

124 miles and 9 cols. We left the hotel in Valberg at 7.30am andarrived in Sisteron at 6pm! Up until 4pm the weather was boss, in the high twenties and then we got caught a huge thunderstorm with the biggest lightening bolts I've ever seen.... I've never seen big Bob so scared only joking Dad! We had a 30km descent in the thunderstorm to get to our hotel and it was freezing, to add to the experience I punctured AGAIN, I'm having a shocker with mechanicals. 80 km from the finish I had a few gearing issues, the cable to my rear mech was fraying so hindering the gear changes. The bike mechanic said he'd repair it there and then and cut the gear cable..... And then realised he had no other cables in the van!! So I had to ride the last 80km/50 miles over 3 cols stuck in one gear.... Nightmare! Overall it's been a long and pretty frustrating day but we're here and the legs are okay so it's all good!  Another big one tomorrow taking in 9 Cols, including the Izoard (2352m).!

Day 3: Another great day in the saddle today!

121 miles in the bag and a shed full of Cols knocked off the list! It was more or less 30 degrees all day again so it's was hard as nails over the climbs in the afternoon! The casualties are increasing day by day, with 4 fellas getting open saddle sores(mainly from the salt being left after all the sweating we're doing - I'm praying to god I avoid them) and there's another fella in bed ill with sickness! Fingers crossed me and Biggy can keep going as we are and stay healthy! There was also one DNF again today which is a shame but just shows how tough the day was! My only niggle is a sore back but I've just had a massage and had it taped up to try and sort it..... Obviously Big Bob is Big Bob and is sound, machine! He also got the prize for rider of the day today, probably because everyone's amazed how such a fat old man can cycle over mountains so well!!! Haha. Tomorrow is the 'Queen' stage, 150 miles, 5500m and takes in 4 huge cols all over 2000m!! Including the Madeleine. Needless to say it's going to be ridiculously hard especially now our bodies are suffering from the first few days! Thanks to everyone that's sponsored us too, we appreciate it and it's towards a great cause! Anyway, my Dads just spotted there's Kronenbourg behind the beer.....

Day 4: Stage 4 is in the bag!!!

It ended up 145 miles, over 18,000 ft of climbing and finished after the Madeleine climb! We had already done 110 miles when we hit the climb! We were up at 5am and cycling by 7am..... And we rolled in to the finish at more or less 9pm! What a day! Really really tough though, one fella didn't start as he got severe dehydration yesterday, it was that bad the organisers were ringing the hospital last night, and there were 5DNF (did not finish) and another fella cutting the route short! That's some mad stats when you think there's only 30 of us doing it! But we should be sound, I'm lay here with a Kronenbourg,compression tights on, anti-inflammatory gel on my knees and my arse is smothered in sudacream so we're definitely looking after ourselves Today had a good few cols with 4 of them being over 2000m!! Big bob had a bad stomach for part of the day and really struggled over one of the climbs, but recovered in a few hours and was flying over the Madeleine! We're both starting to feel stronger rather than just managing to reach the finish. We had a little go over the Madeleine today and did pretty well, so fingers crossed we'll be flying by next week! After another huge day tomorrow it's our rest day in Annecy, which we could really do with, my back is in bits, I've just got back from another massage and having it taped up again. There's 2 physio therapists flying out to meet us tomorrow night so hopefully they'll sort out all the niggles!! That'll do for tonight my Kronenbourgs getting warm here!!

Day 5: Was hard as nails.

125 miles and we went over 13 mountains, not as big as the day before but a lot of them and all steeper! Over the last few days we've been riding in a group of five, all similar abilities attitude and sense of humour so it's been a good mix - there's Steely the Norwegian, Matt the American, Grant from Bermuda and me and Biggy. But yesterday Matt had to get in the van after being sick a few times due to overheating; he was in a bad way which was a shame. Then a few miles later Steely started dying, really struggling and we had 80 miles and 10 cols left! Long story short we dragged him through it to the end and he finished - heroic effort! I also came very very close to taking the knock yesterday which I wasn't happy about! I need to keep a closer eye on when and what I'm eating! We keep getting warned about how unpredictable the weather is in the Alps and how you always need to carry capes, arm warmers etc. with you, and we experienced it first-hand yesterday. We were climbing a mountain complaining about the heat, then we started having lunch at the summit and within 5 minutes there was a thunderstorm hitting us and we had to wrap up and get off the mountain ASAP, and then when we got down to the valley it was 35 degrees again! Crazy! I was looking forward to a lie in this morning because we've been living on 4 hours sleep a night, but that obviously wasn't going to happen with Bob 'if I'm not sleeping you’re not' Pugh! Anyway today's the rest day, so we've just had breakie overlooking Lake Annecy and now We’re just getting ready to do all our washing and then go on a little bike ride to try and loosen the legs up and stop them from seizing up!

Day 6: Wet wet wet!!

Another 124 miles today over countless mountains! But I wouldn't want I spend Father'sDay any other way, riding through the Alps suffering alongside your Dad, boss! It was all Enjoyable until the weather closed and we got absolutely battered. Our 5 man team lost a member today too, Steely the Norwegian went to hospital yesterday and was told not to ride his bike for two days, so he's 'stuck' in Lake Annecy in a boss hotel overlooking the lake for 2 days whilst we ride 120+ miles a day over mountains in the rain..... I think I might be developing an illness you know but fingers crossed he'll be back with us for the Mont Ventour stage! Unfortunately another lad Ian also flew home yesterday after struggling and falling ill, it's a real shame because we all want to get through it the best we can together! Anyway it's Father's Day so I'm taking Big Bob to the bar to taste their best bottle of red, possibly followed by their best tasting lager..... That, along with me going easy on him for 6 stages is a pretty good Father's Day present if you ask me

Day 7: Another tough day!

Today's stage was 132 miles and 4800m!!! I was going great until the last 10 mile when I hit the wall of all walls! Mentally and physically! We had just climbed a 11km mountain so I was expecting a nice descent to recover before another 8km mountain, however there wasn't a descent so it was more or less a 19km col! I'd blown, had no inner tubes left and my right knee was in bits, little things but after 122 miles over 14 cols it did me!!! Tonight we're staying in  town which in the 2nd world war was a strong hold for the French resistance, as a result the Germans came in and massacred the whole town. There is a graveyard/memorial as you enter the town, we went in and had a look around and there was the grave of an 18 month old baby!! How could anybody do that?! I'm absolutely shagged now, I've got a massage at 10.30 to hopefully sort my knee and I'll get my back strapped up again, I'm slowly falling to bits Tomorrow's stage take us over the iconic Mont Ventoux, so pretty excited for that, fingers crossed the winds are kind to us, there’s a 95% chance the pass will be open apparently!

Day 8: Unbelievable day!

120 miles 4,430m climbing. Today I had one of/if not the best cycling moment I've ever had.... Climbing Mount Ventoux!! I've grown up watching stages of the Tour de France race up the iconic mountain, knowing the story of Tom Simpson dying on it and numerous people telling me how it starts in the trees and then above a certain altitude it's completely baron, and about it's notoriouslystrong winds etc etc...Today we hit the start of Mount Ventoux after over 100 miles on the bike and after 7 other cols!! As we started the climb it was 28 degrees but we could see lightening hitting the mountain higher up in a thunder storm! A long story short we rode through the clouds, storms and winds to get to the summit which was lovely an sunny - but so windy! You might think, whys he getting excited over a mountain in the French Alps, but to cyclists it's like the Wembley of cycling! We had our group of 5 back together today after Steely the Norwegian rejoined after his forced rest days, and we had a great laugh! Only two days to go - which I'm kind of made up about but also going to miss these amazing rides, crazy distances and never ending mountains! That'll do for tonight because I'm about to get my knee seen too, because I did it no favours battering up Mount Ventoux today, well worth it though! Plus the Kronenbourg's only €2.30 -

BARGAIN!

Day 9: We left the hotel, and rode 142 miles to another hotel....

And this stage was meant to be a 'relatively easy day' according to the program! Numerous mountain passes = another day of suffering. 4,000m of climbing. Meanwhile during the ride I hit a massive wall and died a million deaths, whereas big bob was flying and made my ride a nightmare!! It's the last stage tomorrow, but it's meant to be an easyish ride into Nice with a big race for the last 20km! Should be fun!

Day 10: The End!

Today started with us riding out of the Verdon Gorge in the morning which was amazing, definitely something to put on your bucket list!! It's a massive deep gorge with roads running along the very edge with literally nothing over the side of the road, just a drop down to the river. It was a pretty relaxed day as it was only 110 miles, our shortest ride yet, with over 10.000ft of climbing.  I even managed to sneak a 15 minute nap in at dinner! Bonus! Our team of 5, nicknamed 'team omelette', 'the fab five' and 'the dream team' by the other lads (because we just chill and have cafe stops... And generally enjoy it) have took it pretty steady to make sure we completed the whole challenge.... Sensible thing to do when there's people flying home and DNF stages etc, but today we thought we'd have a go. On a 13km climb after dinner everyone was getting frisky at the bottom, it was a classic 'who's got the biggest dick scenario'!! Big bob started it and jumped at the bottom, and then it went mad! A long story short, I've got the 3rd biggest dick behind two Australians out of 30 people from all over the world, I was made up with that!! The organiser being a sadist added a final climb of the day before we descended into Nice, it was voluntary as to whether you did it or not, as the Challenge had concluded. This climb was 5k long with an average gradient of 10% (steep). Only 11 decided to  do it, including me and Big Bob, I was 3rd up and chuffed it was all about to end.

An amazing experience, that I wouldn’t rush to do again, that’s Bob not Ian saying that. ‘Never say Never’.

For more pictures check our Club Photos page

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