Tue 10 March 2015, 5:14 pm
Team Sitematch London, triumphant! Toby Fox (centre) and Brendon Walsh (right). Behind them, Matt McMillan of Croydon Council and Lucy Taylor of Ealing Council. Matt completed the entire 1500km ride from London to Cannes (he looks as relaxed as ever). Lucy achieved her aim of cycling over 100 miles a day. Brendon survived a health scare on Day Four to finish his fifth Cycle to MIPIM. David Lunts of the Greater London Authority was still smiling nonchalantly at the end...
The peloton celebrates
Never has a beer tasted so good: only appropriate that the beer was London Pride, bottles of which were handed out by 3Fox staff to Team Sitematch London riders. A great end to a day that began in trepidation: this was the second of last year's "dark moment" days, with a severe (in my terms) climb, followed by an even tougher one and then, yes, yet another climb: 4,667ft in all for the day. Last year the bike had blown up again, leaving me without my bottom gear - the last club in the bag. That, combined with pitiful weakness, meant I needed help up the climbs, with pushes on two from Brendon, David Hutt and Tim Pearce.
Not now though: I wasn't first (much closer to last!) but I did it on my own steam, remembering precisely the short stretches of the steepest climbs and knowing that I was going to take them; a great feeling. I did the worst stretches alone, slow and steady, eventually catching up to a small group and overtaking with an attack on the last hairpin.
Hysteria builds as we get ready for the final stage
John Forbes overtook on the descent and I tucked in behind, hitting just under 40mph as we soared down around curves, past villa walls, sheer drops and parked cars, catching up with a driver who I am convinced saw us in his rearview mirror and accelerated to clear a path for us. I was unnerved by a couple of bends before realising that John's brakes screeched, giving me a fractional warning of when to slow - just enough to give me the confidence to follow his line. Exhilarating.
Cruising across the Lac de Saint Cassien, just a few miles from the finish. Photography by Matt Alexander.
I fired down the final descent, got caught as usual on the rise afterwards, this time by Scott, and we took it in turns to lead each other to the coast. Found the peloton assembled along a straight, opposite what looked like a golf course. We all shuffled into team order and began the celebratory "formation ride" along the seaside (spotting our first "suits" - the sign of our impending departure from lycra world), past the Palais des Festivals and onto the Croisette (by this time my gears were slipping all over thye place - please God don't fail me now, bike). Over the finishing line behind the London Pavilion, grabbing Brendon's hand for a raised salute and searching for photographers for the pic - shameless.
The end: hugs all round, a symbolic stamping into the ground of a Mule Bar (ugh - no more sugar!) and gathering for official photographs. Great to see the 3Fox team with bags full o' beers. Onto the Savills stand, where we were served steins of lager, burgers and heaps and heaps and heaps of chips. Matthew may or may not have left his sunglasses on the coach: it doesn't matter anymore. Tim Pearce is there to say hello: my saviour last year, unable to take part in 2015 having been blessed with a third child and forced into a bit of parenting.
Tim Pearce is at the Savills tent to share a stein or two. We missed him this year...
The Originals – nine riders from the original Cycle to MIPIM in 2006, taking part again in this 10th anniversary year, with Peter Murray, Cycle to Cannes founder, bottom row, second from right, and David Hutt and Chris Tredget (back row, far right and far left, respectively) of team sponsor Willmott Dixon.
And then the anticlimax: dragging the cases through Cannes to my hotel (mercifully close to the Palais - thank you Katie, massive result), collapsing into the shower and getting ready for the first working dinner of MIPIM.
My record for C2C 2015:
523.81 miles (87 miles a day average)
35,705 calories (5,951 a day average)
7,198m / 23,615ft climbed (1,200m / 3,937ft a day average)
15.53mph average speed
39.6mph max speed (day 4, stage 3)
£34,540 raised for Coram and the other Cycle to MIPIM charities (it's not too late; you can sponsor us here)
Sunglasses lost: 0
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