The Eiger Ridge

It’s been too long, way too long. Over two months when I knew I should knock out a Ride2Cure blog, but two months in which somehow it never happened. It’s a dangerous habit to get into, not least because if you don’t to do, every day, every week and every month blends into the next, and you’ve nothing to look back on. I apologise if R2CN has become a mush of miles of late with no Friday night substance.

It’s impossible to sit here just now, with COVID into its 9th month, and not reflect on how the pandemic has completely changed the dynamic of this journey. Gone are the days of choosing to go out battling wind and rain. Gone are the days of chasing Strava segments in the brand name of Ride2CureNeuroblastoma. In it’s place have come smart turbo trainers, virtual cycling and global R2CN brand awareness.

Let me take you back to my birthday back in March…

I saw lockdown coming. I still remember Jane asking me why I’d elected to take this journey off the road and onto a turbo trainer. I was only two weeks into “doing the numbers” but I knew back then that COVID was here for the long term, and because I’m a long term kind of a guy, I wanted certainty: swapping the roads for a turbo gave me that. But I was lucky: I managed to pick up a so called smart turbo just a matter of days before Boris shut everything down. My old turbo trainer, a state of the art machine back in 1992, had done me proud: it had probably taken me round the world between ’92 and ’96 when I was training for Manchester to Glasgow in a day, followed two years later by Aberdeen to Glasgow in ten hours. But technology moves on, and the switch to a smart turbo, technical gremlins and all, proved to be a masterstroke.

We are almost at 9 months since Lockdown 1 and during that time I’ve managed to rattle in 8700 miles. By the time we get to the anniversary on the 23rd, that number will be over 9000: a grand a month in old money.

Now let me take you back even further to May 2019 and a brunch date I had with Anna Meares. I’d already been off the bike for eight months after the Australian adventure but Anna quickly sussed that Walk2Cure, which I was heavily into at the time, wasn’t my bag. “You need to go back out onto the road” was her message, “and for all of the right reasons.” Whenever I feel even marginally challenged to back off, Anna’s words return to drive me on.

When I jumped back on the bike on the second anniversary of Eileidh’s passing, and with a sore arse for the first two weeks, I don’t mind admitting – it takes time to get accustomed to time in the saddle – I had no inclination of what lay ahead, other than the fact that I knew how hard the first 25,000 miles had been, and I guess deep down, a wee bit of me was really unsure whether this was actually a good idea. I had nothing to prove and everything to lose.

That was then: this is now.

A friend asked me back in January what my objective was. I said, somewhat loosely, that I was trying to ride another 25,000 miles and maybe take the overall total to 75,000 miles. Three times round the world at the equator seemed like a decent objective seeing as the original plan had been to do it once, yet somewhere along the line a second tour had snuck in. Three? Yeah, that seemed like a good idea at the time.

I’m currently homing in on 63,000 miles, but that’s merely a line in the sand.

On Wednesday of this week, I crashed through 500 stages of Ride2Cure2. In a row. Not a single day taken off. The record shows that for every one of those 500 days, I’ve averaged 2 hours and 25 minutes on the bike. It’s an average. Some days are more, much more, and some days are significantly less. But those two and a half hours translate into 35 miles a day. That’s the average for every one of those 500 days dating back to July 1st 2019.

And that’s what set me thinking…

I don’t actually like saying that I’m going to do this or I’m going to do that, because in reality all you are doing is setting yourself up for a fall. I prefer to potter along, giving it my best shot, then seeing how things turn out: less pressure, more fun, and ultimately more satisfaction.

But this opportunity, this challenge, this once in a lifetime “I can’t really do this, can I?” has not only caught my attention, it’s provided me with a razor like focus.

When I think about trying to take this challenge on, given where I’ve come from, a folding bike, a bus pass and an idea, it does make me wonder when it was in Anna’s career that she realised she was actually on course to do something unique. Rome wasn’t built in a day but there comes a time when you suddenly start to release “Y’know what, we could have Rome here…

On Wednesday, after that 500th stage, when I sat down and looked at the numbers, I realised that I have an opportunity to complete 25,000 miles in two years without taking a day off. That’s it in a nutshell. That’s what Ride2Cure2 has become.

I’m 502 days in and there are 229 to go. Maximum. The asking rate back at the start was 34.2. Now it stands at 32.3. Now do you see where I’m coming from? Two thirds done and ahead of the asking rate. It would be a cardinal sin not to take this on.

The 2 is significant. Two is the most common age of diagnosis of neuroblastoma. The original Ride2Cure across Australia had a 2 in it for that very reason. I rebranded the entire journey from 2013 as Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma because it encapsulated everything that I’d done: it was inclusive of the first 25,000 miles, it was inclusive of Brisbane to Adelaide, and it’s inclusive of Ride2Cure2.

Lockdown 1 brought about the virtual Brisbane to Adelaide on the turbo, followed by a virtual Tour of Ireland, right round the coast, and when that finished, I trumped it in terms of difficulty by taking on a virtual Tour of Iceland: hell, that was tough. Towards the end of the Iceland gig, just around the time I discovered RGT Cycling, I decided that the next virtual adventure would be Route 66 across America from Chicago to LA, immortalised by Chuck Berry and covered even more immortally by the Rolling Stones. I’ve got both versions on original vinyl.

Like R2C2 itself, virtual Route 66 is two thirds done: 1700 miles in the bank and just over 700 to go. St Louis, Oklahoma, Amarillo and Albuquerque are all history: been there, cycled that.

RGT Cycling has completely refocussed Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma. Whereas I started out as Von Schiehallion, my original Twitter handle, I now ride as Ride2Cure, except I have to have a first name (because it cannot be blank) so I’ve set myself up as A.Ride2Cure. When I race, that’s what the other guys see as my avatar, with a cancer awareness kit. I liken it to that scene in Butch Cassidy and The Sunday Kid where Robert Redford is looking back down into the valley at the guys tracking them on horseback: for “Who are those guys?”, read “Who is this guy?

On Tuesday, I virtual raced in Spain. Tomorrow I’m racing in Germany. Next Tuesday it’s a circuit in Kent, soon to become the toilet of England allegedly.

One of the magic things that RGT allows me to do is create any route I want, in any location I want, anywhere in the world, just so long as it’s under 6000m height. So I made a two mile virtual road down the north ridge of the Eiger in Switzerland, gave it a few nice sweeping bends, then rode it at breakneck speed in the garden shed. Actually I’ve ridden it a few times. Then I had an idea. There’s a fantastic song “Flying Solo” by the retro LA 80’s band Fire Tiger that came out just a few months ago. At two minutes and fourteen seconds, it’s a proper old fashioned single: short, to the point, great lyrics and it doesn’t half rattle along. So I rode down the Eiger, all 8000ft of it, in two minutes and fourteen seconds, recorded it on video, then slapped Flying Solo on as a backing track.

Then I sent it to the band.

That’s awesome!

That’s so cool!

I think they liked it. I love it.

But being the competitive perfectionist sort, I’ve lengthened the course by a couple of hundred metres and I’m going to ride it again, but faster.

That’ll be the remix single, the 12” version…

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