From 7 Peaks to the Tour de France

Terry Golding from Adelaide proved true the adage ‘you’ve gotta be in it to win it’ when he won the Major Prize of a trip to the 2018 Tour de France with Wide Open Road Tours, after registering then completing 4 ascents in last seasons 7 Peaks challenge. Want to hear more about Terry’s trip of a lifetime (and how that could be you next year), read on…

‘Our family of four, after a fantastic Christmas 2017 in Melbourne, headed to the High Country for some well-earned r&r! Let’s first introduce ourselves: I’m Terry a builder, my wife Rebecca is a school teacher, Will is our son in year 11 and our other son Sammy, the baby, who is in year 9. We live in Adelaide, South Australia. By r&r I mean the three of us boys riding as much as Rebecca will allow then recovering for the remainder of our trip…that’s why the Victorian High Country appealed so much to us!

First stop was Mansfield where the three of us climbed Mt. Buller – we loved it! It was the first real mountain climb of our trip…we are from Adelaide remember. We then packed-up our trusty VW Transporter & headed for one of our favourite places in Australia – Bright. We have recent fond memories of Will racing the Australian National Mountain Bike Championships here on the trails of Mystic Mountain!

7 Peaks 2018 Major Prize Winner

Early on New Year’s Day 2018, we took off up Mount Buffalo. Quite roads, perfect weather plus spectacular scenery made this the perfect way to start the new year and our new Strava calendar! Still on a high from climbing Buffalo we set out to conquer Falls Creek the very next day. We’re so very glad we did – it was completely unique and another big cycling achievement! We left the High Country shortly after convinced we would return – promising we would get the remaining four stamps in our 7 Peaks digital passport.

Returning to Adelaide we continued to ride and keep our ‘form’ from our High  Country trip. The Tour Down Under was a great incentive for keeping up the training and enjoyment for our hobby! Then one day, May 8th, I am in the van…I get a call. It’s a ‘Zero Three’ number. Ahhh who is this I thought, not another telemarketer! “Hello Terry…. Yes…. It’s Matt from 7 Peaks, Tourism North East in Victoria… Hi… Do you know why I’m calling? … No, how can I help… Did you ride the 7 Peaks this season? Yes some… Well Terry you have just won the major prize!!! What – you’re kidding!!! Yes you have won a trip for two on a Wide Open Road cycling holiday to France to watch the Tour de France live!!! ... That’s incredible!!! Amazing. Wait hang on the Tour de France is in July – that’s in two months’ time! …Yes, that’s right. I’m in a spin!!!!! Thank you so much!!!!!

I then had a wonderful call from Clare from Wide Open Road Cycling Tours based in Melbourne. Clare was so lovely, explained everything about the upcoming tour and just wanted to be sure that a) I was capable of climbing the iconic mountains of France day in day out and that b) I would also bring someone else suitable. That’s when I said I wanted to bring my 16 year old son Will. At first Clare was a little hesitant, not knowing if he could ride and hoping he would fit in with an ‘older’ crowd. I assured her on both fronts he would be great and would love it. You see Will, like his younger brother, loves cycling. He is working towards a career in cycling – so this was such a GIFT for the two of us!

I couldn’t wait for Will, Rebecca and Sammy to get home from school to tell them. I took Will into the lounge, code for ‘we need to talk’. Will knew something was odd as I had discreetly positioned my iPhone on the arm of the lounge, recording our conversation (and importantly his response). Rebecca, who was in on it by now, was fantastic at keeping a straight face while I opened by saying ‘You know son, in this world you have to work hard, and hard work gets results etc. etc. Yes I know Dad – you have told me all this before…. Well anyway son, sometimes you need luck and today I had some incredibly good fortune… You and I buddy, we are off to the Tour de France in 8 weeks time’ ……. “what, how, your joking!!!” It was one of the best moments of my life telling him we are going on a trip of a lifetime doing what we love! Amazingly the whole trip fitted into his school holidays too! We were both in shock for day’s and spent the next week telling family and friends the unbelievable news.

That evening I was on Zwift preparing as best I could for the 15 day tour that would take us from Nice to Alpe D’Huez. In the eight weeks leading up to the holiday I did 2,500km, lost 5 kilograms and was in the best bike shape of my life! Will on the other hand just keep following his coach’s program and didn’t stress to much about his conditioning (more about him later). I also followed Clare’s suggestions on what to take, downloaded GPS maps and files and bought the right equipment…all which proved to be invaluable whilst away. As you can imagine, eight weeks flew by and before long we were on the overnight flight to Nice via Dubai.

I hadn’t been to France since my early 20’s, on a Contiki tour, somewhat different to the tour we were to embark on! I loved showing Will the pebbled Mediterrianean beaches, the old money of Monte Carlo and his first ever European city…even though the only French word we spoke was ‘oui’! After meeting Clare, Pepe, Alfie, Roofie and Mick (the crew from Wide Open Road) we were immediately at ease and delighted – everyone was super relaxed. At first, I thought ‘wow – that’s a lot of crew for just 19 riders and there are two huge vans for our gear!’ It was really comforting knowing that there was always support if you needed it. The first day of the tour was interesting – riding through Nice on the wrong side of the road on slightly busy streets, but it didn’t take long before we had ridden the Avenue de Anglais, past what must be the biggest flock of private jets in the world (Cote d’Azur Airport) and into the beautiful hinterland behind. The longer we rode, the better it got. I had to tell myself ‘you can’t stop every five minutes for a photo or you will never get there’ (I got really proficient at taking photos on the bike). Each day the scenery changed, every day our smiles got broader.

I kept saying to Clare ‘you have outdone yourself today – this route is incredible’. Then inevitably the next day, it got better! I joked with her one night over a beautiful group dinner in Briancon, prepared by a Michelin stared chef nonetheless, that she even arranged for France to win the (soccer) World Cup for us today! We couldn’t have asked for a better tour operator. Will and I particularly loved the camping (about half the nights) where we would get into camp to chill out, chat and eat a wonderfully prepared afternoon tea of local produce sourced an prepared by the crew…just what every hungry cyclist needs!

The riding…oh the riding! What an absolute privilege I had to ride with my son for two weeks! We never get to spend this amount of time together just riding and talking and admiring and sweating and laughing and crying and riding together…it was something I will never forget!

Each morning at about 9am, after a delicious fresh fruit salad and a route briefing with course notes in hand, Will and I would head off together. With our Garmin bike computers preloaded with maps, we simply had to turn left or right when told to do so, not having to worry about where we were going but knowing we were in for an awesome day ahead! After day five the climbing really started…and by climbing, I mean Mont Vonteux. The YouTube videos were still fresh in my mind! The ‘Giant of Provence’ is 10km long with gradients of 10% plus. ‘Have I trained enough?’ said the little voice in my head, followed by ‘here goes…let’s make this one of my efforts!’  Actually, I was happy with my ride, not as hard as I had originally thought! ‘Good, maybe I can get through this unscathed!’

Then the other problem reared its head…altitude. The Col de La Bonette tops out at 2802 metres above sea level and remember those tears I spoke about, well that’s where I shed them. In between sucking in deep breaths as Will dropped down to tow me up the hill I can vividly remember saying ‘THIS  hahhh MOUNTAIN hahhh WILL hahhhh NOT hahhh BEAT hahhhh ME hahhhh’. Ironically Will was in the process of doing his senior year research project on High Altitude Training. He had his old man as a living, pathetic example of his studies!

I survived, and I think got stronger for it. More iconic climbs followed over the next few days, Col de Vars, Col d’Izord, Col du Galibier and Col de la Croix de Fer…all beautiful, all different and all giving us a reason to have a photo with a smile by the sign at the summit. Then as if the best was left till last we rode the Hollywood Climb – Alpe d’Huez!!! We climbed it at the end of a big day in the saddle, with nearly 3000 metres of climbing in our legs already that day, we knew we weren’t going to set any records, brilliant as it was. With unfinished business, Will and I rode on to the beautiful town of Bourg d’Oisans. We both gave it everything, left it all out there you might say, knowing we might not be back for a while. I was very happy with my time of 1hour and 7minutes. Will came back down to pick me up for my last bit (as he always does). Breathing heavily, I asked, ‘how did you go mate?’ He said he would let me know at the summit. ‘Just keep going Dad…you’re doing great!’ After taking time to recover at the summit, I asked again, ‘how did you go mate?” It was fair to say he was rapt with his time of 46 minutes…that’s within 9 minutes of the all-time best! This gave Will great confidence that he is on the right track for his future career. I’m so proud of him!

Without doubt the greatest day of our trip was when the day the Tour de France came to town and climbed up Alpe D’Huez. It felt like the biggest race in the world had met the biggest sporting arena in the world! Clare, as usual, had us well briefed on what we could expect, when to leave and what to take. Will opted to dress in a one-piece Australian flag skin suit for the day, drawing plenty of attention especially from the Aussies on course, even more-so when he pulled a mono. We even stopped for a pint of beer at Dutch corner (hairpin #7 of 21). As it heated up Will and I wanted to get a good position for the day ahead, so we found a great shady viewing spot in between two party zones. The lead-up to the riders passing was awesome with loud music, celebrations, flares, the sponsors caravan…the atmosphere needs to be experienced to be believed! Then the riders came past in a flash: they were racing, riding as hard as they could, just as we had the day before but they had being doing it for 13 days! We had just witnessed the best riding spectacle in the world…how lucky we were!!!

It was the next day we had to say good-by to our new cycling friends of Wide Open Road before travelling home. We were exhausted, spent, toast…but wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Will and I would like to thank Tourism North East for running the 7 Peaks program, the wonderful major prize experience and of course Clare Holdsworth and the Wide Open Road crew for an extremely well run and fun tour.’

 

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Havin' a wheelie good time in France