DERRY man, Ciaran Doran and his fellow ‘Le Tour - One Day Ahead’ cyclists this week embarked on some of the ‘toughest’ and ‘most exciting’ stages of this year’s Tour de France.
Led by former England international footballer and blood cancer survivor, Geoff Thomas, the the 11-strong peloton completed the longest stage of the tour on Monday - the 139 mile slog from Seraing to Cambrai in northern France as they took in seven stretches of ‘vicious’ cobbles.
After that ‘thrilling’ stage of the tour, the riders were glad for some ‘recovery’ time as they went from Arras to Amiens - a 189.5km ride largely without those dreaded climbs or cobbles.
There may be no fabled yellow jersey for this group of amateur cyclists but they’re experiencing all the ups and downs faced by the professionals.
As the professional peloton, led by German time trial specialist, Tony Martin, make their way across some of the key areas from the Battle of the Somme and a fast finish into Amiens today, Ciaran will be making final preparations for stage seven which takes him into Brittany.
Firstly, however, they tackle stage six of the Tour today (Wednesday) the 191.5km journey from Abbeville to Le Harve.
They’re a fair bit off the midpoint of the tour but remarkably they’re fast approaching the halfway stage in their bid to raise £1million for Cure Leukaemia! Ciaran has taken his personal fundraising total to an incredible £10,350 - still some bit short of his £50,000 target.
Team Sky’s Chris Froome, who is currently 12 seconds behind the leader, has offered his support to Ciaran and the ‘One Day Ahead’ team as they help raise vital funds for a cause close to the Olympic gold medalists’ heart having lost his mother to a blood cancer related illness.
‘Match of the Day’ pundit, former England interantional striker, Gary Lineker and goalkeeper, Ben Foster have also praised the team for their superb efforts.
Recalling the opening stages of his remarkable journey, Ciaran described the ride into Cambrai on Monday as ‘the most incredible cycling stage I’ve ever done’.
“This was the most incredible cycling stage I’ve ever done, one of the toughest but one of the most exciting,” said the Belmont Drive native.
“The longest stage in this year’s Tour de France at 221km (138 miles) and with seven, yes seven sections of cobbles totalling 13.5km.
“I can’t remember much about the start as I was so focussed on the complete journey. The riders did very well and were anticipating the lunch stop but didn’t really know where the first cobbled section took place.
“Just before departing from a pit stop I asked and was told that the cobbles were a few kilometres away so I quickly put some extra padding, using two-inch silver plumbers insulation foam taped to the bars.
Pushing a very big gear this had the effect of making the front of the bike act like a leaf-spring as I got faster and faster over those big stones – they were quite vicious and I’m really glad I didn’t puncture or fall off.Ciaran Doran
“Good job I did as the cobbles were just around the corner! This was secton seven as they were numbered in descending order. This wasn’t so bad and was simply a taster of things to come.
“Section three cobbles had a plate announcing when this section was opened and by whom - that’s how seriously the French take these cobble sections of road between the fields – and there were many cyclists riding in each direction on them.
“We entered the second to last cobble section which was 3.8km long,” he continued. “I took it slowly to begin, then on the crest of the road put my backside to the back of the saddle, hunched over to put most of my weight on the rear of the bike and simply used the palms of my hands to rest on the handlebars.
“Pushing a very big gear this had the effect of making the front of the bike act like a leaf-spring as I got faster and faster over those big stones – they were quite vicious and I’m really glad I didn’t puncture or fall off. Overall, it was an amazing experience and a thrilling one to get through this day so well.
“The family were, again, at the finish line to welcome me and all the riders to Cambrai. A wonderful welcome,” he concluded.
You can sponsor Ciaran at https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/ciarandoranbeforethetour