Last year when I was suffering with my torn six pack muscle (how I do love saying that) I had an appointment with a consultant, Dr Byrne, at the Nuffield Hospital. At the time I was very much in Kilimanjaro mode and having a consultant on board, particularly one that can successfully treat six pack muscles, seemed like a bonzer idea. I did the hard sell of young man with Parkinson’s scaling mountains to realise the dream of a cure and how the more people that get involved the better our chances of succeeding.
He looked at me and said “No.” He had already done his charity bit this year.
I asked him what it was, fully expecting that he would reply with some awe inspiring feat like he drove his Porsche boxtar through built up areas at less than 30 miles an hour for a whole afternoon.
How wrong I was.
Instead he described a truly awe inspiring feat. “I cycled the Tour de France.”
I sat with my mouth open. Wider than usual. And said “gosh.”
He elaborated. He had completed 21 stages of the Tour de France in 28 days taking Saturdays and Wednesdays off to allow others to come and cycle with him if they wished. He had picked 21 stages which had been used at some point in the Tour de France but not necessarily in the same year so that he could minimise travel between stages at the end of each day. He spent the next 20 minutes telling me all about his huge adventure.
I have never sworn in front of a consultant, although I have had considerable provocation.
When Dr Green told me I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s I could have said “are you really, really, really absolutely f****** sure?”.
When Dr Grosset said to me “Bryn the best thing you can do is exercise” I could have said “Go and f*** yourself.”
As I sit listening to Dr Byrne all I could think of was “F*** me”. However I managed to supress my vulgar tongue and restrict myself to phrases learned from the pages of The Famous Five such as “blimey”, “gosh” and “when you fell off you must felt like a right Dick” (you know, the younger brother with no common sense but very sharp eyesight).
I left with a marginally improved six pack muscle but a new itch. I want to cycle a Tour de France.
Yes, I know, in the bask of Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour, everybody wants to ride a Tour de France. Yes, in the glare of the Olympic spotlight and the cycling team’s exploits, everybody wants to go on a bike. And yes, I am also on holiday surrounded by French Alps and I am reading French Revolutions, a book about this very subject. But you know, I kind of fancy it.
So, to start with I borrowed the owner of the chalet’s bike this morning and set off on an Alpine climb up to the ski station at Thollon De Memises. The climb to 1060 metres took me 31 minutes. My thigh muscles shrieked but I persevered on with brows sweating, thighs chaffing, and bottom begging me for mercy. To be fair, my climb to 1060 metres started at the chalet which is at 949 metres and my cycling speed, according to my sat nav watch, was slower than walking speed. However, I made it and I was pretty pleased with myself. The descent took 8 minutes. I felt like the boy in the Hovis advert.
The bike wasn’t helping me much it was designed for a smaller fellow than I am, and I couldn’t adopt the classic hunched down position because my knees wanted to go higher than my ears and I had a rather large belly in between. The bicycle also had front suspension which my tremors seemed to be setting up a simple harmonic relationship with. To the passer by, it appeared as if I was constantly jamming on the front brakes and doing the bunny-hop-type motion which is normally associated with learner drivers in cars.
But, I made it up to the top and made it down again, only feeling slightly sea sick when I got to the bottom. Or down to 949 metres at any rate.
I shall cycle some more I shall finish the book and I will drop hints to my chums to see if any of them fancy dropping out of society for a month to go and for a cycle round France next Spring.
I can feel the opportunity to buy more stuff coming on.