10 years ago Matty and I rode the Etape De Tour - a mountain stage of the Tour De France incorporating Col De Telegraphe, Col De Galibier and Alpe Du Huez. Accompanied by my dad who provided mechanical support, water and brandy throughout the day, we rode in the heat, cooled down in mountain streams, I didn't check my tires and had to find a new one one the road when I realised it was shredded, Matty (a far stronger rider) protected me from the wind all the way to the top of Galibier and we finally made it about 6pm for beers at the top of Huez.
10 years is a long time in any life and a lot has changed since then. Anyone who has had the misfortune to be around me recently will have heard my whining about turning 40 - existential angst caused by a meaningless milestone in the scheme of things but still has the power to worry me - I remember my parents 40th birthdays' FFS and they were real adults by that point!
As a lot of you will know, Matty sadly suffered a cycling accident in January 2016, leaving him profoundly disabled and in need of 24 hour residential care. In the 5 years since his friends and I have done what we can (alongside his devoted family) to support Matty, whose strength and resilience continues to amaze me. Somehow, in the worst of all possible situations, Matty has kept his sense of humour - still laughing at my various ineptitudes when we're together and is still making progress, however slow, in terms of his capacity to express himself and make his wishes known.
An important part of this progress has been the alternative therapies which help stimulate his mental function - neurological music therapy and foot massage. These have to be privately funded and so for my 40th, in a reminder to myself to stop whining and keep moving forward, I am raising funds for Matty's therapy with a ride from Santander, through the Picos mountains and over the Iberian Peninsula (one of the few places in Europe that bears and wolves still roam which should make camping fun) to Porto, where my long suffering girlfriend will be waiting for me.
The ride is extreme - 20,000 metres of climbing in just under a 1000 kilometres, the equivalent of riding up Everest twice in 10 days - and will be done unsupported, other than a stop off at my brother in laws place in Grado. I will be camping for the most part, so hauling all my clothes, cooking and sleeping equipment up and down the mountains.
I'm lucky to be doing it at all of course and am hoping the exertion will put my whining to rest for a bit. If you'd like to cheer me up on the road and provide a bit of support to one of the best blokes out there, then please do donate a few quid.