Four stages down, one to go. This time the intrepid cyclist who would give us a blow-by-blow account of proceedings was Adam Lucas, who joined up in Switzerland as a member of the team that would tackle Stage 4. Adam is a Virgin Media employee and found out about the Slam through an internal email asking if anyone was interested in going on the Slam. Having responded to the call, Adam found himself on the way to the Swiss Alps for the start of Stage 4.
The first day was set to provide a rude awakening for Slam newbies. Starting off from the fashionable ski resort of St Moritz, the weather could not have been any better. Clear skies and some very warm temperatures helped create a nice buzz and very upbeat atmosphere at the start line. Within the first 4km however, the riders experienced their first climb; a 16km ascent that was enough to drain riders so much that some had to take a breather. Adam had chosen to ride with Lee Dixon and his group and the descent was a much happier affair, though Lee did manage to record footage of Adam as he nearly went into the back of a lorry! There was no harm done though and a few laughs were shared at Adam’s expense.
As for the rest of the groups, there was someone who had forgotten their bike and the fantastic Halfords support team had to construct one on site! Back on the route, things had to be changed round a bit as one of the passes had become blocked by snow. Chur was a lot hotter than most had anticipated and being the off-season, also quite bare when riders arrived to complete what had a been a rather hard but enjoyable first day.
Day 2 and things got off to a good start with a tail wind pushing riders toward the day’s final stop in Horgen. Joining the riders for this day, was GQ columnist; Simon Mills. Again the climbs were quite challenging, with one of them stretching 12km at an energy sapping 12% gradient. According to Adam, Graeme Le Saux was like a mountain goat on the hill parts of the course, going over them with an energy and ability that no one could match.
Adam began to struggle a bit as the day went on but was grateful for the arrival of ex-pro cyclist Frank Høj who managed to give him a bit of a pep talk and some encouragement as they tackled the hill. On the other side of the hill, another one of the members of the group had a puncture and after a brief delay to repair it, everyone then set off towards the hotel in Horgen. According to Adam, he was really inspired by how humble someone as high an achiever as Frank had been and the kindness he had shown to him.
On the 3rd day, what was meant to be an easy ride, proved to be quite the opposite. The temperature in Horgen plummeted over night and riders woke up to a cold start. Not only that, but the presence of driving rain also further compounded their predicament. All the riders were given waterproof over boots to wear but within the first 5km, most had soggy feet.
Low visibility also became an issue as the rain was obscuring riders from each other. The torrent of water rushing through the roads also managed to erase most of the road markings demarcating lanes and tracks. The weather was having a very adverse effect on riders and only the presence of pro riders Jeremy Roy and Frank Høj was what was providing a moral boost. Adam’s group had to stop at the halfway stage to change into some dry kit though this would prove futile as, within short period after their restart, they were all wet again.
The Swiss motorists were not helping matters either with most of them seemingly not very pleased to see a large group of cyclists on the road. All in all an unpleasant day which finally came to an end in the hotel in Basel where Adam said he spent the best part of an hour trying to scrub his kit down and get it ready for the next day.
The final day of stage 4 was a much happier affair weather wise. The rain had stopped and despite the early start and some damp kit, spirits were very high. One of the heroes of stage 4 was Doug McIntosh, a rider who had experienced personal turmoil after losing one of his arms to a tumor. Doug was using a specially adapted bike to allow him to ride with one arm and had gone through the previous day’s horrible conditions with a determination that was a huge source of inspiration to the other riders.
It was a much easier ride despite having to go over the Ballon d’Alsace, a climb that was part of the Tour De France route in 1905. At the top of the hill, things got a bit chilly again and some of the groups had become slightly detached so a bit of waiting ensued so the other riders could re-group. After lunch, the course drifted further away from Switzerland into French territory. Despite the predicted ‘Hard’ difficulty rating, the rest of the day was quite enjoyable to the riders and the sun was shining as they headed into the town of Epinal.
There was a hint of disappointment as Epinal drew closer mainly because that was where it would be over for the Stage 4 riders. However they all received an unexpected lifting of spirits when Sir Richard Branson, who had come to pay Sam a visit alongside his mum, joined them for a small portion of the ride into the town centre. Sir Richard thanked everyone for their hard work and took photos with a lucky few riders.
To celebrate the end of the stage, the riders headed off to a local bar for a drink to find a rather bemused bar man who had only been expecting a trickle of customers that day. But such are the characters on the Cycle Slam that one of the guys volunteered to help him serve behind the bar in exchange for a few pints of his finest tipple! With the staffing arrangements sorted, things got started and good byes and thank yous were said before everyone turned in for the night.
And so after cycling across 2 countries in 4 days, torrential rain and lots of hills, how would Adam describe his experience? “Totally out of this world!” was the answer.« Back to News Archive