Today was more of a celebration than a ride.
The riders who struggled or had to take the day off yesterday were back on their bikes this morning. Some riders started really early. The rest of us had a relatively late breakfast and an exceptionally slow start.
Our route took us along the side of another Alpine lake, before starting to climb once more. We took it slowly, stopping for coffee along the way.
After the first feed stop, we found ourselves riding on a wide, smooth, segregated cycle path along a wide river towards Nice. If only we had facilities like this at home.
Somehow, I managed to pick up another puncture, but it didn't matter. The group I was riding with waited for me to repair it and two other groups of riders stopped to chat.
The tour organisers gathered us all together at regular intervals along the route to make sure that we'd eventually ride in to Monte Carlo together. One of these stops was at an outdoor cafe just short of Nice, where we ate burgers and ice cream, drank coffee and waited for a local cycle club (the COCCs *) to join us. The COCCs had completed the same ride in June, and had kindly offered to guide us through Nice and into Monte Carlo.
From here on in, we rode as a group of more than 40 cyclists into Nice and along the Mediterranean sea front towards Monte Carlo. Nice was preparing for its annual carnival, but we were early so our passage was unimpeded.
The route into Monte Carlo took us up a number of steep climbs and along parts of the Grand Prix race track. The ride organisers held us briefly at the entrance to the square. Then - I still don't know how or why - the road in front of us seemed to clear. The COCCs stepped back, and we were invited to ride down the hill into Monte Carlo's Casino Square.
I've no idea how or why, but suddenly bystanders were clapping and cheering. One rider stopped, burst into tears, and fell into his girlfriend's arms. We stopped in the centre of the square for formal ride's end photos, and were joined by the Wooden Spoon representatives who cheered us on our way 8.5 days and 865 miles ago.
We learned that, between us, we've so far raised more than £130,000 for Wooden Spoon. Wooden Spoon uses at least some of its funds to fund other children's charities. It has agreed to make a large donation from the money we've raised to Richard's House Children Hospice in East London, so that it can build an outdoor sensory play area for young children with complex life limiting illnesses. The sensory play area will help these children communicate with other people, when they might not otherwise be able to do so. I feel really privileged to have been part of this effort.
I also felt humbled by what I'd seen along the way. I've been a long distance cyclist since 2005, but I didn't attempt Land's End to John O'Groats until 2008. Even with 3 years' long distance cycling experience, that ride was daunting and it hurt. Cycling from London to Monte Carlo was much harder, and it hurt much (much) more. But everyone finished (except Steve, and his shoes - see day 3); a third of the riders had no long distance cycling experience to speak of, they bought their bikes in April, trained for and completed the ride, and then did some more. Some walked in stocking feet for miles to finish the job with taped up knees, achilles tendons and blisters. Even when they'd done all that, they sold their bikes and donated the money to charity. Little wonder then, that when I saw these guys - who had been so positive, and worked so hard - cry with relief that it was done, and pride at what they'd achieved, I cried too.
Our fund raising page is still open. If you haven't already sponsored us and you can, please do. Our fund raising page is here.
Today's distance: 78.35 miles
Total distance so far: 865 miles
Today's climbing: 575 meters
Total climbing so far: 18, 314 meters
Rider with highest number of punctures: me (by far); 6.
* The Champagne and Oyster Cycling Club of Monte Carlo and Nice.