July 19, 2013, by Zoë Goodwin

The charity challenge – UoN’s Michael Domokos recounts his 497km journey

Six months ago Michael Domokos, Senior Project Manager for Corporate Systems at the University embarked on a journey that would see him cycle the three big mountain stages of the Tour de France- stages 18, 19, 20 and roll into Paris- stage 21 one week ahead of the Pro’s.

“The journey is now over and I’m pleased to say I survived. I’m also pleased to say that collectively 180 riders (40 of which completed the whole tour), raised over £363,000 for the William Wates Memorial Trust, a charity setup to help disadvantaged young people fulfill their potential by engaging them through the mediums of sport, art and education.”

Click here to see more information about the charity and the good work that it does.

Below, courtesy of the Tour de Force, Michael documents each stage of his journey.

IMG_0958Stage 18 – Gap to Alpe d’Huez (168km)

Well today was never going to be easy. Steaming heat and two ascents of the 21 hairpins of Alpe d’Huez. It’s a beautiful start to the day, with an early climb of Col de Manse then on to Bourg d’Oisans for the first ascent. Counting them off as you go can be a motivator, or a bit of a killer – but there is plenty of entertainment along the way. Mountain bikers, cars, vans, cyclists and camper vans are already installed on the bends ready for this week or maybe they heard we were coming and made a special effort to get here on time…for a bit of a circus ahead of the pro event.

Lunch at the top, then a push higher to Col de Sarenne which the skiers among you might recognise (bit of a legendary black route – 16kms of moguls!). Seems it’s not dissimilar on a bike with desperately bad tarmac, exposed tight bends with sheer drops and plenty of loose gravel. This is going to be terrifying to watch on the telly!

Having survived the sometimes terrifying and technical descent, we reached the valley floor again only to face, yet again, the 21 hairpins back up to the top of Alpe d’Huez. Psychologically, it was a killer but the job had to be done and we just got on with it. Day one -done.

Stage 19IMG_0967 – Bourg d’Oisans to Le Grand Bornand (204km)

They said it would be the toughest day of the tour and I think it’s fair to say that it was. Starting with a good breakfast followed by a speedy descent round 21 hairpins into the low cloud of the valley to the official start of the stage in Bourg d’Oisans was easy. From there we cycled to the first of two Hors Categories (i.e. stupidly steep) climbs: Col du Glandon- a fabulous descent, then on to the equally infamous Col de la Madeleine. A tough climb and big accomplishment, but the day was by no means over.

Our lunch stop was at the top of another much gentler, but long climb, nowhere near the altitude of the previous two, to Col de Tamie. By now, we were hurting – really hurting. If we were triumphant on the HC summits, we were somewhat less so by now. The longs days of cycling leading to today and the previous day’s efforts, not to mention the exertions of the morning, had taken their toll. It was time to dig deep. The last riders left the lunch stop (which usually features in mid-afternoon – 3 ish) at 5.30pm. And there was still a very long way to go.

The first riders reached the team hotel at 6.30pm after 11 hours on the bike. The last were, well, quite a bit later! BUT they made it.

Stage 20 – Annecy to Semnoz (125km)

And so our penultimate day of the ride was one with plenty of contours.

We pootled out from the hotel and quickly into the first Cat 2 nugget of the day up to Cote du Puget at 796m. Next up – Col de Leschaux at 944m – Cat 3. Less of a twang on the calf muscles, but still a significant protuberance. After that, a lumpy descent to Le Chatelard before hauling up yet another Cat 3 climb to Cote d’Aillon le Vieux – a more steady climb this time – more of a roller and a rumbler than a giant of sweat-inducing rock: a bulging swell in the landscape.

More serious was the hoik and heave up to Col des Pres at 1149m. Steep inclines once more to test those tired muscles – rewarded with a fast and breezy descent to Saint Jean d’Arvey. And then, an impressive climb up to Mont Revard at 1463m – the 2nd highest of the steeps today.

A long descent brought the peleton down to a wrinkled valley bottom – giving the riders a chance to absorb the enormity of what they were about to achieve – the final climb, not only of the Alps, but of the Tour.

The thing about climbing on a bike is that it gives you time to think – sometimes too much time. It gets emotional – it can be beautiful – it can be very, very hard. Some riders retreat completely into themselves, staring at the square foot of tarmac ahead. If you have never done it, I urge you to set yourself a new target – to find a seriously big mountain to climb on your bike. Train foIMG_1041r it. Prepare yourself for it. Focus on your motivation for being there and then give yourself in to it. It’s a very special experience that you can only appreciate if you put yourself through the challenge and often the pain to earn the sense of satisfaction that comes from summiting.

And what satisfaction!

At the top of the final Hors Categorie climb of the Tour de Force riders arrived at the behemoth that is Semnoz, 1655m above sea level.

Today, it was an emotional place to be. We put ourselves and families through a lot to be here. We trained in foul weather throughout the winter. We made enormous sacrifices. We invested a lot of time, energy and money to take part and support the William Wates Memorial Trust. We made some great new friends.

Stage 21 – Rambouillet / Versailles to Paris (50km)IMG_1028

And so the last day and end of the tour. We rolled into Paris and finished our ride at the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day, with celebrations late into the evening….Phew

A truly epic and humbling experience shared through collective suffering, supporting a positive cause, developing, motivating young people and providing opportunities.



The charity is still collecting funds and we are aiming to reach £400,000. If you would like to support me you can do so at http://www.bmycharity.com/Tdf2013/, all costs associated with participating in the event were covered by myself.

If you think you would like to undertake the challenge yourself, please register your interest at http://www.tourdeforce.org.uk/. Thank you.


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