Regular readers will remember British age-grouper Sophie Radcliffe for the blogs she occasionally sends us on her latest big challenge. This summer saw her hardest challenge yet, as she explains…
The Alpine Coast to Coast was a world-first expedition to cycle the length of the Alps and climb to the summits of the highest mountains in the eight Alpine countries.
To complete it I cycled 1,669km through Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Lichtenstein, France, Italy and Monaco in one month. With my husband, Charley, we climbed the highest mountains in each country covering 141km on foot. I covered 45,530 metres of ascent, how on earth my knees survived, I’ll never know!
For many years I had dreamt of a big adventure, I’d spent years doing smaller adventures whilst living and working in London. In May 2014 I quit my job, moved to the Alps and started creating a new life around doing the things that interest and challenge me the most.
The Alpine Coast to Coast was a huge part of that move, a chance to really challenge myself, to raise the bar and see what I was capable of. I’d never done anything of this length before.
Every day when I was out on the bike for this challenge, or climbing those mountains, I was strengthening my drive, motivation, resilience and confidence. I learnt how to ask myself to perform to my maximum, how to find the drive and ability to overcome anything, how to keep going when there was nothing in the tank. It broke me many times, but I learnt how to put myself back together and keep going. It was without a doubt the most empowering experience I’ve had.
The (inevitable) low points
Every day was a challenge but that’s exactly what I wanted, that’s why I set out to do this in the first place. I loved dealing with the inevitable low points, finding things to feel proud about to help get me through. The biggest challenges were the times when I didn’t think I could go on.
When the heavens opened and I was soaked to the bone in minutes after cycling 160km, when I took a wrong turning and cycled into Italy for an hour rather than Austria, when my legs were so sore, tired and heavy and when I could barely get my speed above 15kph.
The times when I didn’t want to be on my bike and sat by the side of the road in pieces. These were the moments that shaped me, that asked me to step up and be someone, to dig deep and unlock motivation I didn’t know I had.
The good times
But then I think about the best moments, that feeling when I was so happy, so overwhelmed with pride that I felt I could burst. I’d be cycling through the mountains, and arrive at the top of a Col after hours of uphill. The view and feeling of accomplishment would create this phenomenal wave of emotion that would sweep across my entire body.
I’d almost have to pinch myself to ask if this was really happening. I loved the adventure of it all, exploring new countries and getting a feel for what they were like. I loved the moments at the end of the day when I would meet Charley and we’d have a beer in our tent and eat chocolate. I loved everything about it, even all the moments that made me cry. It was the most challenging and amazing month of my life.
If you have a big cycling adventure you dream of, don’t wait until the right time, go and do it. You will have no regrets.