‘A real journey, physically and mentally’

How do you fancy six days cycling through autumnal France? It’s not as easy as it sounds, though . . .

Pictured at the end of last year’s Paris2Nice cycle were, left to right, Ronan Holahan, Maria Supple and Paddy Holahan.

Pictured at the end of last year’s Paris2Nice cycle were, left to right, Ronan Holahan, Maria Supple and Paddy Holahan.

Tue, Jan 21, 2014, 01:00

As charity cycles go, the 700km Paris2Nice, now in its fourth year, looks longer and more enticing than most.

It takes its riders on an autumn odyssey through the French countryside, starting in Paris and heading through some of the most beautiful and varied landscapes in Europe.

From Paris it heads through the Forest De Senart and the Loire Valley to Bourges. Then it is through the heart of Provence before the toughest part of the climb, which includes the mountain which looms so large in the Tour de France, Mount Ventoux.

From there it is a long ride through the Aix region associated with Paul Cezanne. The last 110 kilometres of the journey take the cyclist to Nice via Cannes and Antibes.

All of this is achieved in six days of cycling. There is a price for this beauty, though, and it is both financial and physical.

The cycle, which takes place from September 20th-25th this year, costs at least €5,000 to enter, including a €2,150 entrance fee (which does not include flights) and a minimum of €3,000 in fundraising.

Raising so much is no mean task in a time when money is scarce and charities are under such pressure. Nevertheless, 73 cyclists took part last year and raised €585,000, including €126,000 for the Irish Cancer Society, €105,000 for the LauraLynn Hospice and €103,000 for Down Syndrome Dublin.

It also involves months of endurance training, with organised 100km cycles in the Wicklow Hills a regular occurrence. As the date looms larger, spinning classes, gym sessions, massages, physiotherapy and 6am cycle meet-ups are all scheduled to build up the necessary fitness and stamina for the 700km cycle.

The average age of those who participated last year was 46; the youngest was 26 and the oldest was 66. Some 80 per cent surpassed their personal fundraising target. Among the participants was Maria Supple (47), who took up cycling only last year.

“It was an amazing experience, it really was, from start to finish,” she says. “It is the best thing I’ve done in donkey’s years. It’s a real journey, both physically and mentally. There’s a great sense of achievement after it. I was on a high for months. I really didn’t think I could do it. I’m not a cyclist. I never owned a bicycle of my own, but I felt better than I ever did in my life.”

She was persuaded by a cousin to do it after Christmas 2012. She built up her stamina by cycling from her home to work in Kilcoole, Co Wicklow, a distance of 40km return.

“I was never worried about distance. The hills were the real things for me. I was really terrified by them, but there’s always someone there and someone on the same level as yourself. It is a different journey for different people.”

Supple raised just under €8,000 for Fighting Blindness as a part of a team of five who raised €57,000.

“I used to wake up at 5am and wonder how I was going to do this cycle and raise the money. I’d never done anything like that before but people amazed me with their generosity. People really bowled me over with their generosity. I’d recommend it to anyone. It is an amazing, life-changing experience.”

For those interested in participating this year, there is an information evening in the Hampton Hotel on Morehampton Road, Dublin 4 tomorrow night at 8pm .

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