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Benevolent bike ride day four: The home stretch

The fourth and final day of the Benevolent bike ride was fittingly the most extraordinary and exciting, completed with cycling celebrities and toasted with magnums of Bollinger.

It was also our longest ride so far: four of us clocked just under 200km (we even considered a turn of Tain just to lay honest claim to the figure) having left Beaujolais just after 7am to ensure we weren’t late for Michel Chapoutier’s 5pm welcome.

It was in fact a day of two halves. Myself, BBR’s Chris Matthews, and the "dangerous brothers" (mentioned in a previous report and so named for their urge to compete, alter plans and generally add to the already considerable challenge) departed early to complete the entire final leg on two wheels.

The others – who had sensibly realised just how far and hilly it was – enjoyed a late and long breakfast, followed by the comfort of the coach as far as Condrieu before unloading the bicycles, kindly waiting for us, and then riding a glorious 70-plus km into Tain accompanied by former pros Charlie Mottet and Bernard Vallet.

Then there was the arrival, beautifully orchestrated by the team at Chapoutier, with cheering, photography and Champagne in that order, as well as a tasting and dinner on the hill of Hermitage hosted by the excitable Michel Chapoutier who fed us spit roasted suckling pig from his farm and white and red hermitage from double magnums.

In all we have clocked up (in extreme cases) as much as 640km, bypassing the 600km estimate. And that somehow fails to highlight the effort involved which included many unexpected climbs – up to 800m at one point – as well as testing conditions: storms aside we were plagued by a niggling headwind until the last 20 or so km of pounding the tarmac.

It’s been an incredible journey mixing pain and elation while thankfully – and amazingly considering some of the descents and dodgy roads – just one accident, with grazing the only outcome.

Thank you to Andrew and the team at Mentzendorff for the planning, herding and feeding. Thank you too to the sponsors – it really is hugely valued.

Time now to hang up the padded shorts, specially commissioned cycling jackets and sweat soaked helmets, stretch out the legs and enjoy the ride home on four diesel powered wheels.

Patrick Schmitt, 10.06.2011

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