From his home in the Hautes-Pyrénées, Chris Dowd will be joining Cycle for Life for the final day and a half to complete his own fundraising and awareness event for Cancer Support France.
We invited Chris to tell us a bit more about his cycle ride challenge ...
Where are you from originally?
Kent in England. I was born in Maidstone, and apart from a brief spell living in North Devon, I’ve always lived in Kent with my wife Michelle.
What is your occupation?
Happily retired! I gave up early the rat race of working in London all my life, to retire to France, though I do run a small computer support business that I love doing.
When did you start road cycling?
About 5 years ago on an occasional basis, mainly at weekends. But 5 months ago I started to ride a lot more, with the aim of getting fit & losing weight, having been doing a desk job my entire working life. Now I ride about 400km a week.
Are you a member of a French cycling club?
No, not yet, but I will do once I’ve made enough time to improve my basic French skills, and so be able to enjoy the social side of belonging to a club as well.
How did you find out about Cycle for Life?
Through a friend, Tanya. In 2016 CSF were there for her when her husband was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently died very soon after. Tanya held a big fund raising event soon after for CSF, and I’ve since found out that 2 of my new friends in France are also listeners for CSF.
Describe your motivation for making this trip?
Through my 30 years of working life, I may have made donations to charities, but I never made the time to do something for charity. Now that I am retired and so have more time, and have discovered a passion for cycling, I decided to combine the two and do a long distance cycle ride for charity. CSF were prominent in my mind at the time, and so it is for CSF that I am raising money. I find that the whole purpose of CSF is a very noble cause to raise money for, they are doing great work in supporting people with cancer, for whom there might otherwise be little or no support.
How did you choose your route?
The Cycle for Life ride would be very much too sedate for me, and the surface of the Canal du Midi towpath is not suitable for my road bike. But I still wanted to somehow combine with the main ride.
So after a quick consult of Google Maps, it made sense to start my ride from home on the same day as the main ride starts from Carcassonne, and catch them up for lunch on Day 3, and then ride to the finish in Sète on Day 4 with everyone else.
How far is it and how long do you think it will take you?
It’s 400km in total. I’m riding it over 4 days, but the first 2 days will be the biggest covering a total of 255km including crossing the Gers, which is all up and down hills!
Where do you plan to stop?
I’m riding solo, so no support vehicle, and a rucksack on my back. My first night will be near Mauzac south of Toulouse, the second night will be in Trèbes just to the east of Carcassonne, and then nights 3 and 4 will be with the main Cycle for Life group.
What do you think will be your challenges en route?
Well I don’t think the distance will be a problem, but I could definitely do without all the hills on the first day, which is 140km too. The main challenge will likely be the weather, as I’m committed to the itinerary, but it might rain, it could be windy, or it could just be very hot.
What are you looking forward to the most during this trip?
Cycling new roads. Whenever I ride I’m always seeking out new roads to see new scenery. Anyone who has ever cycled anywhere, any distance, will also know that the achievement of completing a ride like Cycle for Life is something to look forward to, and very much enjoy when finished.
What do you think makes the Cycle for Life event so appealing?
Because it can be achieved by anyone. 50km in a day, for 4 days running, could sound daunting to a lot of people. But that 50km is flat, and it’s across a whole day. Time in the saddle will be leisurely, and very social, with more time spent enjoying refreshments each day probably than actually in the saddle! It will be a really fun thing to do for participants, it will give a great sense of achievement when completed, money will have been raised for a good cause, and all while enjoying yourself.
What would you say to someone considering taking part but not yet registered?
Stop thinking about it, and just register. 4 days out of whole year is nothing, especially if they are retired. I do not believe there is such a thing as not having the time, it’s just what you choose to do with it.
Is this your first charity ride or event for CSF?
Yes, but I definitely don’t think it will be the last.
How have you been raising awareness for Cancer Support France?
I’ve been telling all my friends in the UK, and all my new friends in France, explaining to them all about the good work of CSF. Every time I visit a customer of my computer support business I mention it, but never push anyone in to donating if they don’t want to. I’ve also had a T-Shirt made up, which I wear to social events.
How can people sponsor you?
Via Alvarum of course. It’s the easiest & simplest & most secure way, and I don’t want to be handling anyone’s sponsorship money.
We wish Chris the very best of luck with days 1 and 2 - and look forward to seeing him for lunch in St Pierre la Mer on day 3!