Piers, Barry, Hamish, Matt, Billy, Steve, Barry M - the Twickenham Seven - took on this most gruelling challenge and raised an amazing £6,500 for Children with Cancer UK.
Piers tells us their story:
"I had toyed with the idea of participating in the Étape du Tour for over seven years. At midnight on New Year’s Eve 2012 the Twickenham Seven was formed.
Choosing a charity to support
In 2012 a close school friend’s daughter was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a truly awful thing to happen to a 4 year old and her family.
After visiting Great Ormond Street and witnessing the excellent work they do there, I thought I would be very hard pressed to think of a better charity to support than Children with Cancer UK. My wife also ran the London Marathon earlier this year for the charity and they were extremely helpful and supportive.
Training started in January in the freezing cold and snow. We regularly slogged it out to Box Hill and back in all weathers. On one trip the water in our bottles froze, and towards the end of the ride Barry the Axe whimpered “I just want someone to give me a cuddle”.
As the winter faded into spring the summer training became more enjoyable - and pretty competitive.
L’ Étape was drawing near and our nerves were building...
The Étape du Tour is a tough event.
This year’s edition was 130km in length, with six categorised climbs and over 3,500m of vertical ascent.The route follows one of the harder mountain stages of the Tour de France, at the hottest time of the year … and there’s a time limit. If you are outside this time limit you are unceremoniously removed from the race and plonked on one of the buses following the last riders.
This year’s edition was 130km in length, with six categorised climbs and over 3,500m of vertical ascent.
As well as being the world’s largest sporting event, the Tour de France is a showcase for France. The routes are very picturesque, particularly the marvelous panoramic mountain views. The 2013 Étape was no exception.
We got to Annecy two days early. There were thousands of like-minded, nervous people swarming around and the ambiance was great.
On race day we joined the other 13,000 participants at the stunning Annecy lakeside. The atmosphere was electric and we were all buzzing.
The event organisers were first class, and because of the number of riders there was a staggered start. We were due off around 8am, one hour after the elite.
We flew the first 10km on the flat, then began climbing. And climbing was on the menu for the rest of the day. Regardless of what speed you cycled, everyone had to dig very deep and the day was a massive physical and psychological battle.
Bringing up the rear, my day was all about completing the course without being eliminated. After every hill I gained confidence, until I found myself hours later at the bottom of the formidable last climb - Annecy Semnoz.
The formidable last climb - Annecy Semnoz
At 11.5km with an average gradient of 8.5% this is a hard climb on its own. After a long day in the saddle, in 30 degree heat, having already completed five categorised climbs, it was a beast.
At 11.5km with an average gradient of 8.5% this is a hard climb on its own.It was carnage on the slopes of Semnoz. Cyclists were strewn all over the road, some were crying, others needed medical attention. Those who had finished were speeding back home on the other side of the road - oh to be one of them…
By this time, the other six had already finished and I really did not want to let down the team and all of those generous sponsors who had helped us raise money for Children with Cancer UK.
I had to finish. After nearly two hours on the final climb, pushing and cycling and stopping, I made it to the top and finished with 20 minutes to spare.
Yes!!! The Twickenham Seven had all completed L’ Étape!!!
After a quick emotional phone call home, I sped down to the town with a big smile on my face to be greeted by the others who were relaxing in a bar, watching Andy Murray win Wimbledon. Everyone was totally elated.
A challenging event in a breathtaking setting
L’Étape was an amazing experience and unique event. It is very well organised and the volunteers were wonderful and kept you motivated all the way around the course.
I really would recommend this event to anyone who fancies a challenge in a breathtaking setting. The seven of us really enjoyed training hard and working towards a common goal. The feeling we all got from completing the ride was worth every bit of pain from a hard day in the saddle and all those training rides in typically horrible British weather.
Most important of all, we managed to raise over £6,500 for Children with Cancer UK."
Thank you, the Twickenham Seven, for all your efforts!
Read more: L'Étape du Tour cycling challenge - your chance to take part
Back to fundraising stories